Translation commentary on 3 John 1:10

If I come (or ‘when I come,’ ‘at the time I come’) refers to something that is viewed as an event that will certainly happen; compare comments on “when” in 1 John 2.28.

In I will bring up, the Greek verb means “to remind,” “to call to mind.” It often implies warning or blame, as it does here and in 2 Tim 2.14; hence ‘to expose,’ ‘to bring to light.’

The expression what he is doing, or ‘his behavior,’ is neutral in itself, but the four items mentioned in the following explanation show his behavior to be bad.

Prating against me with evil words is the first item. The clause may be better rendered as a new sentence, ‘He is prating….’

The verb used has the meaning ‘to talk nonsense about,’ ‘to gossip,’ ‘to speak idly/irresponsibly.’ The qualifying phrase with evil words serves to emphasize the unfavorable meaning of the verb. The whole phrase expresses the hostility Diotrephes has shown to the elder. Accordingly the phrase expresses the concept “to slander,” that is, “to damage a person’s reputation by false charges.” Some renderings used are ‘he continually speaks badly/ill of me,’ ‘he spreads slanderous gossip about me,’ ‘telling stories and lies about me,’ ‘talking just-behind me hatefully,’ ‘he always brings to the fore my name.’

Three further bad items are added to the first one by means of the phrase and not content with that, or “not satisfied with that” (New English Bible), or, as a new sentence, “But that is not enough for him” (Good News Translation), ‘He doesn’t stop at that,’ ‘That is not the end of it,’ ‘That is not the only thing he does.’

He refuses himself to welcome the brethren, or ‘he himself does not receive the brothers at his town (or congregation),’ ‘he himself does not show hospitality to the brothers’—this is the second item. The present tense expresses custom. The brethren refers to the traveling preachers who come to visit the congregation.

He … also stops those who want to welcome them is the third item. The Greek literally has “stops those who want,” which is elliptical. As a rule such words as “to welcome them” have to be added in order to fill up the ellipsis. The tense of the first verb may express attempt; hence ‘tries to stop.’ The same holds true of ‘puts them out’ in the next clause.

The main verb, stops, means “to keep from doing (by deeds or words),” “to hinder,” “to forbid.” Some renderings of the clause are “he is interfering with those who want to do so” (Goodspeed), ‘he closes the way for people who want to welcome them,’ ‘to people who want to welcome them he says, “Do not do so,” ’ ‘he tells others not to do so.’ “Them” refers back to “the brethren.”

He … puts them out of the church is the fourth and last item. “To put out” means “to drive out,” “to expel,” more or less forcibly. The word may refer to official excommunication from the congregation, but it can also be taken in a less forceful sense. In the latter case it serves to indicate that Diotrephes stirred up the congregation against the persons in question, thus isolating them and curbing their influence.

In this clause them refers to the members of the congregation who want to welcome the visiting preachers, contrary to what Diotrephes wants them to do. One may have to make this explicit, for example, by using ‘such people,’ or ‘every one who does so’ as substitute for them.

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

Translation commentary on 3 John 1:11

The writer now passes on to his next topic, the recommendation of Demetrius (verse 12), marking the transition by verse 11. In this verse he warns against doing evil, taking his cue from the bad behavior of Diotrephes. And he exhorts Gaius to do good, thus leading over to Demetrius, “who has testimony … from the truth itself.”

This Demetrius is not to be identified with the one of Acts 19.24, 38; nothing else is known of him. He probably was one of the traveling preachers and as such may have been the bearer of the present letter.

Do not imitate evil, or ‘do not follow bad examples,’ ‘do not act/be like people who are doing evil,’ ‘do not follow the deeds of bad men.’

To do good and to do evil, or ‘to do what is good’ and ‘to do what is evil.’

For is of God, compare comments on “is … of the Father” in 1 John 2.16.

Has not seen God: the verse does not mean to imply the reverse, namely, that he who does good can see God. John nowhere says in his writings that men in the present age can actually have a direct vision of God (compare comments on 1 John 4.12). Consequently the idiom must be taken here as expressing not the actual vision of God but intimate relationship and fellowship with God. Therefore some versions say ‘has not known (or does not know) God.’ The verb is in the perfect tense, indicating an event in the past effecting the present.

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

Translation commentary on 3 John 1:1

The beloved Gaius refers to the addressee, not a group as in 2 John 1, but one individual.

