Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Giuseppe
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Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by Giuseppe » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:18 am


The author is in all probability the individual whom Papias calls John the Elder, or simply the Elder, and whom he expressly distinguishes from the Apostle John.4 These brief letters were attributed, though not always, to John the Apostle. 5

(Paul-Louis Couchoud, The Creation of Christ, p. 226)

The note 4 reads:

In Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 39. After “Aristion and John the Elder” the words “disciples of the Lord” (which do not appear in the Syriac version) are probably a copyist's error for “disciples of the latter”—i.e., of those disciples of the Lord who had previously been named; for τούτων read τούτου under the influence of the preceding line.

The note 5 reads:
The decretal of Pope Damasus (382) gives in the list of books of the New Testament: Johannis Apostoli epistula una, alterius Johannis presbyteri epistulae duo.


In the Epistles of 1 & 2 John I don't see no reference to Gospel episodes.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by Giuseppe » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:50 am

And still:

We know from Papias what the Elder thought of Mark's Gospel, that he said it was true in detail but defective in arrangement, and he imagined that Peter's interpreter had put down in haphazard fashion what Peter had told him at odd moments. This opinion led to his changing Mark's order. He places at the beginning of Christ's ministry the expulsion of the merchants from the Temple, which Mark places at the end. He passes Mark's matter through the sieve of his own opinion, refashions it, and arranges it in a different pattern.

(ibid., p. 230)


Now I can realize why Papias was so poor of intelligence, according to Eusebius. Was not a stupid the author of John, to prefer it to Mark? :lol:
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by andrewcriddle » Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:50 pm

Giuseppe wrote:
Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:18 am

The note 5 reads:
The decretal of Pope Damasus (382) gives in the list of books of the New Testament: Johannis Apostoli epistula una, alterius Johannis presbyteri epistulae duo.

This is from the Decretum Gelasianum the NT canon here may come from Damasus in 382 but may be later.

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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by Giuseppe » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:49 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:50 pm
This is from the Decretum Gelasianum the NT canon here may come from Damasus in 382 but may be later.
But even beyond that evidence, effectively the Gospel of John puts in a different order the things described in GMark. So, if the latter is considered a not-ordered story, the vice versa has to be true for GJohn, at least in the eyes o Papias. So was the latter the Gospel preferred by Papias against Mark?
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by DCHindley » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:37 pm

Giuseppe,

I think Andrew was trying to get you to read more closely what is in that Decretal:

Likewise the canonical [catholic] letters in number seven
...
of the apostle John one letter
of the other John the elder two letters

I believe that he accepts the Gospel of John but does not necessarily believe that it was written by the apostle John, but by the disciple John who leaned on Jesus' breast at the last supper, "who Jesus loved." This at least was the position of Eusebius, I believe, although this Decretal considers the books of Eusebius' HE as "apocrypha."

DCH

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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:49 pm

DCHindley wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:37 pm
I believe that he accepts the Gospel of John but does not necessarily believe that it was written by the apostle John, but by the disciple John who leaned on Jesus' breast at the last supper, "who Jesus loved." This at least was the position of Eusebius, I believe....
No, Eusebius is very clear about the apostle John being the same person as both the evangelist John and also the "one whom Jesus loved" (History of the Church 3.23.1). He hedges his bets only when it comes to Revelation, which he thinks may have been penned by Papias' "other" John (History of the Church 3.39.6).
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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by DCHindley » Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:56 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:49 pm
DCHindley wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:37 pm
I believe that he accepts the Gospel of John but does not necessarily believe that it was written by the apostle John, but by the disciple John who leaned on Jesus' breast at the last supper, "who Jesus loved." This at least was the position of Eusebius, I believe....
No, Eusebius is very clear about the apostle John being the same person as both the evangelist John and also the "one whom Jesus loved" (History of the Church 3.23.1). He hedges his bets only when it comes to Revelation, which he thinks may have been penned by Papias' "other" John (History of the Church 3.39.6).
Thanks Ben,

I may be misremembering who was asserting this opinion. The 4th century church fathers were all over the place when it came to this sort of thing, just trying to make sense of traditions that may have been a wee tad contradictory.

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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Dec 07, 2018 5:28 am

DCHindley wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:56 am
I may be misremembering who was asserting this opinion. The 4th century church fathers were all over the place when it came to this sort of thing, just trying to make sense of traditions that may have been a wee tad contradictory.
The only thing that I can think of concerning a judgment that the gospel derived from an "elder John" who was also a disciple, but not the apostle (the son of Zebedee), is that this is Martin Hengel's and Richard Bauckham's (very modern) reconstruction. Bauckham argues that both Polycrates of Ephesus and the Muratorian Canon espoused this view, but his argument is exactly that: an argument, not a fact. He also thinks that Irenaeus may have espoused this view; I argue against this idea here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3206.
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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by Stuart » Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:33 pm

These letters were not known until well into the 3rd century. They are not written by the same person either. One copies the other.

2 John is an assertion of growing authority of the orthodox camp, targeting unnamed, but clearly Gnostic type opponents. The crux of the letter is verse 7, where the theology he is defending is laid out.
"For many deceivers (πλάνοι) have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming (ἐρχόμενον) of Jesus Christ in the flesh (ἐν σαρκί); such a one is the deceiver (πλάνος) and the antichrist (ἀντίχριστος). "

I chose 4 words here to illustrate exactly what he is talking about.

