Translation commentary on 2 John 1:5

And now I beg you, lady: the words now I beg you are a common formula in letter writing, used when the writer comes to the subject matter of his letter. For And now see comments on 1 John 2.28.

I beg you implies an exhortation. This exhortative force may be expressed in the dependent clause instead of in the verb; for example, ‘And now I say to you, lady, … that we ought to love one another,’ or ‘And now, lady, … let us (or please, let us) love each other.’

The rest of verse 5 is composed of two parts, (a) not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, and (b) that we love one another. Part (a) qualifies the preceding exhortation. Except for a few minor differences it repeats 1 John 2.7, which see. Part (b) gives the contents of the exhortation.

Since (b) is directly dependent on “I beg you,” (a) has the character of a parenthetical statement, and a rather long one at that. If this is stylistically undesirable, clause (a) may be transposed to the head of the verse (as in New English Bible and Translators’ Translation) or to its end; compare Good News Translation‘s “and so I ask you, dear Lady: let us love one another. This is no new command I write you; it is a command which we have from the beginning.” Or again, one may divide the verse into two sentences; for example, ‘Lady, I have to make a request of you. No, it is not a new commandment I am writing you, but I point to a commandment we have had from the beginning: let us love one another.’

For that we love one another, compare comments on 1 John 3.11.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The Second Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 John 1:6

For this is love, that we follow his commandments, compare 1 John 5.3a. The first clause has also been rendered ‘love means (or consists in) this.’ The that clause states what exactly love means, or in what love consists. The term love is to be taken here in its widest range: love for God and for each other.

Follow his commandments in the Greek is literally “to walk in his commandments.” The expression refers to virtually the same thing as “to walk in truth” (verse 4). The rendering may closely resemble that of “to keep his commandments” in 1 John 2.3 (which see), or it may even be the same.

This is the commandment…, that you follow love is in the Greek literally “this is the commandment…, that in it you walk.” There is a certain parallelism between this sentence (verse 6b) and the preceding one (verse 6a), and the relationship between the two clauses in each sentence is the same. Verse 6b is ambiguous in two aspects: (1) The demonstrative this may point back to verse 6a (which in its turn explains the last clause of verse 5) or forward to the that clause of verse 6b. (2) In the Greek clause “in it you walk,” the pronoun “it” may refer to “commandment” (verse 6b) or to “love” (verse 6a).

Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation, and the majority of translators take this as pointing forward and interpret “in it you walk” as meaning “in love you walk”; hence, “you follow love.” Thus interpreted verse 6b is a reverse way of saying what is said in verse 6a. The statement serves to show that love and “God’s commandment” are virtually interchangeable; man can truly practice love only by doing what God has told him to do, and, conversely, what God always has told him to do is to love. This interpretation is based on, and does justice to, the parallelism existing between the two parts of verse 6.

The expression follow love, or “walk/live in love,” may have to be restructured. One may say, for example, ‘to live as people who love (God and their brothers),’ ‘to act as (or to do what) people who love (God and their brothers) ought to do.’

An objection against the interpretation of verse 6b just given is that in itself the Greek word order in the whole verse seems to suggest that “it” refers to commandment rather than to love. Some translators give a rendering along these lines; for example, “this is the command which was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life” (New English Bible), ‘this now is the command which you received already in the very beginning, in order that you would really live in accordance with it.’ Such renderings are certainly possible and give to verse 6b a force which the verse lacks in the first-mentioned interpretation.

For as you have heard from the beginning see comments on 1 John 2.7. The clause is rather redundant after verse 5. This redundancy serves to stress the validity of the statement in which these words are embedded. The clause, again, has the character of a parenthetical statement and may better be transposed. It is often best rendered then as a full sentence at the end of the verse, ‘This is what you have heard from the beginning.’

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The Second Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 John 1:7

Verses 7-9 give the reason for the preceding exhortation: only by keeping the command to love will the Christians be able to hold their own against the false teachers, whose denial of the Incarnation implies that they did not practice the love Jesus preached.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world: this clause closely resembles 1 John 4.1c (which see), except for two differences: for deceivers the other verse has “false prophets”; instead of the aorist tense of the Greek verb the other verse uses the perfect tense. If the latter difference is intentional, it is to indicate that here the process is viewed simply as a past act, but in 1 John 4.1 as a past act with results continuing in the present.

