JOHN, EPISTLES OF (Jousf, ante), three in number. The first and longest is quoted, as an undoubted work of the apostle John, by Polycarp, who in mature age was, about 100 A.D., made bishop of Smyrna,. and was a disciple of John, well acquainted with his character, doctrine, and writings. It is ascribed to John by Papias also, who, content; porary with him and bishop of Hieropolis, received his doctrine, according to Iris own statement, from the living voice of followers of the apostles. It is contained also in the Syriac version of the New TeAtament, made not later than the early part of the 2d c., in all the other ancient versions, and in all extant catalogues of canonical books. It is acknowledged by tremens, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Euse bius, Athanasius, and other ancient ecclesiastical writers. " Against this weight of his torical evidence," says Oishausen, "nothing can be effected by the mere conjectures of modern times; and at present all theologians are perfectly agreed in the acknowledgment .of this precious relic of the beloved disciple." Its subject-matter may be divided into four sectious: I. 1-7, recapitulates the personal testimony of the apostles to the divinity and incarnation of the Lord Jesus: and declares that the union of faith and holiness is necessary to the enjoyment of fellowship with God; II. i, 8-ii. 17, asserts the sinfulness of all men; declares the divinely provided method of forgiveness through con fession and faith in the atonement and intercession of Christ; specifies obedience to God and love to men as essential marks of true faith; gives counsel to the old and young; and warns Christians against love of worldly and transient things; III. ii. 18-29, affirms that all who deny the Messiahship of Jesus arc anti-christs; declares that true Christians are anointed of God so that they can distinguish truth from error; and exhorts those who profess the name of Christ to abide in him, so that, at his coming. they and the apostle himself may not be ashamed; IV. iii.-v., sets forth the great privileges of tree believers as the children of God; their consequent happiness and duties; and the various marks by which Christians and genuine Christianity may be distinguished from the children and doctrines of the evil one. The question concerning the genuineness of the ith verse of chapter v. on the three heavenly witnesses has been strenuously debated by biblical students during four centuries. The preponderance of evidence is that tire passage was not in the original, or in any ancient Greek manuscript; but was interpolated into Latin versions and a few late and Latinized Greek manuscripts. It is now consequently rejected by the great majority of biblical critics.
That tire external evidence for the genuineness of the second-and third epistles is less abundant and decisive than that for the first is accounted for by the fact that they are very brief, and are addressed to individuals. They would, therefore, naturally be read
by fewer persons, and be circulated more slowly. Yet there is uncontradicted external evidence sufficient to establish their genuineness as writings of John. tremens quotes a passage of the second epistle; Clement of Alexandria wrote a commentary on it, and probably also on the third; Origen says that the apostle John left a second and third epistle; which, however, he adds, were not universally accepted as genuine. Dionysius and all later Alexandrian writers mention them as productions of the same John that wrote the first epistle and the gospel. Ephrem Syrtis, in the 4th c., speaks of them as John's; and in the 5th c. they were almost universally received. The internal evidence for their genuineness is strong. Many of the sentiments contained in them are found substantially in the first epistle; the style, diction, and tone of thought in all three are similar; and the zeal expressed by the writer for the truth agrees well with the boldness attributed to John from the beginning.
The second epistle, addressed to the elect lady, or the elect Kyria, and her children, congratulates her on their consistent Christian conduct; exhorts them all to cherish genuine love founded on faith and obedience; and warns them against giving aid or countenance to false teachers by receiving them into their house or even by extending to them friendly greeting.
The third epistle is addressed to Gaius, whom it characterizes as beloved, spiritually minded, consistent, and kind. This character agrees well with that of Gains of Corinth, whom Paul commends as hospitable to him and to the whole church. He, however, was converted under Paul's ministry, while John seems to regard the Gains to whom he wrote as one of his children. The object of the epistle was to acknowledge the kind ness which Gains had already shown to the strangers who were traveling as Christian Missionaries, and to ask his continued help for them on their journey in a manner suitable to their character as God's servants, who, for Christ's sake, had renounced all resources outside of the church. John says also that he had written, probably on this subject, the church; but that Diotrephes, in his love of pre-eminence, would not give heed to his, request, and would not allow other members of the church to comply with it. From. what is said of Diotrephes it is plain that he was an arbitrary and ambitious man—the type of a large class—who had, either formally or practically, attained the chief place in the church. The apostle, promising to attend to his case when he visited the church, exhorts Gains to follow good and not bad examples, and commends to him Demetrius as well known to the apostle himself, and of good report among all the brethren.