For beloved see comments on 1 John 2.7; the next phrase, whom I love in the truth, shows that the use of this word may be more than a matter of merely traditional kindness or politeness.

Some renderings of the phrase used are “To my dear Gaius, whom I truly love” (Good News Translation), ‘To Gaius, my friend (or brother), who is very dear to me’; or in two sentences, ‘to Gaius whom I love. I love him/you with all my heart.’

The phrase does not contain a respectful term such as “lady” in 2 John 1. This implies that the level of language to be chosen may be of a more informal or intimate type than in John’s second Letter.

Gaius was a very common name. Consequently there is no reason to identify him with others of the name mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 19.29; 20.4; 1 Cor 1.14, compare Rom 16.23). He is presented in the Letter as a good friend of John’s. He was probably the center of a group of Christian friends, not necessarily an elder of a congregation.

For the other details in this verse, see comments on 2 John 1, which has the same function in the Letter.

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

Translation commentary on 3 John 1:12

Has testimony from every one, that is, ‘is well spoken of (or is approved) by everyone.’ This is a passive form of the verb usually rendered “to testify” (see comments on 3 John 1.3), with a decidedly favorable connotation. The perfect tense has the same force as in the preceding clause.

Every one, or ‘all men,’ probably refers only to the Christians.

The next part of the verse mentions two other witnesses who are speaking well of Demetrius, namely, the truth and the writer himself. This is done to complete the number of three witnesses, in accordance with the rule of Jewish law quoted in the note on 1 John 5.8.

From the truth: the noun is used here in the sense of “truthful behavior,” “a life in accordance with God’s will,” see 1 John 1.6, and compare 2 John 4 and 3 John 3. The phrase goes with the preceding verb.

In Greek it is possible to say that truth is “giving testimony” or “speaking well” of a person. The same seems to be the case in several receptor languages, but in others it may be impossible. Then one will have to adjust the phrase, saying, for example, ‘truth itself proves this (or gives proof about him),’ ‘his true behavior is in accordance with it (or shows him to be good).’

I testify to him too, that is, ‘I also speak well of him.’ The verb is the same as in verse 12a and has the same favorable connotation, but the form used is the present tense and in the active voice. This is to show that the present testimony or praise supports what previously has been said by others. I testify in the Greek is literally “we testify.” The plural pronoun is often used in letter writing with reference to the writer; hence Revised Standard Version‘s I. But it can also refer here to the writer and his friends. The latter interpretation seems to be slightly more probable; compare verse 15. The same holds true for my testimony, literally “our testimony,” in the next clause.

You know my testimony is true, or ‘you know that you can rely on what I say.’ By stating that the testimony is in keeping with fact, the clause stresses the trustworthiness of the writer’s words, just as this expression does in John 21.24, and in a similar one in John 19.35.

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

Translation commentary on 3 John 1:2

The first two clauses are formulas which occur often in letter writing, but the third is a characteristic addition made by the writer.

I pray: in the New Testament the Greek verb usually indicates prayer to God, but in letters of the time it was used in the nonreligious sense of “to wish,” “to hope.” In this passage it most likely has the latter meaning.

That all may go well with you, or ‘that you may be well in all respects (or in every way),’ ‘that good may always happen to you.’ The reference is to well-being in general. The Greek verb used has the literal meaning of “to be-led-along-a-good-road,” then, “to get along well,” “to succeed.”

That you may be in health, or ‘that you may be healthy,’ ‘that your body may be strong,’ ‘that you may be always new,’ ‘that you may not be sick (literally may be not-dying).’ The receptor language may prefer to mention the specific before the more generic. In such cases the present clause, which specifies an aspect of being well, has to be placed first.

I know that it is well with your soul, literally “as your soul is well.” The first clause, which uttered a wish, is now driven home by a reference to a fact. Therefore several versions have added ‘I know,’ or ‘surely.’

The verb “to be well” is the same as that in the first clause, but now the reference is not to the bodily and material aspect of man. To make this clear the writer has added with your soul, in which soul refers to the spiritual aspect of the human personality. Compare such renderings of the clause as “you are well in spirit” (Good News Translation), ‘your innermost remains as good as that,’ ‘as you are well in your head-heart.’

