Written in response to similar problems, the Second and Third Letters of John are of the same length, perhaps determined by the practical consideration of the writing space on one piece of papyrus. In each letter the writer calls himself “the Presbyter,” and their common authorship is further evidenced by internal similarities in style and wording, especially in the introductions and conclusions. The literary considerations that link 2 John and 3 John also link them with the First Letter and the Gospel of John. The concern with “truth,” christology, mutual love, the new commandment, antichrist, and the integrity of witness to the earthly Jesus mark these works as products of the Johannine school. The identity of the Presbyter is problematic. The use of the title implies more than age, and refers to his position of leadership in the early church. The absence of a proper name indicates that he was well known and acknowledged in authority by the communities to which he writes. Although traditionally attributed to John the apostle, these letters were probably written by a disciple or scribe of an apostle. The traditional place and date of composition, Ephesus at the end of the first century, are plausible for both letters.
The Second Letter is addressed to “the chosen Lady” and “to her children.” This literary image of a particular Christian community reflects the specific destination and purpose of the letter. Unlike 1 John, this brief letter is not a theological treatise but a reply to problems within the church. The Johannine themes of love and truth are used to support practical advice on Christian living. The Presbyter encourages community members to show their Christianity by adhering to the great commandment of mutual love and to the historical truth about Jesus. The false teaching present among them is a spiritualizing christology that may tempt some members to discount teachings about the incarnation and death of Jesus the Christ; cf. 1 Jn 4:2. For their protection the Presbyter forbids hospitality toward unknown or “progressive” Christians to prevent their infiltration of the community. The Second Letter preserves the Johannine concerns of doctrinal purity and active love in the form of pastoral advice to a threatened community.
1* a The Presbyter to the chosen Lady and to her children whom I love in truth—and not only I but also all who know the truth— 2because of the truth that dwells in us and will be with us forever. 3Grace, mercy, and peace* will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son in truth and love.
4I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children* walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father.b 5But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another.c 6For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;* this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk.d
7e Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.* 8Look to yourselves that you* do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. 9f Anyone who is so “progressive”* as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. 10* If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him;g 11for whoever greets him shares in his evil works.
12* Although I have much to write to you, I do not intend to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and to speak face to face so that our joy may be complete.h 13The children of your chosen sister* send you greetings.
*  The chosen Lady: literally, “elected”; this could also be translated “Kyria (a woman’s name) chosen (by God)” or “the lady Electa” or “Electa Kyria.” The adjective “chosen” is applied to all Christians at the beginning of other New Testament letters (1 Pt 1:1; Ti 1:1). The description is of a specific community with “children” who are its members. The truth: the affirmation of Jesus in the flesh and in contrast to false teaching (1 Jn 1:7).
*  Grace, mercy, and peace: like 1 Timothy; 2 Timothy this letter adds mercy to the terms used frequently in a salutation to describe Christian blessing; it appears only here in the Johannine writings. The author also puts the blessing in relation to truth and love, the watchwords of the Johannine teaching. The Father’s Son: the title that affirms the close relationship of Christ to God; similar variations of this title occur elsewhere (Jn 1:14; 3:35), but the precise wording is not found elsewhere in the New Testament.
*  Some of your children: this refers to those whom the Presbyter has recently encountered, but it may also indicate the presence of false doctrine in the community: the Presbyter encourages those who have remained faithful. Walking in the truth: an expression used in the Johannine writings to describe a way of living in which the Christian faith is visibly expressed; cf. 1 Jn 1:6–7; 2:6, 11; 3 Jn 3.
*  His commandments: cf. 1 Jn 3:23; 2:7–8; 4:21; obedience to the commandment of faith and love includes all others.
*  The antichrist: see 1 Jn 2:18–19, 22; 4:3.
*  You (plural): it is not certain whether this means the Christians addressed or includes the Presbyter, since some of the ancient Greek manuscripts and Greek Fathers have “we.”
*  Anyone who is so “progressive”: literally, “Anyone who goes ahead.” Some gnostic groups held the doctrine of the Christ come in the flesh to be a first step in belief, which the more advanced and spiritual believer surpassed and abandoned in his knowledge of the spiritual Christ. The author affirms that fellowship with God may be gained only by holding to the complete doctrine of Jesus Christ (1 Jn 2:22–23; 4:2; 5:5–6).
* [10–11] At this time false teachers were considered so dangerous and divisive as to be shunned completely. From this description they seem to be wandering preachers. We see here a natural suspicion of early Christians concerning such itinerants and can envisage the problems faced by missionaries such as those mentioned in 3 Jn 10.
*  Our joy: a number of other Greek manuscripts read “your joy.”
*  Chosen sister: the community of which the Presbyter is now a part greets you (singular), the community of the Lady addressed.
a.  Jn 8:32; 3 Jn 1.
b.  3 Jn 3.
c.  Jn 13:34; 15:12; 1 Jn 4:7.
d.  Jn 13:34; 14:15; 1 Jn 5:3.
e.  1 Jn 2:22; 4:2.
f.  Jn 8:31; 1 Jn 2:23; 4:15.
g.  Rom 16:17; 2 Thes 3:6.
h.  Jn 15:11; 1 Jn 1:4; 3 Jn 13.