Jude wrote to Christians in order to urge them to remain faithful. The Johannine epistles (2 and 3) also were written for the very same purpose, while the first letter of John was written to encourage faithfulness AND to undermine the basis of gnostic teaching. In 2-3 John, then, we have essentially the same purpose, timeframe, and theology as Jude- but in 1 John we have a direct attack on gnostic teaching itself.
The three letters of John were written by a member of the Johannine school (the folks who gave us The Gospel of John, 1-3 John, and Revelation). First John was written around the year 100 AD to Christians in the area of Ephesus. Second John was written at the same time and place for the same audience, as was Third John as well.
The purpose of the Johannine epistles is to remind the faithful to remain faithful and to call them to realize that the gnostics are not correct in what they believe. If they had really been Christians, they would have remained within the faith; but as they were not genuinely faithful, they soon left the Church and adhered to the teachings of the heretics.
We will look at each book in brief outline:
1- Prologue (1:1-4)
2- God is Light- and Gives True Light to His True Children (1:5-3:10)
3- Walk in the Light, and Not in the Darkness (3:11-5:12)
4- Conclusion (5:13-21)
1- Prologue (1-3)
2- Joy (4)
3- Do Not Receive Heretics into Your Home (5-12)
4- Conclusion (13)
1- Prologue (1-2)
2- Joy (3-4)
3- Do Not Believe the Heretics (5-14)
4- Conclusion (15)
As can be clearly seen from these brief outlines, the second and third letter are virtually identical. Each of the three letters has the same structure, and all are concerned with the truth. Thus the purpose of these letters, again, is to urge Christians to remain faithful to the truth.
ASSIGNMENT: Read Revelation, and Brown’s Introduction, chapter 37.
Copyright © Quartz Hill School of Theology. All Rights Reserved.