Deceivers: the Greek word used here is an agent noun referring to persons who are habitually deceiving people. It differs from “those who would deceive” (1 John 2.26, which see) in that it does not express an attempt. For “the world” see comments on 1 John 2.15, meaning (2).

Men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh is an appositional phrase going with deceivers but may better be rendered as a full sentence; for example, ‘They (are men who) will not acknowledge the coming….’ What is stated in this clause forms the negative counterpart of what is said in 1 John 4.2b, which see.

Men who will not acknowledge: the Greek uses a present tense form. Therefore one can better say “men who do not acknowledge” (New English Bible, compare also Good News Translation, Translators’ Translation). For the verb see comments on “to confess” in 1 John 2.23.

The coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh can be restated as ‘that Jesus Christ comes in the flesh.’ The Greek uses a participle of the present tense, which characterizes the phrase as a fixed formula stating the fact of the Incarnation. The receptor language may require a past tense form; for example, ‘that Jesus Christ came (or has come) in the flesh.’

To take the verb form as a reference to Christ’s continuous coming gives no satisfactory sense. To take it as having future force and the clause as referring to Jesus’ second advent is grammatically possible but is highly improbable in this context.

Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist: this clause gives a similar view on the relationship between the false teachers and the antichrist as found in 1 John 4.3, but it is phrased differently.

Such a one is, in the Greek literally “this-one,” is pointing backward to men who will …. It may have to be adjusted in order to bring out the meaning more clearly or to ease the shift from the plural (men) to the singular; for example, ‘whoever is like these persons is,’ ‘it is in a person resembling these men that we see.’ Or one may say “that is the mark of,” following Goodspeed, who shifts from the persons to the situation those persons are in.

The deceiver and the antichrist forms the predicate of the sentence. The two nouns refer to one and the same person, and they are closely connected. The definite articles serve to indicate that the designations were well known to the readers. The nouns tend to function as titles, the second probably still more so than the first.

Where the terms might be misunderstood as referring to different persons, it may be better to omit the connective; for example, ‘the Deceiver, the Antichrist’ (compare Bible de Jérusalem). Semantically speaking the first term qualifies the second. To bring this out one may change the word order; compare “the Antichrist, the archdeceiver” (New English Bible), or, where necessary, shift to a relative clause, ‘the antichrist who is a deceiver (or is always deceiving).’ For “antichrist” see comments on 1 John 2.18.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The Second Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 John 1:8

Look to yourselves, or “watch yourselves” (Good News Translation), ‘take care,’ ‘be on your guard,’ ‘walk with thought.’ This and similar expressions are often used in warnings in connection with the Last Hour; compare a passage like Mark 13.5.

That you may not lose what …: this dependent clause is in some cases better rendered as a coordinated sentence; for example, ‘look to yourselves; if you don’t do so (or if not, or otherwise), you will lose what…,’ ‘be on your guard; don’t lose what….’

To lose is used here with reference to good things they had obtained and has the sense of ‘to find missing,’ ‘to suffer the loss of’; or more actively, ‘to destroy.’ In some cases a shift to an intransitive construction is preferable, as in ‘take care that what … may not disappear (or be without results, or be in vain).’

What you have worked for, preferably “what you have accomplished,” ‘the work you have done,’ referring to work done by the readers in the congregation and in mission.

There is a variant reading of the Greek text, in which the verb is in the first person plural instead of in the second person. It is not easy to decide between the two. If the first person is accepted as the original reading (as done among others by Nestle, New English Bible, Bible de Jérusalem, Luther 1984), it should be taken as referring to John and his helpers and, therefore, having exclusive force.

Similar variant readings are given for the preceding verb, “to lose,” and the following verb, “to win,” but the chances that the first person is the original reading are less in these two cases than in the phrase under discussion.

But (that you) may win a full reward: this and the preceding clause form an antithetical pair, which states virtually the same thing, first in a negative, next in a positive construction. If the preceding clause has been restructured, it is preferable for the present one to follow the same structure.

To win a full reward, or to ‘obtain/receive/be-given a full reward,’ is a standing Jewish expression (compare, for example, Ruth 2.12 in the Greek version of the Old Testament). In the New Testament this and similar expressions are used in connection with eschatological expectations; compare Matt 5.12; Mark 9.41; 1 Cor 3.8, 14; Rev 11.18; 22.12.

