Guide The Elect Lady - Biblical Commentary of the Book of II John (New Testament Commentary 27)

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  1. The Gospel of John and Work | Bible Commentary | Theology of Work
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Between these poles there are other voices, trying to solve the problem by pointing to the unique situation. Because of the nature of this injunction the unique nature of the situation is emphasised. Spence-Jones remarked at the beginning of the previous century that 'the apostle is giving directions to a particular Christian household during a particular crisis in the history of the Christian faith' cf. Lenski Although he does not want to negate the command, he emphasises that the differences with current situations should be considered before applying the injunction today.

Akin recently also opined that these verses are 'open to abuse and misunderstanding if removed from its immediate context', leading some to deem 'it unloving and worthy of rejection'. Because of these obvious tensions between the imperative in 2 John and some core Christian values like hospitality, love or co-operation, modern commentators seriously reflect on the implications of 2 John 10 for present-day contacts with people of other mind than yourself, as is evident from the above discussion.

Does 2 John 10 suggest a 'closed' situation where people who differ are not to be welcomed or conversed with, or should 2 John 10 for different reasons be interpreted as not applicable to present-day situations? Or is there perhaps a bigger principle behind the command that should be taken seriously? Several questions beckon: 1 Although the remark is widely interpreted within the framework of ancient hospitality customs, it is a question whether hospitality is the main issue here; whatever the scenario, the implications should be considered.

What if the visitors asked for hospitality? A contentious question is whether the prohibition in 2 John 10 is against showing hospitality or not. The majority of commentators assume this, although the view that this verse does not deal with hospitality is also defended.

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Both scenarios should be considered. Let us start with the assumption that hospitality customs form the background of the events narrated in 2 John Painter , like many others cf. Bultmann ; Kruse ; Watson ; Brown , opines that the instruction given here 'is to be understood against the background of hospitality given to strangers and travellers in the ancient world'.

For this reason, in virtually every respectable commentary or article dealing with these verses or with 3 Jn , information is provided of what ancient hospitality entails.

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For our purposes a brief overview is also necessary, aimed at facilitating answers to our specific questions. There is consensus that early Christians gathered in houses that were also ordinary family dwellings, that is, house churches Rm ; 1 Cor 1, 11; Col ; cf. Malherbe ; Smith s. Persons sufficiently well off would serve as donors, making their dwellings available to the Christian gathering cf.

Diotrepehes and Gaius in 3 Jn, or the 'elect Lady' in 2 Jn; cf. Christian house groups were thus formed, where 1 the ancient group-orientated practice of 'friends of friends' functioned, according to which related groups were encouraged to welcome one another's members, 3 and 2 the hospitality customs of those days offered bases for boarding, lodging and further support for travellers, especially those who were part of the 'friends of friends' circle Keener ad loc.

In this regard letters of recommendation played a central role, 4 as we see in 3 John Brown Malina describes the implications of letters of recommendation by saying:. The person writing a recommendation attests to the stranger bearing it on the basis of the world of honor of the attester.

To reject the recommended stranger is, of course, a challenge to the honor of the recommender. It spurns his honor, and requires an attempt at satisfaction on his part, under pain of being shamed. This meant that in such house churches the social boundaries were relatively porous cf. Ac , although protected through the letters of recommendation. Hospitality also had the function of creatively presupposing a potential network of possible related and associated groups.

This nevertheless emphasises that hospitality as such was a deeply social and relational act that had implications for future social interaction between those involved. Considering the nature and impact of ancient hospitality conventions, Malina makes an important point: 'Hospitality might be defined as the process by means of which an outsider's status is changed from stranger to guest. Malina wants to restrict the practice of hospitality to outsiders who may be 'friends of friends', that is, those who carry a letter of recommendation, which presumes some form of prior relationship, direct or indirect cf also Ebrard He therefore distinguishes hospitality from other social practices like welcoming your own family or close friends into your house.

Malina argues that once a person is allowed into the house different 'stages' of the process of hospitality should be distinguished:. The process would have three stages to it: 1 evaluating the stranger usually with some test about whether guest status is possible ; 2 the stranger as guest - the liminal phase; 3 from guest to transformed stranger at times with another test. At the basis of these stages lay certain social expectations, both of the host and the guest.

The Gospel of John and Work | Bible Commentary | Theology of Work

Another important point Malina makes is that '[w] hile hospitality does not entail mutual reciprocity between individuals, it can nevertheless be viewed as a reciprocal relationship between communities. Such hospitality to travelling Christians is both urged see Rm ; 1 Pt and much practiced e. Ac ; ; ; Rm ' cf. This means that foreign visitors, being part of their own communities therefore represent these communities wherever they go. The visitors to the 'elect Lady' 2 Jn therefore represented a group that is somehow related to the Lady's group, or else they would not have approached her, at least not for reasons of hospitality.

