The Epistle of Third John

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By: Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Third John 1.1, 9

Note to the Reader
Generally at the beginning of each month we examine one book from the Bible. We started this month finishing our examination of Second John. As of this week, we will begin looking at Third John, as such I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of Third John in conjunction with this article.

The Epistle of Third John

We have come to the third letter of John. The Apostle John is the writer of this Epistle, the Gospel account with his name and the book of Revelation. Like Second John, Third John is a very brief letter. While John’s Third Epistle is one verse longer than his Second Epistle, His Third letter is shorter in word count with a total of 294 words in the King James.1

Some History
While the letter opens saying that it is written by the elder (which is a designation also found within Second John),2 it is church tradition that has assigned the authorship to the Apostle John. Even though it is church tradition that has given authorship to John, there seems to be little doubt that he was the author.

This letter from John is addressed to Gaius.3 Interestingly, the name Gaius is found five times in the New Testament.4 While it would be appealing to find the Gaius mentioned in Third John to be the same Gaius that either Luke or Paul mentions, to conclude such would simply be unwarranted. While Luke and Paul both knew of or had an association with a man by the name of Gaius, based on John’s statement, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth”5 it seems unlikely to be the same person. The Gaius mentioned in Third John seems to be a person who was personally converted by John and therefore not the Gaius converted by Paul.6

This third letter from John also makes mention of another person named (or called) Diotrephes. While John is firmly condemning of the behavior of Diotrephes, it seems that this man is not to be found anywhere else in the New Testament. By reason of association with the church where Gaius was laboring, Diotrephes must have been converted to discipleship at some point prior to this letter, therefore he must have been a fellow Christian. But was he a Jewish convert or a Gentile convert? Information seems lacking in order to answer this question. However, because of the situation that Diotrephes was a believer, it is unsettling to learn that his behavior was such that John felt motivated to express such strong disapproval and would address the matter when he arrived.

Some Trivia
As we continue, let us consider some tidbits mentioned in the NIV Archeological Study Bible. These provide additional points of interest that can enrich one’s reading of the Epistle of Third John. The study Bible stated “Look both for John’s commendation of Gaius for his past hospitality and his condemnation of Diotrephes for his mistreatment of fellow believers.”7 The Study Bible also informs that “Modern Orthodox Jews often address God by the title Ha-Shem, meaning ‘The Name’ (v. 7)”. 8

While John’s third letter is brief, it has much that can encourage our faith and build our conviction in Jesus and God. It is my hope that our study of John’s Third letter will be a blessing. May the LORD bless us as we seek to learn more.

1. “294 Words” count based on the 1769 King James Version, e-Sword version 8.0.6.
2. “The Elder found in Second John.” Second John 1.1, NASB.
3. “Letter addressed to Gaius.” Third John 1.1, NASB.
4. “Gaius five times in NT.” Acts 19.29, 20.4; Romans 16.23, First Corinthians 1.14, Third John 1.1; KJV word search, e-Sword version 8.0.6.
5. Third John 1.4, KJV.
6. “Gaius converted by Paul.” First Corinthians 1.14, NASB.
7. Introduction to Third John; “As You Read” Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 2035, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
8. Introduction to Third John; “Did You Know?” Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 2035, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.