Second Epistle of John
The Second Epistle of John, often written II John, is the twenty-fourth book of the New Testament. It is a letter written in ancient Greek around 95-110 CE by an anonymous author "to the chosen lady and her children." Church tradition attributes the letter to John the Evangelist, but many historians disagree. The letter disavows docetism, and tells readers to be extremely obedient to the church.
Authorship and Dating
Even though the author identifies himself simply as "The Elder," Christians tradition ascribes the letter to John the Evangelist. Their justification for this is primarily based on a supposed similar writing style to the other two epistles and the Gospel of John. However, many scholars have demonstrated stark contrasts between the writing styles of the two texts, and, even if they were similar, the Gospel of John is anonymously written and most scholars do not believe it was written by John the Evangelist.
The letter is dated by scholars to around 95-110 CE. John the Evangelist is estimated to have died in 100 CE.
Like the First Epistle of John, the letter disavows docetism, the belief that Jesus was not a real man, but a spirit. The letter is addressed "to the chosen lady and her children," but her identity is never revealed, and some interpreters have suggested she is a metaphor for the church with her "children" being church followers, although, if that's the case, I don't know what to make of her "sister" in (1:13).
I have several translations of this book from various bibles, and have read both the KJV and NIV translations.
- There isn't much to say about such a short letter other than it's not applicable to anyone except the long dead lady and her children. It uses the same oddly-phrased rhetoric as First John and carries a similar message.
- The author begins the letter saying that everyone who, "knows the truth," loves this woman and her children. Assuming this is a real woman, this is pathetic lip service, but if it's a metaphor for the church, it implies that all Christians must love the church, which is dangerous authoritarianism (how many churches have been convicted of protecting child-rapists?).
- The author says, even those Christians who believe in the message and spirit of Jesus, if they don't also believe he was a flesh-and-blood human, are an "antichrist" (1:7)! This is odd to me because, growing up in the church, I had always assumed the antichrist was a single person who would rise to power and bring about the end of times, not every docetist.
- It seems suspect that the Christian church would canonize such a short anonymous letter, but after reading it, I see why. Not only does it denounce docetism (1:7), but it's also fiercely authoritarian (1:6), anti-Jewish (1:9), and anti-capitulation in general (1:10-11), definitely the kind of thing that would help the church.
- The author describes "love" as "walk[ing] in obedience to his commands," (1:6) which is a disgustingly perverse view of love.
- The author says not to allow anyone but Christians into your house and anyone who even welcomes a non-Christian shares in their evil (1:10-11). Not only is this bigotry at its most ignorant, but it is also exactly the opposite of what Jesus did, who was constantly befriending, accepting, and helping non-Christians.