Greetings (2 John 1:1-3)

The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

Unlike 1 John, 2 John has the formal characteristics of a true letter: the sender and recipients are identified and a greeting typical of ancient letters is passed on to them. And yet the identification of the author is unusual, for where one would expect a personal name, the author refers to himself only as the Elder, presbyter. Literally the word means someone who is old, but because those who were old were deemed to have wisdom and experience that qualified them to be leaders, an elder was someone who was also in a position of authority. The Elder must have been well known and respected by his readers. He expects them to recognize him without further identification and to follow his instructions. As in 1 John, he speaks of them as children, suggesting both the intimacy and the authority he has with them. That he is writing to other congregations suggests that his authority extends beyond one local congregation. The congregation to which he is writing is designated metaphorically as the chosen lady and her children; we would say the church and its members. Regularly in the Scriptures, Israel or the church is designated as a woman or the bride of Yahweh or Christ. Chosen recalls Jesus' statement in John 15:16, You did not choose me, but I chose you. The church is not a voluntary organization but the fellowship of those called together by Christ. For such a fellowship, family imagery is all the more appropriate, for it suggests the bonds of intimacy and love that bind the family together. Family imagery also underscores that it was not by the children's initiative that this family came into existence. In his greeting to the congregation the Elder repeats two important themes: truth and love. Truth includes matters of both faith and practice, and thus designates what Christians are to believe and how they are to live. Truth is the reality to which Christians are committed, and they are known by their commitment to it. But that reality is not simply a static and objective entity or set of beliefs. We tend to think of truth as a number of abstract propositions that we are to comprehend and believe.

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