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opinion Benson adopted, founding it on this circumstance, that Diotrephes did not receive John; that is, did not acknowledge his authority as an apostle. For he thinks, none but the Judaizing teachers denied the authority of the apostles.
The brethren, who were hospitably entertained by Caius, were some believers who had gone from Ephesus to the church where Caius abode. For they are said to have praised his liberality, in the presence of the church over which John presided. Probably they belonged to that church as members. Further, since the apostle desired Caius to help these brethren and strangers for. ward on their journey, it implieth that they had gone forth, or were going forth, on a second journey among the Gentiles, in which they proposed to visit Caius again.-Estius conjectures, that John sent this letter to Caius by them.
The account given ver. 7. of the purpose for which the brethren and strangers went forth to the Gentiles, inclines me to think they were preachers: For his name's sake they went forth. Bede however informs us, that anciently two interpretations were given of these words. The first was, For his name’e sake they went forth to preach the gospel. The second, For the faith and profession of the holy name of Christ, they were expeled from their native country. Heuman adopts the latter interpretation, and often calls these strangers, exiles; and saith they were Gentiles. But, as the brethren are distinguished from the strangers, and as it is said that they bare witness to Caius's love before the church, it is reasonable to think these brethren were members of the church over which St. John presided.—And with respect to the strangers, without determining in this place, whether they were exiles from their own country or not, I suppose, that having come to the place where the brethren, of whom the apostle speaks, dwelled, they joined them in their journey, which I think was undertaken for the sake of preaching Christ to the Gentiles. If I am right in this conjecture, the strangers as well as the brethren, were preachers, as above observed. For, if they were only persons in want, it was no commendation of them that they went forth taking nothing of the Gentiles: because standing in need of alms, it was their duty, not only to receive, but even to ask alms for the support of their life, from the unbelieving Gentiles; especially as, in many places, there may have been no Christians, to whom they could apply for relief. Whereas if they were preachers, they were greatly to be praised, when, in imitation of the apostle Paul, they supported them
selves by their own labour, and took nothing from their Gentile converts on the score of maintenance, lest it might have marred the success of their preaching. In short, if these brethren and strangers had not been preachers, the apostle could not with propriety have said, ver 8. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may be joint labourers in the truth. For the terms labourers, and joint-labourers, are always, in the apostolical writings, applied to preachers of the gospel, or to those who in some way or other assisted the preachers of the gospel. These things Lardner did not attend to, when he said, "I see nothing "that should lead us to think preachers are spoken of, but only 26 persons in want."
Commentators are no less divided concerning the character and office of Diotrephes.-Erasmus in his paraphrase saith, Diotrephes was the author of a new sect. This likewise was Bede's opinion. But, as other learned men have well argued, if Diotrephes had been a corrupter of the Christian doctrine, the apostle, without doubt, would have cautioned Caius, and all the members of his church, to have avoided him, as he desired the elect lady to avoid the false teachers, of whom he wrote in his letter to her. But this, as Lamy observeth, he did not do. He only reproved the pride of Diotrephes, his contempt of the apostle's authority, but especially his ordering the members of his church, not to shew kindness to the brethren and the strangers who applied to them for relief.
It is the opinion of many, that Diotrephes was a bishop in the church where he resided, and of which Caius was a member. In support of their opinion they observe, First, that he is said to have hindered those, from receiving the brethren and the strangers, who were willing to shew them kindness; and to have cast them out of the church, who, contrary to his orders, continued to entertain them.-Next, they take notice that the apostle said to Caius, ver. 9. I would have written to the church; but Diotrephes, who loveth to rule them, doth not receive us. The apostles wrote most of their letters to the churches, that is, to the whole body of Christians living in a particular place, and sent them to the bishops and elders of these churches, to be by them read in the public assemblies, for the instruction of their people. But, as Diotrephes did not acknowledge John's authority, he had reason to fear that, if he had written to the church, and had sent his letter to Diotrephes to be read by him publicly to the brethren, he would have suppressed it by virtue of his epis
copal authority. Or, if it had been read to the church without his consent, he would have rendered it ineffectual by means of his adherents.
Heuman thought that Diotrephes was a deacon; and that having the charge of the church's stock, he had it in his power to refuse relief to the brethren and the strangers who applied to him; and that by so doing he cast them out of the church, that is, obliged them to depart. But Lardner, who supposeth Diotrephes to have been a bishop, argueth, that as he loved to rule every thing in his church according to his own pleasure, his office as bishop, enabled him to restrain the deacons from employing any part of the church's stock, in relieving the brethren and the strangers.
Demetrius, who is so highly praised by the apostle in this letter, is thought to have held some sacred office in the church of which Caius was a member. But Benson rejects this opinion, because, on that supposition, Caius must have known him so well, as to need no information concerning his character from the apostle. Benson therefore believed him to be the bearer of this letter, and one of the brethren who went out to preach to the Gentiles. -But whoever Demetrius was, his character and behaviour were the reverse of the character and behaviour of Diotrephes. For the apostle speaks of him as one who was esteemed of all men, and whose behaviour in every respect was conformable to the gospel; in short, one to whom the apostle himself bare the most honourable testimony. This high character of Demetrius, John wrote to Caius, that he and all the members of the church, might imitate him rather than Diotrephes, whose arrogance, uncharitableness, and contempt of the apostle's authority, were so great, that he threatened to punish him for these enormities when he visited Caius; which he promised to do soon, that he might have an opportunity of speaking with Caius face to face concerning that imperious man.
Of the Date of the Second and Third Epistles of John.
Of the time of writing the second and third epistles of John, nothing, as Lardner observes, can be said with certainty. But he tells us, "Mill places them about the same time with the “first; that is, in the year 91 or 92. Whiston supposeth that they were all three written about the year 82 or 83. I im
"agine, that St. John was somewhat advanced in age, and that "he had resided a good while in Asia, before he wrote any of "these epistles; consequently I am disposed to think that these "two were not writ sooner than the first. And, as it was be"fore argued that the first epistle was written about the year "80, these two may be reckoned to have been writ between the "C years 80 and 90." Thus far Lardner, Can. vol. iii. p. 313.
In the preface to the first epistle, I have attempted to shew from the epistle itself, that it was written about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. But there is nothing in the second and third epistles leading us to think they were written so early. We may therefore fix their date as late as Lardner hath done; or even later, when John was so old as with much propriety to take the title of the elder, or aged apostle, by way of eminence,