Brown argues that these visitors could not have been 'haphazard' or even 'general missionaries' cf. They are part of a recent Christological development to which the Johannine groups are somehow 'related' and should now be warned against. Previously the 'Lady' perhaps offered hospitality without restriction since there was no such threat. Now the situation has changed and care should be taken as to whom she allows into her house.

According to the information about hospitality above, some sort of reciprocal relation between the visitors and the group of the 'elect Lady' should be assumed. If Malina's view is valid that hospitality should be restricted to strangers who carry letters of recommendation, the case for hospitality is weakened. If it is accepted that hospitality is at stake here, mainly two possibilities should be distinguished: 1 that it was a private house and that 'private hospitality' is prohibited or 2 that the people approach a house church 8 for congregational participation and that that form of 'group hospitality' is refused Elwell ad loc.

It is doubtful whether these two options are exclusive of one another, since it seems logical that the 'travelling visitor' would need the hospitality of the house even after the meeting is finished. If not, the group most probably would have accommodated him or her in other ways. Malina indicates that visitors appealing for hospitality normally represented a group and not just an individual.

In any case, the meetings were in a house where a host the house owner was in an authoritative position to make the final decision as is the case with Diotrephes or even Gaius in 3 Jn. If these were travelling missionaries, they would normally have stayed longer than just the meeting and would have expected aid for their forward journey, which would involve the house owner either in his capacity of private house owner or host to the gathering of Christians.

Since the context also has religious undertones these were false teachers the idea of a purely private visit is not favoured.

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  • Offering hospitality to someone in ancient times therefore involved a complex of conventions based on various expectations. The guest would receive protection, special status in the house, and could count on current and future support. In addition, acceptance would also indicate existing relations 'friends of friends' which would socially typify the host. It was therefore not a matter of a neutral 'hallo' and then goodbye'.

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    What if hospitality conventions were not called upon? The above are broadly the situation in mind if hospitality conventions were called upon. As was mentioned earlier, the possibility exists that hospitality conventions should not be seen as the background to this situation. It is notable that in many cases it is simply assumed that hospitality should be regarded as the framework of this prohibition, without proper motivation. Let us consider some arguments that might suggest that hospitality conventions should not be the focus of the argument here.

    Treatment of deviating people in ancient gatherings: An example. The second century document Inscriptiones Graecae II dated around CE contains a minutes of a meeting of the Society of Iobacchi in Attica with a copy of the revised statutes Ferguson Although the suggestion is by no means that there is a parallel or some link between 2 John and these statutes, there are some interesting points made in the statutes about the way in which the organisation and treatment of members were arranged.

    A few points will be highlighted: 1 membership was a community concern -they voted on possible candidature. And further, 'If anyone start to fight or be found acting disorderly or occupying the seat of any other member or using insulting or abusive language', he will be fined. If anyone 'comes to blows' he will be excluded for a period.

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    Even the officer who fails to eject the fighters will be punished. Making a speech without permission was a punishable offence. In the meetings an orderly officer also carried a thyrsus. He could place the thyrus beside a person who acts in a disorderly manner or who creates disturbance, indicating that such a person should leave the room. If the person disobeys or refuses he is 'put outside the front door' and punished. Several things should be noticed for our purposes. If a person did not fit his role, he was put outside and even punished. In these statutes a major theme is the protection of the group and its activities against disorder or disruption.

    Not hospitality conventions, but the power of the group's view s was dominant. The interests of the group were placed above any 'individual rights'. If this was commonly accepted as practice, which Kloppenborg and Ascough seem to suggest, 10 it has a lot so say about the situation of 2 John Again it should be noted that the suggestion is not that the Bacchic situation and that of 2 John are in any way related.

    There are however interesting parallels, for instance, the way in which they protect their respective groups, inter alia by disallowing a deviating person contact with the group, or the acceptance of commonly shared rules or traditions may serve as pointers in understanding 2 John. This attitude of discouraging and breaking contact with deviating members is also confirmed in Christian documents.

    In Matthew church discipline would involve exclusion of a person who did not align himself with the group's wishes. Paul makes the same suggestion in 1 Corinthians where he recommends that a deviating person should be delivered to Satan. Titus also calls for the exclusion of a divisive man. In Didache or Ignatius' To the Smyrnaeans ; or similar situations are envisaged. The reaction to such features that endangered the group in the Bacchic statutes was expulsion i.

