Monday, March 27, 2017

The elect lady

Many believers have a favorite book of the Bible. A favorite verse. A chapter that gives comfort and inspiration each time they re-read it.

For some, it's the three little books near Revelation, in the New Testament. The three books written by John. Consensus among the scholars is that this was John, son of Zebedee, and that he was the author of the gospel of John, and then of the book of Revelation after his exile to the island.

I John is almost like an essay that supports his gospel; it deals with concepts like God's love for sinners, light contending with darkness, and abiding in Christ. The other two deal with some problems that were faced by the community of believers, and give instructions from the elderly apostle in how to handle those problems. In 2 John, we see him warning the Christians to be careful of teachers that want to deceive them -- there were those who said Christ had not come in the flesh, and John said that the believers should not welcome them into their homes. At the same time, he encourages them to be hospitable to fellow Christians.

I think it's interesting many times to look at the surrounding circumstances of a book or letter, to see more of the world the writer and the recipients lived in. In this case, as my grandma used to say, there is more than meets the eye!
There was an ancient belief that we call Gnosticism, and Christians who were influenced by it did not accept that Christ was God in human form. Also, since they believed the physical body was evil, some thought it must be treated harshly. Others thought that since the body was of no consequence (only the spirit was important) they could live as they pleased. So, these few verses are an answer to those challenges from John, and they are also well-loved, as they stress the love of God, and the love of Christians for one another.

"The Elect Lady" is the title of our study this week, and she is first addressed in 2 John. There has been some dispute over the years, of whether this was an actual lady, or a term that John used to refer to the church . . . I suppose it's human nature, but have you ever noted just how many things we humans argue about? And how inconsequential some of them are?
Oy vey.
Anyway, I believe that it was addressed to a lady who was prominent in the church. The Bible was written by plain people, for plain people, and my take on it is that she was a worthy Christian who was known in the vicinity of Ephesus, and that he may have met her on one of his visits to the churches of Asia.
Let's look at our verses:
The elder,To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ,the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.13 The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings. (II John 1-13)
The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; (verse 1, KJV)

Here is an extra bit of study for you: the word that occurs here and is translated "lady" is seen four times in our Bibles. Look these up and compare them: Isaiah 47:5, Isaiah 47:7, II John 1, and II John 5.
Also, the plural, "ladies" is seen twice. Here are the references you can turn to: Judges 5:29, and Esther 1:18.
I like digging in!
It appears that when this word is used, we are talking about a lady with more dignity than some around her. God is not partial, and no respecter of persons, but humans are, and this word means that the humans around these women thought they were of a higher grade -- perhaps another word could be "princess." When we see the villainesses of the Bible, the word used many times for them is the feminine of "lord," and means a woman having land rights, and authority, as a ruler. The bad girls! In the United Kingdom, a lady is the wife of someone who has received a title or honor from the Crown, or a woman of social position -- the feminine equal to a gentleman. The word used here by John is "kuria," and it was rarely used even for queens!

Why didn't he just call her by name? Like Paul did, in some of his letters?
It could be that the dangers of the times, and the fact that the Christians and their families faced persecution and death, made it best that both her name, and the name of the writer be left out.

This is the background for our study this week.
Hope you will join us!

1 comment:

Katie Isabella said...

Here I am! Ready and waiting. Thought I have read this I did not gain what I should have.