3 John 1:9
I wrote to the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, receives us not.
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3 John 1:9-11. I wrote — Or have written; to the church — Probably that to which they came; but Diotrephes &c. — As if he had said, But I fear lest my letter should not produce the desired effect; for Diotrephes, perhaps the pastor of it, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them — To govern all things according to his own will; receiveth us not — Neither them nor me; or, does not acknowledge my authority as an apostle of Christ. So did the mystery of iniquity already begin to work! As six or seven MSS. read here, εγραψα αν, a reading which is followed by the Vulgate, the Syriac, and the Coptic versions, Macknight, supposing it to be the genuine reading, renders the clause, I would have written; remarking, that the letters which the apostles wrote to the churches, were all sent to the bishops and elders in those churches, to be by them read to the people in their public assemblies. So that “if Diotrephes was a bishop or elder of the church to which St. John would have written, the apostle might suspect that that imperious, arrogant man, would have suppressed his letter; consequently, to have written to a church of which he had usurped the sole government, would have answered no good purpose.” Wherefore, if I come — As I hope I quickly shall; I will remember — Or, as υπομνησω more properly signifies, I will bring to remembrance; his deeds which he practiseth, prating against us — Both them and me; with malicious words — As if I were not an apostle, but had assumed that office. “In thus speaking, the writer of this epistle showed himself to be Diotrephes’s superior. It is therefore highly probable that the writer of it was not the person called by the ancients John the presbyter, but John the apostle. Heuman and Lardner are of opinion the apostle only meant that he would put Diotrephes in mind of his evil deeds, and endeavour to persuade him to repent of them by mild admonitions. But there is no occasion to give a mild sense to the apostle’s words: for, allowing that John threatened to punish Diotrephes for his insolence, in prating against him with malicious words, and for his uncharitableness in refusing to entertain and assist the brethren and the strangers, his threatenings did not proceed from resentment, but from zeal for the interests of religion, in which he is to be commended; because, as Whitby remarks on this verse, ‘private offences against ourselves must be forgiven and forgotten; but when the offence is an impediment to the faith, and very prejudicial to the church, it is to be opposed and publicly reproved.’” — Macknight. Neither doth he himself receive the brethren — Though he knows they come from us; and forbiddeth them that would — Receive them, to do it; and casteth them — Who entertain them contrary to his orders; out of the church. But as for thee, beloved, follow — Or imitate; not that which is evil — In Diotrephes, or any one; but that which thou seest to be good in those with whom thou art acquainted; that is, behold such a conduct as that of Diotrephes with a just abhorrence, and act according to that model of humility and condescension which you have seen in others. He that doeth good — From a proper principle, namely, from love to God, in obedience to his will, and with a view to his glory; is of God — He knows God, and, as one of his people, imitates him; but he that doeth evil — That harbours unkind tempers in his heart, and acts in an unfriendly manner toward the servants of Christ, in their wants and necessities, whatever high notions he may entertain of himself, hath not seen or known God — But is evidently ignorant of his perfections and of his will, and even an enemy to him.1:9-12 Both the heart and mouth must be watched. The temper and spirit of Diotrephes was full of pride and ambition. It is bad not to do good ourselves; but it is worse to hinder those who would do good. Those cautions and counsels are most likely to be accepted, which are seasoned with love. Follow that which is good, for he that doeth good, as delighting therein, is born of God. Evil-workers vainly pretend or boast acquaintance with God. Let us not follow that which is proud, selfish, and of bad design, though the example may be given by persons of rank and power; but let us be followers of God, and walk in love, after the example of our Lord.I wrote unto the church - That is on the former occasion when they went forth. At that time, John naturally commended them to the kind attentions of the church, not doubting but that aid would be rendered them in prosecuting their benevolent work among the Gentiles. The Epistle which was written on that occasion is now lost, and its contents cannot now be ascertained. It was, probably, however, a letter of mere commendation, perhaps stating the object which these brethren had in view, and soliciting the aid of the church. The Latin Vulgate renders this: "scripsissem forsan ecclesiae, "I would have written, perhaps, to the church, but Diotrephes," etc. Macknight also renders this, "I would have written," supposing the sense to be, that John would have commended them to the whole church rather than to a private member, if he had not been aware of the influence and opposition of Diotrephes. The Syriac version also adopts the same rendering. Several manuscripts also, of later date, introduced a particle, (αν an,) by which the same rendering would be demanded in the Greek, though that reading is not sustained by good authority. Against this mode of rendering the passage, the reasons seem to me to be clear.

(1) as already remarked, the reading in the Greek which would require it is not sustained by good authority.