The word "deceivers" πλάνος has additional connotations of a wanderer (i.e., an itinerant preacher) and imposter --I will come back to this--, which match the targeted opponents he is speaking of. This tells us we are in an era where the church is already settled enough that it is in fixed locations, such as the one unearthed in Dura-Europos. Implied here, and also in the author's self designation as elder (πρεσβύτερος), implies he is the opposite of the itinerant preacher. Also elders (Titus 1:5, 1 Timothy 5:7) were one of the positions least respected by the Gnostics, and a position curiously missing from the Marcionite texts.

The word "coming" is here ἐρχόμενον not παρουσία as we would expect for the (second) coming of Jesus Christ. But clearly that is what is meant, as the word has additional metaphorical meanings to arise, come forth, show oneself. This is a bit of a later theology as the inference is to arise again rather than descend.

A key development is that this coming is ἐν σαρκί "in the flesh", rather than unspecified as in earlier texts. We are not just talking about Jesus being in the flesh during his ministry, but reconstitution of the flesh at resurrection, a position we see in church fathers such as Irenaeus and Justin against the earlier positions that the resurrection was of the soul only, a position held by Gnostics. (Note, this body and soul revival is very much a traditional Greek opinion and not in any way a Jewish one.) The Gnostic view, and modern Christian view (with only a minority holding bodily resurrection) is that of the soul being imperishable, can be found in Paul, especially 1 Corinthians 15, of the imperishable spirit body as opposed to the earthly flesh body. John 20:17 is ambiguous, suggesting even a non-physical body, while the Thomas addition in John 20:27 implies such a physical body, as does Luke 24:39-43. Even the Council of Constantinople (381 CE) ducked the issue, opting to blandly say "we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come." The issue probably wasn't settled at that point. Hence the argument is polemic.

The use of antichrist (ἀντίχριστος) is specifically associated with those itinerant preachers (πλάνος), the very opponents the letter addresses, saying they are the antichrist, because they deny Jesus' coming is in the flesh. This is flipping the Gnostic notion of the antichrist being the Christ of the creator God, who is yet to come (this is how they read the son of perdition, or John's asking if Jesus is the one or they should wait for some other, the some other being the Creator's Christ = the antichrist for the Marcionites and Gnostics). 2 John 7 it is a further development on the concept we see in 1 John 2:22, where the antichrist is said to be someone who denies the father and the son, meaning denies Jesus is the son of the creator (why the Church fathers are always ranting about Gnostics who blaspheme the creator, saying he is not the father of Christ). 1 John does not mention the arisen Christ is in the flesh.

My take away here is the writer is of the opinion these preachers are against Christ because they are teaching a myth, a Christ who doesn't exist, a Christ without flesh, at least in resurrection, or rather in the second coming.

I agree very much with the commonly held position that the letter is addressed to church ("the lady") and the congregation ("her children").

The position (2 John 10-11) that even greeting (χαίρω) or hosting (λαμβάνετε αὐτὸν εἰς οἰκίαν) these itinerant preachers (αὐτῷ = πλάνος here) is guilty by association (κοινωνεῖ τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ τοῖς πονηροῖς), can be seen as an extremely hard line. The effort here is to completely deny these opponents any opportunity to preach to those of the orthodox controlled churches. The writer instead wants them to "walk" (verse 6, περιπατέω, that is stay on the path or "the way" = ὁδός) by the teaching (διδαχῇ) of the Christ --that is the orthodox view the writer espouses) which the church (the lady) heard from the beginning (ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς).

This letter is all about holding church doctrine and keeping Gnostic out. The elder here is not a specific person but an office, the appointed overseer of the church in a given town. Essentially this letter is a directive that the elders to see to it Gnostics are kept out. The coding in this letter is pretty straight forward and obvious. It seems only later the legend of John was attached to the letter.

******************

3 John is clearly after 2 John. Verse 6 and 9 are a dead give away, as he says he has written to the "church" (ἐκκλησίᾳ) rather than the coded "lady". He in fact seems to refute 2 John outright. We here about some Diotrephes, who puts himself as the first, is not speaking for the church but for himself. In verse 10 he says this guy is doing everything suggested in 2 John 10-11
... he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

The author of 3 John in verses 5-8 strongly defends the traveling preachers
Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers,
who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God's service.
For they have set out for his sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen.
So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth.

I would go so far as to say the author of 3 John is suggesting in verse 10 that the author of 2 John is Diotrephes (whom 3 John's author says ignores his authority over him - so we have conflicting claims to leadership, such as is hinted at in the Nicene Creed with Alexandria, Antioch and Rome), and that he is unjustly speaking evil of specifically of the doctrines (λόγοις πονηροῖς φλυαρῶν ἡμᾶς) held by the author of 3 John (Note πονηροῖς is the exact same word used in 2 John 11). Almost certainly the author of 3 John is not Gnostic, rather from the orthodox camp, but holds a spiritual resurrection. He supports itinerant preachers (do we have a monastic movement already in view here?) against closed door of the establish church hierarchy -- this is an issue that surfaces again and again for the entire life of the church.

There is no way these two authors are the same. 3 John appears to be in direct response to 2 John. The ambiguity of the Nicene Creed on this issue shows both views were held by orthodoxy. The writers of 2 John and 3 John are rival leaders, merely calling themselves elders rather than the more likely office of bishop they hold (this is not uncommon, even Cardinals refer to each other as simply "brothers")
Last edited by Stuart on Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Who was John the Elder? The same author of the Epistles of 1 & 2 John

Post by John2 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:56 pm

I'm still trying to get my mind around who John the elder was (and what a great OP by Ben in his above link, BTW) and I just noticed something in 2 John that reminds me of what Papias says in EH 3.39.4.

2 John 1:12:
I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.


EH 3.39.4:
4. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders — what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.
I figure this might be noted by others, but I'm only now seeing it.
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