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3 John

The Third Epistle of John is the shortest "book" in the bible by word count, with 299 words, but the preceding book 2 John has fewer verses (thirteen) while 3 John has fourteen verses. The Apostle John wrote this letter to a certain man named Gaius (a layman who was a member of a church in Asia Minor) as credentials for a traveling party headed by one Demetrius. John wanted Gaius to receive this party into his church, and he is confident that Gaius will do so.

He contrasts the famous charity of Gaius with one Diotrephes, the bishop of that same Church, who did not receive John and his party of evangelists one time. Diotrephes used to shoot off his mouth and use malicious words against John, and not content with that, he proceeded to cast John and his party out of this church, which is something he won't soon forget. In the meantime, John needs to do this end-runaround through Gaius so that his men will have somewhere to stay.

There are other Gaiuses named in four other places in the New Testament, but they (or he) were associated with Paul and Greece, not John and Asia. And Gaius was a popular name back then. Caesar's full name, after all, was Gaius Julius Caesar.

There is no doctrine laid out in 3 John, it is strictly a personal letter, but the overall theme is the importance of hospitality, especially when it comes to men who were working to spread the gospel. John was writing from his home base in Ephesus. Gaius, for his part, seems to have been a wealthy man. John did not think it would impose unduly on Gaius to put these traveling preachers up for a spell.

Some scholars believe that the John who wrote the second and third epistles was not the same John who wrote the first epistle and the gospel of John. They make a distinction between John the Evangelist and John the Presbyter who wrote these short letters. But there are certain repeated characteristics of Johannine writings which come out clearly here, such as his catch-phrase, "thou walkest in the truth". Also, John typically wrote with an extremely clear, ultra-simplistic, almost condescending tone, with a teaching style that reminds one of a parent speaking to a child.

"Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God..."

"...and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

John also says he had many other things to write, but he'd rather tell them face-to-face than commit them to paper, which is unfortunate because 2000 years later all we have is the paper.

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