2nd letter of John

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New Testament
Acts of the Apostles
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Catholic letters

The second letter of John is the second of three New Testament letters in the Bible that are ascribed to the evangelist John .


Who wrote the 2nd letter of John is controversial among theologians . Tradition sees John the Evangelist as the author. But that is often denied. Many theologians today ascribe the letter to either a presbyter John, possibly mentioned by Papias , or to another student of the evangelist. The date of writing is set at 50 AD or 90 AD to about 130 AD, depending on theological doctrine. Ephesus is considered the place of composition (compare ' Johannine School ').

With 245 words (after Nestle-Aland 28 ) it is a little longer than the 3rd letter of John and thus the second shortest letter in the New Testament. In terms of verses, however, it is the shortest (13 verses compared to 15 in 3 John).

Content and structure

The letter is structured like a classic antique private letter, ie it consists of three main parts: the letter prescript, the letter body and the letter closure.

Letter prescript

At the beginning of the letter is the superscriptio , i.e. the sender information. Only πρεσβύτερος = "The Elder" or "The Old One" is given as the sender, without any further naming. The recipient is also not named. In the adscriptio , as the recipient information, there is only ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ = "the chosen mistress". In the salutatio , the opening greeting, the author wishes his counterpart mercy, mercy and peace. This threefold greeting can only be found in the New Testament in the two Timothy letters .


The actual main part of the letter, the so-called corpus , contains two main themes:

  • In vv. 4-6 the author praises “the mistress” and “her children” for their faithfulness in the faith. And then he turns to them, asking for love for one another. Because through love for one another we express our love for God.
  • In vv. 7-11 the author warns against “false teachers”. In his eyes, false teachers are the people who deny that Jesus really became a person ( docetism ). The recipients of the letter should avoid dealing with these false teachers. You shouldn't even say hello to her.

Closing letter

The letter deadline 12–13 follows the corpus . The end of the letter consists of the declaration of intent that the author plans to visit the recipient (v. 12) and the final greeting in v. 13.

Exegetical difficulties

An exegetical problem in 2nd John is the question of the recipient. Who is the “chosen mistress” (ἐκλεκτή κυρία)? There are various theories among interpreters about who exactly the recipient might be:

  • Some of the interpreters assume that the “chosen mistress” is a real woman. Then either ἐκλεκτή (eclectus) could be her real name, in the sense of "the mistress Eklekta"; or else κυρία (Kyria) would be her name, in the sense of "the chosen (noble) Kyria". A third possibility is that your name remains anonymous and the author only addresses you with the salutation “chosen mistress”, as he introduces himself only with “elder”, just as without mentioning his own name.
  • Other interpreters see the Chosen Lady as a symbolic name for a church, in this case the church to which the letter writer addresses. That would coincide with the biblical symbolic language. Israel is repeatedly addressed in the Old Testament as a woman: in Jer 31:21 as “the virgin Israel” and in Micah  4,8 as “daughter of Zion ”. In the New Testament the church is presented as the “bride of Christ” (2 Cor 11: 2; Rev 19: 7). In addition, this interpretation would fit better with verse 13 in the letter. There the sister of the chosen ones and their children are mentioned. According to this interpretation, this would mean that one congregation, i.e. its members, greet the other congregation.


  • Udo Schnelle: Introduction to the New Testament , 5th edition, Göttingen: Vandenhœck & Ruprecht 2005, pp. 485–492, ISBN 3-8252-1830-9
  • Wolfgang Baur: first, second and third Johannesbrief , Stuttgart small commentary vol. 17, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-460-15471-3
  • Rudolf Schneckenberg: Die Johannesbriefe , Herder's theological commentary on the New Testament XIII, 3rd, 7th edition, Freiburg: Herder 1984, ISBN 3-451-01150-6
  • Rudolf Bullmann: The three letters of John , critical-exegetical commentary on the New Testament, Dept. XIV - 2nd edition of the new interpretation, Göttingen: Vandenhœck & Ruprecht 1969
  • Hans-Josef Klauck: The Second and Third Letter of John , Evangelical-Catholic Commentary on the New Testament XXIII, 2, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag 1992, ISBN 3-7887-1420-4
  • Georg Strecker: Die Johannesbriefe , critical-exegetical commentary on the New Testament, XIV. Abbot, Göttingen: Vandenhœck & Ruprecht 1989, ISBN 3-525-51621-5

See also

Web links

Commons : 2nd Letter of John  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Klaus Berger : Commentary on the New Testament. Gütersloh 2011, p. 970: “the oldest document of the New Testament in terms of the date of the written drafting”.
  2. Hans-Josef Klauck, The Second and Third Letter of John , pp. 33–38.