Third Epistle of John
|Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
The Third Epistle of John is one of the shortest "books" in the Bible. It's hardly even a chapter, much less a book. Basically it is a letter written by St. John to his good buddy Gaius (yes, I do believe that rhymes with "gay us"). He spends the first third of this short letter pouring out praise upon Gaius that smacks of North Korean media reports about Kim Jong Il. The second third is an interesting inclusion in the Bible, in that it is a complaint about a corrupt evangelist (sound familiar?) who had taken over the local church where his beloved Gaius lived. Finally the book concludes with a "I had much to write to thee but I do not want to write it with pen and ink; I will tell it to you face to face". Hmmm...are you thinking what I'm thinking?
The Third Epistle of John is the shortest "book" in the Bible by word count, with 299 words,[note 1] but the preceding book 2 John has fewer verses (thirteen) while 3 John has fourteen verses. The Apostle John wrote this letter to a certain man named Gaius (a layman who was a member of a church in Asia Minor) as credentials for a traveling party headed by one Demetrius. John wanted Gaius to receive this party into his church, and he is confident that Gaius will do so.
The utter lack of edifying content in this "book" begs the question of why it was included in the Bible in the first place. It's all "my beloved Gaius" and "I have a lot to say but don't want to write it down and will tell it to you in person". He'd rather tell them face-to-face than commit it all to paper, which is unfortunate because 2000 years later all we have is the paper.
He contrasts the famous charity of Gaius with one Diotrephes, the bishop of that same Church, who did not receive John and his party of evangelists one time. Diotrephes used to shoot off his mouth and use malicious words against John, and not content with that, he proceeded to cast John and his party out of this church, which is something he won't soon forget. In the meantime, John needs to do this end-runaround through Gaius so that his men will have somewhere to stay.
There is no doctrine laid out in 3 John, it is strictly a personal letter, but the overall theme is the importance of hospitality, especially when it comes to men who were working to spread the Gospel. John was writing from his home base in Ephesus. Gaius, for his part, seems to have been a wealthy man. John did not think it would impose unduly on Gaius to put these traveling preachers up for a spell.
There are other Gaiuses named in four other places in the New Testament, but they (or he) were associated with Paul and Greece, not John and Asia. And Gaius was a popular name back then.[note 2]
Some scholars believe that the John who wrote the second and third epistles was not the same John who wrote the first epistle and the Gospel of John. They make a distinction between John the Evangelist and John the Presbyter who wrote these short letters. But there are certain repeated characteristics of Johannine writings which come out clearly here, such as his catch-phrase, "thou walkest in the truth". Also, John typically wrote with an extremely clear, ultra-simplistic, almost condescending tone, with a teaching style that reminds one of a parent speaking to a child.
"Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God..."
"...and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true."
- For perspective, this article is longer
- Caesar's full name, after all, was Gaius Julius Caesar.