A full reward, or ‘your full/whole/complete reward’: the adjective is sometimes better rendered as an adverbial qualification; for example, ‘win your reward in full (or completely, or without anything lacking).’ The noun indicates what one receives because of the work one has done. Here it probably refers to the eternal life the believers receive from God because they obey his commandments and follow Jesus.

Some versions can render reward simply by the common term for “wages,” such as, ‘your-work-its-price.’ In others one can better use renderings like ‘all God promised to grant you,’ ‘all (the benefit) which God wants to give you,’ ‘all that which God has prepared for you.’

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The Second Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 John 1:9

This verse contrasts the false and the true teachers.

Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ: the two verbs are closely connected, the second explaining the first.

Goes ahead is used here in the unfavorable sense of ‘goes too far,’ ‘goes farther than one should.’ In some languages the meaning is better expressed in this context by a verb for ‘to go aside,’ or ‘to add.’

For abide in see comments on 1 John 2.10.

The doctrine of Christ should preferably be rendered as “the teaching of Christ.” This may mean “what Christ teaches” or “what is taught about Christ.” The former is preferable here; compare John 7.16-17. The reference is to what Christ told his followers about the will of God and the true way of life. For “to teach” and for “Christ” see comments on 1 John 2.27 and 22.

Several of the points just mentioned are illustrated in such renderings of the clause as ‘any one who goes so far that he does not observe what Christ taught,’ ‘any one who goes beyond the teaching of Christ by not keeping within it,’ ‘any one who does not keep to the teaching that is Christ’s, but goes aside from it (or adds to it).’

To have both the Father and the Son, or ‘to have the Father as well as the Son’: for the rendering of the verb in this context see 1 John 2.23. For the Father and the Son, see comments on 1 John 1.3 and 2.22.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The Second Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 John 1:10

Verses 10 and 11 state what the members of the congregation have to do when a person coming to teach them proves to belong to the false teachers being discussed.

If (in the Greek followed by an indicative of the present tense) expresses an assumption that is considered a real case; hence ‘When,’ ‘At the moment that.’

Does not bring this doctrine, or ‘does not come with this teaching,’ ‘does not teach thus,’ ‘does not teach (or tell) you what Christ taught.’

Do not receive him into the house, or ‘do not accept him as a guest in your house/home.’ Living together in the house implies intimate fellowship and contact. It is undesirable to have such contact with the false teachers.

(Do not) give him any greeting is probably meant as a climax; hence ‘do not even greet him.’ The reference is to a greeting when one meets a person. It is, again, the fellowship and association implied in greeting that should be avoided, as the next verse shows.

“To give a greeting”: the Greek literally means “to tell to rejoice/be-glad,” which is a common expression for “to greet.” The same expression occurs in verse 11.

The concept of greeting is rendered in some languages by ‘to call to,’ ‘to speak kindly to.’ In other languages the rendering is a reference to the gesture one makes when meeting a person; for example, ‘to snap fingers,’ ‘to rub noses.’ Or it is built on the formula spoken on such an occasion; for example, ‘to say, “Peace to you,” ’ ‘to say, “Are you still alive?” ’ For further details on “greeting” see A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Luke on 1.28 (“hail”), and for more on “to greet” see A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Mark on 9.15; A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Luke on 1.29.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The Second Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 John 1:11

He who greets him, or ‘he who speaks thus (to him),’ or ‘he who makes such a gesture (with him).’

Shares his wicked work, or ‘is an accomplice to (or joins him in) his evil deeds,’ ‘gets mixed up in his doing not good,’ ‘does evil as he is doing (evil),’ ‘his sin is the same.’

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The Second Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 John 1:1

In verse 1a the writer refers to himself and to the addressees in the third person, but in verse 1bc he shifts to the first and second person. This was normal in the Greek but may be unacceptable in the receptor language, especially so when a verb is added in verse 1a. In such a case verse 1a can best be rendered in the first and second person; for example, ‘I, (who am) the elder, am writing to you (singular), the elect lady, and to your children.’

The elder: for this term see the Introduction to this Letter, page 156. The article shows that the person was well known to the readers. The Greek term (literally “the older-one”) has the form of a comparative, but in this context it does not have this meaning.

