3 John Archeology


This brief letter, which is quite similar to 2 John, has traditionally been understood as the work of the apostle John, and there is no reason to doubt the validity of this tradition. Like 1 and 2 John, it was probably written in the late first century from Ephesus.


John addressed this letter to his friend Gaius. Gaius was a common Roman name, and it is not known whether the Gaius addressed here is to be identified with any other New Testament individual bearing that name (see Ac 19:29; 20:4; Ro 16:23; 1 Co 1:14).


Some of John's aides had been commissioned by him to go out and teach in various churches, and they required lodging from the believers in the places where they ministered. Demetrius (v. 12), evidently one of those itinerant ministers, may have been the bearer of John's letter.

In one church, however, a local leader named Diotrephes had refused to admit John's emissaries. John was writing to Gaius, a believer whose loyalty he trusted, to contend that he expected better treatment of his disciples. If Gaius was part of the same congregation as Diotrephes, he was to speak up and put a halt to Diotrephes' domination of the church. if, however, Gaius belonged to another congregation, he was to see to it that Diotrephes' attitude did not gain a foothold in his own church. There is an implied warning that John might come and confront Diotrephes himself—no doubt a potential source of embarrassment to the church.


Look both for John's commendation of Gaius for his past hospitality and his condemnation of Diotrephes for his mistreatment of fellow believers.


• Modern Orthodox Jews often address God by the title Ha-Shem, meaning "The Name" (v. 7).


Third John includes the following themes:

1. Hospitality. John praised Gaius for his hospitality and condemned Diotrephes for refusing to show hospitality to "the brothers." Diotrephes' behavior may, in fact, have been part of what John had in mind when he referred in 1 John 3:15-17 to hating fellow Christians. Itinerant Christian preachers were dependent upon the hospitality of Christians among whom they ministered. This built up networks between the scattered churches and fostered a sense of solidarity. The local churches saw themselves as belonging to the one church, united around the foundational truth of the gospel.

2. Truth. Demetrius, who is otherwise unknown, was probably the bearer of this letter. He was to be received, stated John, because he manifested the truth (v. 12). We may assume that Demetrius had passed the ethical tests of faith outlined in 1 John. For further information on John's theme of truth, see the themes listed in the introduction to 2 John.


I. Greeting (1-2)

II. Commendation of Gaius (3-8)

III. Exhortation to Gaius (9-12)

A. Diotrephes: a Bad Example (9-11)

B. Demetrius:  a Good Example (12)


Writing Materials in the Ancient World

3 JOHN John's statement that he was writ-mg"with pen and ink" (31n 13) sounds mod-em, but in fact ancient people used writing materials that were far removed from what we think of as pen and paper. Ancient texts were written on the following materials:

  • Stone.This could be ordinary limestone or sandstone, or, for a small inscription, a semi-precious stone such as amethyst,turquoise or opal. The writing tool could be a chisel or metal stylus, but sometimes people wrote on stone with ink. In some instances the stone was covered with a coat of plaster, as in Deuteronomy 27:2 —3. Stone, including marble, was widely used for monumental inscriptions describing the feats of kings, but simple graffiti was also cut into stone.

  • Metal. This material was primarily used for commemorative and decorative objects, such as for inscriptions on a silver bowl.Two silver amulets' inscribed with the text of Numbers 6:24-27 were discovered near Jerusalem, while a copper scroll was located at Qumran.  

  • Wooden Tablets. These could be coated with wax or stucco for the writing surface. Wax was especially useful since one could inscribe it with a pointed stylus and then rub out the writing and reuse the tablet.

  • Clay Tablets. Clay was the medium for cuneiform. While still moist, it would be inscribed with a sharpened stick to create the distinctive, wedge-shaped cuneiform script. If baked, tablets became virtually indestructible, and thus many have survived through the centuries.4

  • Ostraca. An ostracon is a common potsherd (a broken piece of pottery),It could be inscribed with a metal stylus or written on with ink., Ostraca were handy for short notes and letters. In Athens voters used them to write down the name of a citizen they wanted to send into exile or to "ostracize" (hence the name).

  • Leather. Leather pages are often referred to as vellum or parchment. In Israel leather was the medium of choice for writing the books of the Scriptures.The Isaiah scroll from Qumran,for example, is composed of leather, with the writing done in black ink.6 +

  • Papyrus. This was the closest thing to paper from the ancient world. The Egyptian papyrus plant was cut into strips and pressed into sheets that were then glued together. This made for a strong, smooth writing surface, and papyrus naturally became very popular in the ancient world.' The ink on a papyrus could be erased and the papyrus reused; an erased and reused papyrus document is called a palimpsest.

  • Scrolls and Codices. For almost all of Biblical history, papyrus or leather was formed into long strips and rolled up on scrolls. However, around the first century A.D. people began to stitch together one side of a group of papyrus or leather leaves to create the equivalent of the modern book, called a codex. The early Christians adopted the idea of the codex, and thus most early Christian Bibles are in the form of codices rather than scrolls.,

  • Ink. John specifically mentioned "ink." In the ancient world ink was usually black, made from carbon mixed with a natural gum. Red ink, however, was also widely used.

The literacy rate was especially high in the Greco-Roman world, and writing materials, although difficult to work with by modern standards, were widely available. Letter writing was common, and the relative ease of communication facilitated the missionary and pastoral work of the apostles.