Reading 3 John Within a Jewish Framework: An Overdue Reconsideration of the Text
This article challenges the interpretive decision made by many scholars to group 3 John with the rest of the Johannine Epistles (and sometimes John’s Gospel). This interpretative method fails to treat 3 John, as well as the rest of the Epistles, on their own terms. It also often places these texts within a hypothetical ‘Johannine Community’ and its various phases of development. However, if 3 John is read on its own, the text itself points us to interpret it within a Jewish framework. The seemingly lack of interest in Jews and Judaism, rather than being a sign of a later date when this group was no longer rooted in any Jewish community and no longer cared about such issues, is a sign that the epistle dates from a period before this community of Christ-believers began to markedly differentiate themselves from other Jews. These points, as well as the author’s use of τὸν ἐθνικός when describing the missionary work by some of those within the community, may also suggest that the conflict between the Elder and Diotrephes was related to disagreements over the nature of missionary work within the early Jesus movement.