The Third Letter of John - Introduction
Third John has the form of a private letter from the Elder (see the Introduction to 2 Jn) to a certain Gaius, who is well known for showing hospitality to traveling missionaries (vv. 5–8). Because 3 John does not refer to the dissidents of 1 and 2 John, some interpreters hold that the Elder is not the same person who wrote those letters. However, the similarity of language in the conclusions to 2 John (vv. 12–13) and 3 John (vv. 13–15) makes it more likely that the same person is writing 3 John. Demetrius, whom the Elder recommends in v. 12, may have brought the letter to Gaius. The early Christian mission was dependent upon hospitality (Mt 10.40–42; Acts 16.14–15; Rom 16.1–2 ). However, the Elder is not writing to continue a relationship that is already well established. Verses 9–10 speak of a letter to a church in the region that was rejected. A certain Diotrephes not only refused hospitality to persons associated with the Elder, he even excluded others who did so from the church. Thus, 3 John appears to be seeking an alternate source of support in the region.
Has Diotrephes given the Elder a dose of the medicine prescribed in 2 John 8–11 ? Perhaps, though in that case one might suppose that the Elder would have distinguished his emissaries from dissident teachers. In the language of ancient diplomacy, refusing hospitality to someone's envoy implied rejecting the message he bears and the sender as well (cf. 1 Macc 14.21–23 ). The Gospel of John uses similar language about Jesus as God's emissary (John 13.20 ). Verses 9–10 indicate that the rift between Diotrephes and the Elder is serious, but provide no evidence about its cause.