Though it is not clear exactly what meaning the term had, “the elder” appears to have been a man of dignity and authority. Often a receptor language term for ‘old man,’ ‘old one’ has an extended meaning that is appropriate here. Where that is not the case one can better use a term for “leader” or “prominent man” such as ‘big-man,’ or ‘the one taking precedence.’

The elect lady: the Greek has no article. This is often the case in formulas and set phrases; see for example 1 Peter 1.1, where the set phrases “the apostle of Jesus Christ” and “the exiles of the dispersion” also lack the article in the Greek. The Greek words used here have been interpreted by some as proper names (“Eklekte” and “Kuria”), but this is highly improbable.

The phrase is best taken figuratively as a kind of personification of a Christian congregation, just as in Isaiah 54 Zion is compared to a woman. Some translators shift to a nonfigurative rendering; for example, ‘I greet the congregation (literally the family of Jesus Christ) as God’s chosen one (feminine) and her children’ (in one American Indian version). This is defensible, but as a rule it is safer to give a more literal rendering, together with an explanatory footnote.

Elect: the Greek word is derived from a verb meaning “to choose/select.” It refers to the fact that God has chosen the Christians from among mankind in order to give them salvation in Christ. It is advisable, as a rule, to render the term rather literally, where necessary making explicit the implied agent; for example, ‘chosen (by God),’ ‘whom God has chosen.’

The word “elect” was a common designation of the Christians. Phillips has therefore rendered “elect lady” as “Christian lady.” And in some contexts “elect” had the sense of “excellent” (just as the English adjective “choice” may indicate something of high quality). Both these renderings are defensible in this case, if the more literal meaning suggested in the preceding paragraph would result in an awkward phrase, or in a rendering that would be more expressive than is called for in this context.

The verb “to choose” refers to singling out some from among a greater number. Renderings used may have the literal meaning ‘to take having looked,’ ‘to take … pull,’ ‘to point to,’ ‘to separate,’ ‘to decide in favor of.’

Lady: the Greek term is used of the lady of a house, the mistress of a slave, and in the vocative has the same function as the English term “madam.” The word should be rendered by the term the receptor language employs when respectfully referring to, or addressing, a woman of a certain position or authority. Such a term may have the literal meaning of ‘(older-)sister,’ ‘matron,’ ‘mother,’ ‘honored mother.’ In one Indonesian language a somewhat literary designation of a lady of rank is ‘a knot-of-hair (glistening) like beads.’

In languages that use honorifics the translator who keeps to a literal rendering of “the elect lady” will have to choose the honorifics due to a lady of rank. These will belong to a formal and reverent category. The case may be different when he has decided to shift to a nonfigurative rendering of that phrase, making explicit that the reference is to a congregation. Then the level of language is that which is required when one is addressing a group of persons of various ranks, some of whom are in various degrees known to the speaker. This may imply the use of a polite but not too formal category.

Her children refers to the members of the congregation addressed. Here again it is preferable to give a rather literal rendering in the text, with an explanation in a footnote.

Whom I love: the Greek relative pronoun is in the masculine plural, although it refers to a noun in the feminine (“lady”) and one in the neuter (“children”). Usually it is better to render the clause as a coordinate sentence, replacing the relative pronoun with ‘them’ or ‘you’ (plural), in accordance with the pronouns chosen in verse 1a. For “to love” see comments on 1 John 2.10.

In the truth: the expression (in the Greek literally “in truth”) probably qualifies the preceding verb and means no more than “truly” or “really”; but compare comments on 1 John 3.18. The foundation of the statement “whom I love truly/really” is given in what follows, where “truth” is taken in richer and deeper meanings.

Not only I: having concentrated attention on himself and his love for the congregation in question, John now widens the circle of those who love it. The ellipsis may have to be filled out; for example, ‘not only I love them (or you),’ ‘I am not the only one who loves them (or you).’

All who know the truth, that is, all who are personally and intimately acquainted with the truth. This noun refers here to the divine truth, to God’s real being and truthfulness, revealed in Jesus Christ as love; compare comments on 1 John 1.8; 4.8, 16. Where the use of the abstract noun is unacceptable, one may shift to ‘the word/message about the true God,’ ‘the gospel.’

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The Second Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .