2021 – The Others
The Elect Lady -1
Who is She?
In my personal life-goal to preach all the New Testament, exegetically, before I hang up my metaphors, I have checked another off the to-do list. I have preached 2 Timothy. It was pretty good. My favorite Principle we learned was… Preach the Word. Be the Word.
This morning, we move to the next New Testament book on my check-list; 2 John. I did 1 John many years ago, but I have not done 2 & 3 John. So, we move away from the writings of Paul, where we have been for a year and half, to another writer; John.
2 John is another of the no-chapter books. It is divided into 13 verses. 13 verses shouldn’t take us more than a couple of months to study, if we hurry. Just joking… I am estimating only one month. “Seriously?” It will be exciting… guaranteed!
Let me reveal the two major points of 2 John.
1) Be faithful to the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus.
2) Don’t’ welcome teachers who teach otherwise.
The tension in the letter is between truth and love. Believing the truth of Jesus and welcoming the Others. Hospitality was a big thing in the ancient world. Welcoming implies fellowship, support, acceptance, protection. 2 John is going to struggle between Truth and Hospitality. There seems to be a tug-o-war between preaching truth and accepting differing beliefs. Wow.
That sounds amazingly relevant. Holding on to our core-beliefs while welcoming others is a challenge. 2 John will help us to learn to process this tension.
Let’s begin by setting the stage for 2 John… It’s a sad story.
Let’s think about the 4 books known as Johannine literature. You can say it. It makes you feel smart… Johannine literature… Gospel of John and 1, 2, 3 John are the 4 books believed to be written by John, the beloved apostle. Also throw in Revelation as Johannine literature.
Regular John begins with the optimism of the Gospel.
John 20:24-29 Now, Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
When Thomas touched the body of the risen Lord… He announces the bottom line of the Gospel of John… My YHWH and my Elohim. Jesus through the incarnation of being human… through the resurrection from the dead… is proven to be YHWH. Bam. The optimism is that last line… Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed. Christianity began to explode across the first-century Roman world! It has blown and grown across the world for these last 2,000 years. There was amazing power in the message of an incarnated and resurrected God!
That optimism is starting to fade in 1 John.
1 John 2:18-22 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore. we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us… Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
1 John is a warning to his churches… “Stay faithful to the truth! Jesus was incarnated. His resurrection proves his divinity. But the antichrists are creeping around denying this truth. John pleads with his churches not to be seduced by this false teaching.
But the warning wasn’t enough… in 2 John the antichrists are spreading. It is sad…
2 John verses 7-11 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist… If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; or the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
We will come back to the importance of the incarnation, next week. But just note, that the setting is a sad one. John, the elder, the old man - which was respected in his world, unlike ours - the old man is pleading with his churches to not allow this denial of Christ. John, 1 John, 2 John... it was getting worse. It’s sad.
Today is Mother’s Day. Bless all you mothers! In keeping with honoring mothers and staying in this tension between truth and love, we are going to explore the motherof 2 John.
2 John verse 1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth…
2 John is a letter from the old guy to the elect lady. The question of the morning is… who is the “elect lady” and why do we care.
First, let me tell you why it is important for us to determine who the elect lady is. In the coming months, we are going to continue our elder study. We haven’t forgot. It’s on a middle burner. Specifically, we are going to work towards whether women can be elders in our congregation. The identity of the elect lady can help in that upcoming study.
There are 4 basic options to the identity of the “elect lady”.
Option 1. Elect Lady is a metaphor… for a congregation. The old man is addressing one of his churches by calling it the “elect lady.” “The elder to the chosen church.”
Option 2. The words “elect lady” are a respectful way to address a real – not metaphorical - woman. “The elder to the respected Ma’am.”
Option 3. The Elect Lady’s is a real person whose name is Kyria. If we take the Greek word kuri,a kuria as a name instead of a title… it would read… “The elder to the chosen Kyria and her children.”
Option 4. Written to a specific woman and her literal children… not written to a church. Written to a woman and her family. “The old guy to the family of the elect lady.”
All are possible… We are going to do some work to determine which is most likely.
Option 1… “Elect lady” as a metaphor for a congregation. This is unlikely.
--It is the elect lady and her children. The children would be the congregation. John would be saying the metaphorical congregation and the congregation… This wording is not likely.
--No place else in the New Testament is the church spoken of metaphorically as a woman.
--John uses the word “church” (ekklēsia) three times in 3 John. It is unlikely John uses the word “church” plainly in 3 John, but refers to the church metaphorically as a “lady” in 2 John.
--There is no real reason to choose Option 1. IMHO… in my humble option.
