Hey, we made it! We are at the end of the Epistles. The last three books of the New Testament before the beast that is Revelations! This has been a long, tough road to haul. I truly wasn’t sure if I’d get through the letters or not. Paul’s batch of letters really did sap a lot of my enthusiasm out. I wondered a few times whether I shouldn’t just give up on this project. As I feared, the epistles don’t lend themselves to this kind of project. There’s no narrative form to them, and this whole premise works best when there’s a narrative to follow.
Second Epistle of John
I am sure that John has something to say in this letter, but I am distracted trying to figure out who the letter is to. John starts the letter addressing it to “the chosen [elect] lady” and finishes with “the children of your chosen [elect] sister…” Is the woman a church elder? What’s her relationship with John? For part of the chapter, I thought that she might be John’s wife. He asks that the lady and he continue to love each other. He states that he wants to meet with her face-to-face so their joy may be complete. Am I the only person reading this that interpreted this as a romantic relationship between John and this unnamed woman?
Of course, the closing line puts a bit of a damper on that. The children of your elect sister? Is she his aunt? Great aunt? Somehow related by blood?
I am so confused!!!
Third Epistle of John
Apparently, John prefers to meet with everyone face-to-face instead of via letter. I can understand that. There could be weeks between delivery of a letter and receipt of the response. John does give a pretty good account of what is happening. The letter is to one of John’s friends, Gaius. Gaius has the chance to emulate one of two other men. One is Diotrephes, who is covertly working against the apostles by refusing to provide room and board for them, and encouraging others in the church to also not lend aid. The other is Demetrius, who is a good man and presumably would help anyone that came along.
Wait… why is this book in the Bible? This book reminds me of Philemon. Both short, both pointless. Why were these two letters chosen for addition in the New Testament?
That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. Can someone tell me why these letters were included?
Epistle of Jude
Wow, Jude is pretty pissed here. And apparently rightly so. In 1 John, John wrote a list of criteria for churches to use to determine if a person was of god or not. The criteria was “1) does the person say they believe in Jesus, and 2) does the person profess to follow our faith?” Given that anyone could say “yeah sure” without really meaning it, it’s not a surprise that people would infiltrate the church for their own personal gains. Jude has found out about this, and writes a scathing letter to churches in the area.
In the letter, Jude calls the infiltrators ungodly, irrational animals, defilers, stains in the love feasts, fruitless trees. These people care only for themselves, commit “sexual sins” (Paul would be so proud!), they are boastful, and they take advantage of others who try to be nice to them. Jude commands that these people be removed from the church. However, the members of the church shouldn’t just turn their backs on outsiders. Instead they should help them, but be wary.
What an odd trio of stories. We started out with the mystery of the chosen woman, moved on to the boredom of the saints, and finish up with a pure, unadulterated rant. These letters couldn’t be more different. They are a jumble, all read together in a group. But they aren’t any clearer when read individually. They are too short to convey any real meaning. They are a peek into the early church, showing that many things were not all peaches and cream. Otherwise, I can’t think of a reason to want to read these letters.
Up next: The end is here!
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.