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    • According to these statutes the order within the group is of higher value than the presence of such a disrupting person. This is also the case in 2 John, as Smalley remarks: 'John is not therefore forbidding private hospitality, but rather an official welcome into the congregation, with the widespread opportunities which would then be available for the heretics to promote their cause. As such it is not a matter of hospitality, but of accepted social mechanisms protecting group identity and activity. This puts the command in 2 John 10 in another perspective. If it was the case that such people appealed to a Christian house church for hospitality then their right to hospitality is overruled 14 by the fact that the group is of the opinion that their presence will endanger the group.

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      If they were to be allowed they would have to be excluded in the end if they persisted in their destructive teachings. This allows for a legitimate refusal even for offering hospitality. These visitors were indeed representatives of a related but opposing group. The refusal to receive or even greet them 2 Jn 11 amounts to more than expulsion. It boils down to making a doctrinal statement thereby confirming one's own position. By turning them away, their teachings are not only rejected, but any assistance for continuation of such teaching is refused Schnackenburg ; Brown ; Kruse ; compare 2 Jn 11 with 3 Jn 8.

      No form of co-operation koinania 16 or association is offered. This implies that the prohibition in 2 John need not be seen as unchristian, unloving or harsh. It was an accepted way in which groups treated people who no longer operated within the confines of a particular group. This does not seem to and ought not be the problem for commentators. When it does become a problem, so it seems, is when the expectations of hospitality come into play.

      It is felt that it is rude or unloving not to offer this basic courtesy. Is this really a hospitality text? From the above arguments it is clear that the exclusion of the idea that this is a hospitality text clarifies a lot of problems. Are there other indications in this short text that hospitality is not the main focus or even a focus? I have argued this in more detail elsewhere and need not repeat the detail arguments Van der Watt I will just briefly touch on one or two of the major arguments to indicate the line of thinking.

      In considering a possible scenario two issues complicate matters: 1 why does the Presbyter only rejoice about some of the children walking in the truth? Are there others who do not, and if this is the case why not and what are they doing instead? If these are unknown visitors, how would the Lady know what they stand for before receiving them into the meeting?

      She will then in any case be bound to greet them first. In reconciling these two problems, a scenario that the visitors were local and not foreign, and that some of the Lady's children already had contact with the false teachers although not necessarily joining them yet , explaining why they do not behave in the truth, would not support a hospitality situation.

      Malina reminded us that hospitality in its true sense should be limited to outsiders who come with letters of recommendation from 'friends of friends'. If they were local, their position would have been known and the Lady would know not to receive or greet them. It would also explain why 'some' of the Lady's children did not walk in the truth, since they were not convinced about the convictions of the Lady on the religious level. They were still part of the physical family of the Lady, but did not share her religious views in which her group's behaviour was grounded.

      This tension in the family of the Lady is addressed by the emphasis on love and truth 2 Jn If that is restored the false teachers would not be able to destroy the lady's group and prevent them from winning the full award 2 Jn 8. The identity of the visitors is not mentioned directly in the text, except for the fact that they are false witnesses. That they were visiting missionaries is an assumption, as is the focus on hospitality.

      Above it was argued that the situation presented in the text would make more sense if these false teachers were locals who did not appeal for hospitality but simply wanted to spread their false teaching within the group of the Lady. This then results in another emphasis in reading the Letter. Questions about tensions between 2 John and showing Christian love and courtesy, refusing basic hospitality are no longer relevant.

      The issue is rather what the reaction should be if a group is being penetrated by false teachers who will not only disrupt the group members that are apparently already under tensions regarding love among one another, but also have the potential of destroying them 2 Jn 8. As was argued above, there is ample evidence that such situations did not only threaten the Christian gatherings, but also other social groups like guilds.

      The response across the board seems to be the same: protect the group by breaking social contact if the evil doers do not want to conform, or at least until they are willing to conform and cease their destructive behaviour. This option is indeed recognised in the debate. Commentators - even those who propose a hospitality framework for interpreting this text - are virtually unanimous that the essence of what 2 John 10 communicates is that the church group should be protected against harm.

      He rather links this situation with the command of Jesus to his disciples to break contact with people who do not welcome the message of the Kingdom Mt ; Lk The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;. Luke It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,. Ephesians ,5 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: ….

      John And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Galatians ,14 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you…. Galatians O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? New International Version The elder, To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth--and not I only, but also all who know the truth-- New Living Translation This letter is from John, the elder.

      To a very special woman and her children.