Options 2…Elect Lady is a respectful way of addressing a woman of importance.
The Greek word Kuria is the feminine of the masculine Greek word… Kurios. Kurios is used over 700 times in the New Testament variously translated as Lord, Master or Sir. It is what Jesus is referred to many times, especially in regular John.
For example, the woman at the well in John 4.
John 4:11 She said to Him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?
John 4:15 The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw."
John 4:19 The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
Kurios is the respectful way you would address someone important that you did not have a personal relationship with. “Yes, Ma’am.”
2 John could be addressing a respected woman in an honorable way.
I lean away from this… It seems John knows this woman and loves her and loves her children. The letter seems too familiar for John to address her as the female Sir… Ma’am. IMHO…
Option 3… “Kyria” is her name.
--Kyria and her children… would be a natural way to take John’s writing.
--John uses it like a name in verse 5 as the Young’s Literal Translations translates…
YLT 2 John verse 5 and now I beseech thee, Kyria, not as writing to thee a new command, but which we had from the beginning, that we may love one another,
--3 John is written to a person in almost the same wording…
3 John verse 1The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
No one translates this as the beloved rejoicing man. It’s a name. Same format in 2 John.
--All the other New Testament books that are written to individuals have a name… 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 3 John, even Luke/Acts is addressed to Theophilus. It would be natural for John to use her name… Kyria.
--To really push me to accept this as the most likely… There is a list of names in the catacombs under Rome. Romans mostly did cremation. But the Jewish in Rome used caves; catacombs. This dates back to Abraham burying Sarah in the cave in Hebron. On that list of names in the catacombs of Rome is the name Cyria. It is a real name which existed in John’s time.
Option 3 seems, to me, the most natural way to take this verse. IMHO…
Option 4…Written to a woman and her family not a church.
This is possible, but I think unlikely…
--The instructions in 2 John are very similar to 1 John and 3 John… themes of … “walk in love” “many deceivers” “not abiding in truth” are all common teachings in all the other Johns written to congregations.
--There are no specific instructions to Kyria, like bring my cloak or take a little wine or welcome back your slave. 2 John is written to a house-church. The first 300 years of Christianity the predominate form of churches were house-churches. People would gather in the home of a wealthy member of the church and do worship in their home. Most likely, the hosts of the house-church would be the leader of that congregation. Kyria is the leader of her house-church.
This is supported by the YLT of verse 10
YLT 2 John verse 10 if any one doth come unto you, and this teaching doth not bear, receive him not into the house, and say not to him, 'Hail!'
--Option 4 is a little hard to be clear because house churches were the church. It is not really a good choice to say this was just a woman and her kids at home. IMHO…
My Conclusion… IMHO… 2 John is written to a woman whose name was Cyria who was the chosen leader of a house-church which met in her home. It is translated this way in YLT…
YLT 2 John verse 1 The Elder to the choice Kyria, and to her children,
I believe this is most-logical understanding of who this woman was. If this is right… we have an example of a woman in a leadership position in her church. The word elder is not used of her, but instructions given to her by John would be the kind of instructions you would give to an overseer of a church.
Let’s now get to the main reason I went through all these tedious arguments. I want to illustrate the different way we process a core-doctrine and a not-core-doctrine. Next, week we will process a core-doctrine… the Incarnation. Today’s lesson is a not-core-doctrine.
1) Set aside our preconceived conclusions… be honest. This is amazingly hard. I have read the “elect lady” many times as a student of the Bible, all my life. I never noticed it until recently. It is hard to see what you don’t see. This is hard for translators of the New Testament as well. We need to set aside our conclusions before we reach them.
2) We are humble in love. We must admit the possibility that we are wrong. If you can’t admit you might be mistaken, there is no need to study. “The Bible always means what it has always meant.” We must be… IMHO.
3) We do the work. We dig into scriptures. We work the possibilities. We do the homework on a passage before announcing conclusions. We use the amazing tools that are easily used. Just like we did this morning, we do the work!
4) Making a mistake in the not-core-doctrines is not a show-stopper. We live in the grace of God. We do the best we can. We rely on the love of God to forgive. It has to be this way. If we have to be 100% right on even the most not-core doctrines to be pleasing to God… we have little hope. Not-core-doctrines matter…but are not end of the world if we get them wrong.
Next week, we will see how to process, how to know, how to have certainty, in core-doctrines. Next week’s sermon will have a different atmosphere. No IMHOs.
Close with these verses… looking forward to next week…
TIM 2 John verses 5-6 Now I ask you, Cyria, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His core-commandments. This is the core-commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, (Christ became human) that you should walk in it.
May 9, 2021
Los Alamos Church of Christ
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