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

Translation commentary on 3 John 1:13 – 1:14

Verses 13-14 closely resemble 2 John 12, which see. The few differences are the following; The verb to write is not the present participle but is in the imperfect tense, expressing obligation; the Greek term rendered I would rather not is slightly more definite than the corresponding one in the other verse, 2 John 12; the term rendered to see is in this context probably a more common synonym of the one rendered “to come and see” in 2 John 12; and, soon (or ‘shortly,’ ‘in a little while,’ ‘before long’) is lacking in 2 John 12.

To write with pen and ink uses the word order common in English instead of the word order “ink and pen” used in the Greek. The phrase parallels “to use paper and ink” in 2 John 12 as a synonym for “to write a letter.” Renderings of the two phrases may have to be identical.

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

Translation commentary on 3 John 1:3

Verses 3 and 4, linked to what precedes by the connective For, give the reason why the writer is confident that all is well with Gaius’ soul. Accordingly the verses are to be taken as belonging to the opening part of the Letter.

For I greatly rejoiced see comments on 2 John 4.

When some of the brethren arrived: the verb form is in the present tense, showing that the reference is to repeated visits, as brought out by ‘every time when some of our brothers came here,’ ‘that again and again some brothers arrived.’ The brothers mentioned probably were preachers who had been sent out by the congregation of “the elder,” had visited the congregation of Gaius, and on their return had reported to the home church.

The brethren, or “the brothers,” is used also in verses 5 and 10. For the translation of “brother” see comments on 1 John 2.9.

Testified to the truth of your life: for the verb testified, compare comments on 1 John 1.2; it means that they spoke of what they had seen, heard, and experienced of Gaius. In this context it can often be simply rendered as ‘told about.’

The truth of your life is in the Greek literally “your truth” (paralleling “your love” in verse 6). The noun truth refers to a behavior that is in accordance with God’s will, and to a life that is lived in close relationship with God; compare comments on 1 John 1.6. Some other possible renderings are ‘that you are truly devoted to God,’ ‘your being a man who is straight-hearted,’ or “how faithful you are to the truth” (Good News Translation).

As indeed you do follow the truth: the Greek connective used may serve to introduce an indirect discourse. Then the clause is to be taken as giving the contents of what the returning brothers had said, “namely, that you follow the truth.”

Another meaning of the connective is that it indicates reason and serves to reinforce the preceding statement. To bring this out Revised Standard Version has added indeed. Then the clause parallels verse 2b and states that the testimony John received was in accordance with what he knew about Gaius.

You is emphatic. It serves to bring out a contrast between the behavior of Gaius and that of Diotrephes (verses 9-10). For “to follow the truth,” in the Greek literally “to walk in truth,” see comments on 2 John 4.

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

Translation commentary on 3 John 1:15

For peace be to you (in the Greek literally “peace to you”) compare comments on “peace will be with us” in 2 John 3. The Greek construction of two nouns not connected by a verb may serve to express a fact or a wish. Here the latter is the case, as brought out by such renderings as ‘I wish you peace,’ ‘I wish/hope that you may have peace.’

The friends greet you: the reference is to disciples and close associates of “the elder” in the congregation from which he is writing. If a possessive pronoun is obligatory, one may say ‘my friends,’ or (since Gaius is one of the writer’s friends also), ‘our (inclusive) friends.’ In some cases it is preferable to add a locative qualification, ‘the/my/our friends here (or at my place).’

Friends indicates a relationship of mutual affection and obligations, here one that is based on the common faith. Renderings sometimes cover also the concept “companion” or “associate,” or are descriptive; for example, ‘people whom I love/like,’ ‘people who love/like me,’ ‘people who are devoted to me.’ For “to greet” in this and the next sentence, see comments on 2 John 13.

Greet the friends, or ‘the/my/our friends,’ namely, those persons in Gaius’s congregation who belonged to the group faithful to the elder, and who consequently were on the side of Gaius and Demetrius, not on that of Diotrephes. This is usually clear from the context. Where this is not so one may say ‘the/my/our friends with you (or at your place).’

Every one of them is in the Greek “name by name.” This expression was commonly used by letter writers in connection with individual greetings. It need not imply that “the friends” were only few. Other renderings used are “each one by name” (Translators’ Translation, similarly Bible de Jérusalem), “personally/individually” (Good News Translation, New English Bible), ‘one by one.’ The verb may have to be repeated; for example, ‘you should greet them (or yes, greet them) one by one.’

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