(2) the fair and obvious interpretation of the Greek word used by the apostle, (ἔγραψα egrapsa,) without that particle, is, I "wrote" - implying that it had been already done.

(3) it is more probable that John had written to the church on some former occasion, and that his recommendation had been rejected by the influence of Diotrephes, than that he would be deterred by the apprehension that his recommendation would be rejected.

It seems to me, therefore, that the fair interpretation of this passage is, that these brethren had gone forth on some former occasion, commended by John to the church, and had been rejected by the influence of Diotrephes, and that now he commends them to Gains, by whom they had been formerly entertained, and asks him to renew his hospitality to them.

But Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not - Does not admit our authority, or would not comply with any such recommendation. The idea is, that he rejected his interference in the matter, and was not disposed to acknowledge him in any way. Of Diotrephes, nothing more is known than is here specified. Compare the analysis of the Epistle. If he was an officer in the church - a pastor, a ruling elder, a deacon, a vestry-man, a warden, or a private individual - we have no means of ascertaining. The presumption, from the phrase "who loveth to have the pre-eminence," would rather seem to be that he was an aspiring man, arrogating rights which he did not have, and assuming authority to which he was not entitled by virtue of any office. Still he might have held an office, and might have arrogated authority, as many have done, beyond what properly belonged to it.

The single word rendered "who loveth to have the pre-eminence," φιλοπρωτεύων philoprōteuōn, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means simply, "who loves to be first" - meaning that he loved to be at the head of all things, to rule, to lord it over others. It is clearly supposed here, that the church would have complied with the request of the writer if it had not been for this man. What were the alleged grounds for the course which he constrained the church to take, we are not informed; the real ground, the apostle says, was his desire to rule. There may have been at the bottom of it some secret dislike of John, or some private grudge; but the alleged ground may have been, that the church was independent, and that it should reject all foreign interference; or that the church was unable to support those men; or that the work in which they were engaged was one of doubtful propriety.

Whatever was the cause, the case furnishes an illustration of the bad influence of one ambitious and arrogant man in a church. It is often in the power of one such man to bring a whole church under his control, and effectually to embarrass all its movements, and to prevent all the good which it would otherwise accomplish. When it is said, "but Diotrephes receiveth us not," the reference is doubtless to John, and the meaning is, either that he did not acknowledge him as an apostle, or that he did not recognize his right to interfere in the affairs of the church, or that he did not regard his recommendation of these brethren. The first of these suppositions is hardly probable; but, though he may have admitted that he was an apostle, there were perhaps some reasons operating in this particular case why he prevailed on the church to reject those who had been thus commended to their hospitality.

9. I wrote—The oldest manuscripts add "something": a communication, probably, on the subject of receiving the brethren with brotherly love (3Jo 8, 10). That Epistle was not designed by the Spirit for the universal Church, or else it would have been preserved.

unto the church—of which Gaius is a member.

loveth … pre-eminence—through ambition. Evidently occupying a high place in the Church where Gaius was (3Jo 10).

among them—over the members of the Church.

receiveth us not—virtually, namely, by not receiving with love the brethren whom we recommended to be received (3Jo 8, 10; compare Mt 10:40).

Ver. 9,10. I wrote unto the church; this was probably some church of which Gaius was.

Diotrephes, one who had received or usurped some office or authority in it, to so ill a purpose, as when he had no inclination to be hospitable himself to fellow Christians, prevented others from being so; and upon pretence of the little differences of these Jewish from the Gentile Christians, excluded them their communion. I wrote unto the church,.... Where Gaius was a member: those who take Gaius to be the same with Paul's host, and whom he baptized at Corinth, think the church at Corinth is here meant; but it seems rather to be meant of some church in Asia nearer Ephesus; nor is it likely that John's first epistle should be here intended, which makes no mention of relieving the brethren, the ministers of the Gospel, that came from Judea: and that this epistle should not be preserved, need not seem strange; for it cannot be thought that everything that was written by him to particular persons, or churches, should be continued. The Alexandrian copy and one of Stephens's read, "I wrote something to the church"; upon this head, concerning receiving and supporting ministers of the Gospel, and so prevents an objection that Gaius might make, why did he not write to the church about it? The Vulgate Latin version reads, "I should", or "would have wrote": and the Syriac version, "I desired", or "wished to have wrote"; suggesting, that though he had not wrote, yet it was much upon his mind, he had a great desire to it:

but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them,

receiveth us not; which hindered him from writing, or was the reason why he wrote now to Gaius since Diotrephes gave no heed to what he had wrote, suppressed his letter, and would not suffer it to be read to the brethren. This Diotrephes, by his name, which signifies one "nourished", or "brought up by Jupiter", was a Gentile; there was one of this name, who was one of the kings of Athens (a); and what may confirm this is, his slighting and rejecting the brethren that came from Judea: it is very likely he was more than a private member in the church, and that he was an officer, and it may be the pastor; and though there is a preeminence, which of right belongs to such an officer, as to preside over the church, to govern, guide, and direct, according to the laws of Christ, he being set over the church, as a ruler, governor, and guide; yet this may be carried too far, as it was by this man, who coveted more than was his due, and lorded it over God's heritage, ruled the flock with force and cruelty, and usurped a tyrannical power over them; whereas every thing in a church ought to be done, by pastor and people, in love, meekness, and with mutual consent. And it may be also, that he sought to have the preeminence over the rest of the elders of the church, for in those large churches there were oftentimes more elders and pastors than one; see Acts 20:17. This ambitious spirit prevailed and obtained among the false teachers, who set up themselves at the head of parties, and above the apostles of Christ, and paved the way for antichrist, who assumed the title of universal bishop, which has introduced all the errors and impieties of the Romish church. Now this man such an ambitious, lordly, and governing spirit, received not the Apostle John, and those that were with him; meaning not their persons, for as yet he and they were not in person where he was; but his letter, his orders, and instructions; these he paid no regard to, concealed them from the church, and would not admit them to be read: or else the apostle's sense is, that he received not the brethren that came from him, and were recommended by him, and whom he affectionately loved, and who were near and dear to him as himself; and therefore not receiving them is interpreted by him as not receiving himself.

(a) Vid. Fabricii Bibliograph. Antiqu. p. 211.

{2} I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

(2) Ambition and covetousness, two pestilent sins

(especially in those who have any church responsibilities) are condemned in Diotrephes.

3 John 1:9-10. Notice of Diotrephes.

ἔγραψά τι τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ] The τι, which according to the authorities is probably genuine, does not serve, as Lücke rightly remarks, to intensify = “something important,” but rather to weaken = “something, a little.”

The reading: ἔγραψα ἄν (Vulg.: scripsissem forsitan), has originated in the idea that the apostle would not write an epistle, of the unsuccessfulness of which he was previously convinced. The Church to which the apostle wrote is not that from which the brethren (3 John 1:7) went forth (Bengel, Besser), but that to which Caius belonged. The opinion that this writing is the so-called First Epistle of John (Wolf, Storr, etc.) is just as untenable as the view that it is the Second Epistle of John (Ewald, Besser, etc.), for the contents of these two have nothing in common with the circumstances which are here alluded to. This writing must, according to the context in which it is mentioned, have treated of the reception or support of the missionary brethren. If it was only such a short occasional writing, it is easily intelligible how it may have been lost; besides, however, it is natural to suppose that it was withheld from the Church by Diotrephes.

ἀλλʼ ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων αὐτῶν Διοτρεφὴς οὐκ ἐπιδέχεται ἡμᾶς] In these words the apostle expresses the experience which he had had of Diotrephes. It may be assumed that the apostle wrote to the Church of Diotrephes in regard to the reception of the missionary brethren, and that the bearers of the Epistle reported to him the conduct of Diotrephes, which he now tells to Caius. As to the more particular circumstances of Diotrephes nothing further is known. From what John says about him, it cannot be inferred either that he was presbyter, or that he was deacon of the Church; yet the contrary conclusion cannot either be drawn. When Grotius represents him as an opponent of the Jewish-Christians, and others, on the contrary, regard him as a false teacher of Jewish or Gnostic views, these are unfounded conjectures; if either the one or the other were the case, John would certainly have indicated it. John only accuses him of one thing, namely, the φιλοπρωτεύειν, from which his unchristian conduct resulted. φιλοπρωτεύειν is a ἅπ. λεγ.; yet in the later Greek writers φιλόπρωτος and φιλοπρωτεία appear. The scholion in Matthiae rightly explains ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων by: ὁ ὑφαρπάζων τὰ πρωτεῖα; he ambitiously arrogated to himself the highest authority in the Church, which made himself an opponent of the apostle. By what means he was able to obtain validity for this assumptian we do not know; perhaps by assembling the Church in his house.

αὐτοῦ refers to ἐκκλησίᾳ, as a collective idea.

οὐκ ἐπιδέχεσθαι ἡμᾶς] ἐπιδέχεσθαι, in the N. T. only here and in 3 John 1:10, means “to receive;” it is incorrect to change ἡμᾶς into “our epistles or exhortations” (Grotius, Lücke, de Wette, etc.). In the fact that Diotrephes rejected the communication of the apostle, and refused to receive the brethren recommended in it, he justly obtained rejection for himself (so also Braune). It is unnecessary, therefore, to ascribe to ἐπιδέχεσθαι here the modified meaning: “to accept, to let pass,” in which it appears in the classics. 3 John 1:10. διὰ τοῦτο, ἐὰν ἔλθω, ὑπομνήσω κ.τ.λ.] Though, in the absence of John, Diotrephes resisted his authority, yet John hoped by his presence to obtain for it its due weight, and therefore he had resolved to come himself to that Church and personally to oppose the intrigues of Diotrephes.

With ὑπομνήσω, which is here used with the secondary signification of blame, it is not necessary to supply αὐτόν; although Diotrephes is meant, yet John did not write αὐτόν, because he had in view at the same time all those who adhered to him (so Braune correctly); comp. 2 Timothy 2:14. In what the ἔργα of Diotrephes, to which the apostle intends the ὑπομιμνήσκειν to refer, consisted, the following participial clauses state.[22]

ΛΌΓΟς ΠΟΝΗΡΟῖς ΦΛΥΑΡῶΝ ἩΜᾶς] ΦΛΥΑΡΕῖΝ (in the N. T. a ἍΠ. ΛΕΓ.; the adj. ΦΛΎΑΡΟς, 1 Timothy 5:13) = nugari; Oecumenius paraphrases it by ΛΟΙΔΟΡΕῖΝ, ΚΑΚΟΛΟΓΕῖΝ: this, however, does not express the idea of the chatter that sags nothing which is contained in φλυαρεῖν. The verb, in itself intransitive, is here construed with the accusative (as ΘΡΙΑΜΒΕΎΩ, Colossians 2:15; ΜΑΘΗΤΕΎΩ, Matthew 28:19), thus: “he prates against us slanderously with wicked words.

καὶ μὴ ἀρκούμενος ἐπὶ τούτοις] Diotrephes did not content himself with ΦΛΥΑΡΕῖΝ against the apostle alone (ἈΡΚΕῖΣΘΑΙ is only here used in construction with ἘΠΊ; elsewhere the dative is found: Luke 3:14; Hebrews 13:5, and other passages); he injured the brethren also.

ΟὔΤΕ ΑὐΤῸς ἘΠΙΔΈΧΕΤΑΙ ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟῪς ΚΑῚ Κ.Τ.Λ.] With ΟὔΤΕ the following ΚΑΊ corresponds; ΑὐΤΌς is contrasted with ΤΟῪς ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς.

There is no reason to take ἘΠΙΔΈΧΕΣΘΑΙ here in a different sense from that of 3 John 1:9, although it takes a different bearing towards different persons, one way in regard to the apostle, another way in regard to the ἈΔΕΛΦΟΊ, who are here mentioned, and who are to be regarded as ΞΈΝΟΙ; they are the same as were spoken of previously (3 John 1:7, etc.).

With ΤΟῪς ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς we are to understand ἘΠΙΔΈΧΕΣΘΑΙ ΑὐΤΟΎς (C reads just ἘΠΙΔΕΧΟΜΈΝΟΥς instead of ΒΟΥΛ.); there were therefore some persons in the Church who were ready to receive the strangers, in opposition to Diotrephes; but Diotrephes did not permit it, nay, he opposed them with all force.

ΚΑῚ ἘΚ Τῆς ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς ἘΚΒΆΛΛΕΙ] It is not ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟΎς, but ΤΟῪς ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς that is the object.

ἘΚΒΆΛΛΕΙΝ ἘΚ Τῆς ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς signifies expulsion from the Church, as the object is not ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟΎς, but ΤΟῪς ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς; the expression is arbitrarily weakened if we understand by it merely that “Diotrephes no longer admitted those who opposed him to the meetings of the Church which he held in his house” (Braune). The common opinion is, that Diotrephes had actually already expelled some persons from the Church, whether irregularly by means of faction, or with arrogant violence, or whether by intrigues he had brought about resolutions of the Church to that effect; but it is also possible that the apostle describes as an act of Diotrephes what he in his pride had threatened to do, so that the expression then is one of keen irony.

If arbitrary hypotheses are not admitted, we must regard as the cause of the behaviour of Diotrephes only his vanity—which showed itself in his ΦΙΛΟΠΡΩΤΕΎΕΙΝ. By the way in which a part of the Church (especially Caius) had interested itself in the strangers, and had been mentioned in John’s communications on the subject, Diotrephes, in his vanity, had probably felt offended, and this had excited his anger, which led him to the conduct which John rebukes in such simple but severe words.

[22] Ewald strangely overlooks the following words when, after translating the preceding words, he says: “But the author cannot dwell on this painful incident; he breaks off abruptly, to turn back to the good, exclaiming: Beloved!” etc.3 John 1:9-10. Churlishness of Diotrephes. “I wrote something to the Church, but Diotrephes, who loveth pre-eminence over them, doth not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I shall call to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating about us with evil words; and, not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren and them that would he preventeth and casteth out of the Church.”

“Der Zweck des 3. Briefes liegt in der Empfehlung der Gastfreundschaft gegen wandernde Glaubensboten” (Holtzm.).9. I wrote unto the Church] The best authorities give I wrote somewhat to the Church; i.e. ‘I wrote a short letter, a something on which I do not lay much stress’. There is yet another reading; I would have written to the Church: but this is an obvious corruption to avoid the unwelcome conclusion that an official letter from S. John has been lost. The reference cannot be to either the First or the Second Epistle, neither of which contains any mention of this subject. There is nothing surprising in such a letter having perished: and Diotrephes would be likely to suppress it. That the brethren whom Gaius received were the bearers of it, and that his hospitality was specially acceptable on account of the violence of Diotrephes, does not seem to fit in well with the context. ‘To the Church’ probably means ‘to the Church’ of which Diotrephes was a prominent member: that he was presbyter of it cannot be either affirmed or denied from what is stated here.

who loveth to have the preeminence] The expression (ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων) occurs nowhere else in N.T.; but it comes very close to “whosoever willeth to be first among you” (Matthew 20:28). Perhaps the meaning is that Diotrephes meant to make his Church independent: hitherto it had been governed by S. John from Ephesus, but Diotrephes wished to make it autonomous to his own glorification. Just as the antichristian teachers claimed to be first in the intellectual sphere (2 John 1:9), so the unchristian Diotrephes claimed to be first in influence and authority.

9, 10. Diotrephes condemned for his Arrogance and Hostility

This is the most surprising part of the letter; and of the internal evidence this is the item which seems to weigh most heavily against the Apostolic authorship. That any Christian should be found to act in this manner towards the last surviving Apostle is nothing less than astounding. Those who opposed S. Paul, like Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14), afford only remote parallels (1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:15). They do not seem to have gone the lengths of Diotrephes: the authority of Apostles was less understood in S. Paul’s time: and his claim to be an Apostle was at least open to question; for he was not one of the Twelve, and he had himself been a persecutor. But from the very first the N.T. is full of the saddest surprises. And those who accept as historical the unbelief of Christ’s brethren, the treachery of Judas, the flight of all the Disciples, the denial of S. Peter, the quarrels of Apostles both before and after their Lord’s departure, and the flagrant abuses in the Church of Corinth, with much more of the same kind, will not be disposed to think it incredible that Diotrephes acted in the manner here described even towards the Apostle S. John.3 John 1:9. Ἔγραψα, I wrote) concerning these things. That epistle is not extant.—τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, to the church) of that place from which they went forth: 3 John 1:7. Here is the anticipation of an objection: lest Caius should say, Why do they come to us?—ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων αὐτῶν, who wishes to be the first of them) If even then, during the life of the apostle, Diotrephes exalted himself, what was not the case afterwards?—ἡμᾶς, us) who commend them, and those who are commended by us.Ver. 9. - I wrote somewhat to the Church (reading, with the best authorities, ἔγραψά τι probably means that St. John had written a letter, now lost, and perhaps destroyed by Diotrephes, to the Church to which Diotrephes belonged. That Diotrephes was bishop of this Church is conjecture; as also that he opposed St. John's emissaries "because they were bent on carrying the gospel to the Gentiles, he himself being, no doubt, both a Jew and of the Jewish faction." He may have been an influential layman. But the context favours the view that he was at least a presbyter. This ecclesiastical Cleon is the type of all vain, noisy, self-asserting teachers, whose main object is to get their own way - an object which they effect by browbeating all who differ from them. No authority is respected and no character spared which seems to oppose their policy. Even an apostle is denounced if he ventures to maintain that the truth may be larger than their view of it. Christian ministers now must not be surprised if they sometimes meet with no better treatment. I wrote unto the Church

The best texts insert τι somewhat, which indicates that the apostle did not regard the communication as specially important.

Diotrephes (Διοτρεφὴς)

The name is from Δίος of Zeus (Jove), and τρέφω to nourish, and means Jove-nursed.

Who loveth to have the pre-eminence (ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων)

From the adjective φιλόπρωτος fond of being first. The word occurs here only.

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