English: unfoldingWord® Translation Notes

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3 John

3 John front

Introduction to 3 John

Part 1: General Introduction

Outline of the Book of 3 John
  1. Introduction (1:1)
  2. Encouragement and instructions to show hospitality (1:2-8)
  3. Diotrephes and Demetrius (1:9-12)
  4. Conclusion (1:13-14)
Who wrote the Book of 3 John?

The letter does not give the name of the author. The author only identified himself as The elder (1:1). The letter was probably written by the apostle John near the end of his life.

What is the Book of 3 John about?

John wrote this letter to a believer named Gaius. He instructed Gaius to be hospitable to fellow believers who were traveling through his area.

How should the title of this book be translated?

Translators may choose to call this book by its traditional title, “3 John” or “Third John.” Or they may choose a clearer title, such as “The Third Letter from John” or “The Third Letter John Wrote”. (See: How to Translate Names)

Part 2: Important Religious and Cultural Concepts

What is hospitality?

Hospitality was an important concept in the ancient Near East. It was important to be friendly towards foreigners or outsiders and provide help to them if they needed it. In 2 John, John discouraged Christians from showing hospitality to false teachers. In 3 John, John encouraged Christians to show hospitality to faithful teachers.

Part 3: Important Translation Issues

How does the author use family relationships in his letter?

The author used the terms brother and children in a way that can be confusing. The scriptures often used the term brothers to refer to Jews. But in this letter, John used the word to refer to Christians. Also, John called some believers his children. These were believers he taught to obey Christ.

John also used the term Gentile in a way that could be confusing. The scriptures often used the term Gentile to refer to people who are not Jews. But in this letter, John used the word to refer to those who did not believe in Jesus.

3 John 1

3 John 1:1

This is a personal letter from John to Gaius. All instances of you and your refer to Gaius and are singular. (See: Forms of You)

ὁ πρεσβύτερος

This refers to John, the apostle and disciple of Jesus. He refers to himself as the elder either because of his old age or because he is a leader in the church. The name of the author can be made explicit: “I, John the elder, am writing” (See: Assumed Knowledge and Implicit Information)


This is a fellow believer to whom John is writing this letter. (See: How to Translate Names)

ὃν ἐγὼ ἀγαπῶ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ

“whom I truly love”

3 John 1:2

περὶ πάντων εὔχομαί σε εὐοδοῦσθαι καὶ ὑγιαίνειν

“I pray that you may do well in all things and be healthy”

καθὼς εὐοδοῦταί σου ἡ ψυχή

“just as you are doing well spiritually”

3 John 1:3

ἐρχομένων ἀδελφῶν

“when fellow believers came.” These people were probably all male.

σὺ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ περιπατεῖς

Here, walking on a path is a metaphor for how a person lives his life. Alternate translation: “you are living your life according to God’s truth” (See: Metaphor)

3 John 1:4

τὰ ἐμὰ τέκνα

John speaks of those he taught to believe in Jesus as though they were his children. This emphasizes his love and concern for them. It could also be that he himself led them to the Lord. Alternate translation: “my spiritual children” (See: Metaphor)

3 John 1:5

John’s purpose in writing this letter is to commend Gaius for taking care of people who are traveling to serve God; then he talks about two people, one evil and one good.


Here, Beloved is used as a term of endearment for Gaius as a fellow believer. Use a term here for a dear friend in your language.

πιστὸν ποιεῖς

“you are doing what is faithful to God” or “you are being loyal to God”

ὃ, ἐὰν ἐργάσῃ εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τοῦτο ξένους

“when you help fellow believers, especially those whom you do not know”

3 John 1:6

οἳ ἐμαρτύρησάν σου τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἐνώπιον ἐκκλησίας

These words describe the “strangers” (verse 5). “strangers who have told the believers in the church about how you have loved them”

οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις, προπέμψας

John is commending Gaius for his normal practice of helping believers who are traveling. Translate this in a way that shows that this is something that Gaius does continually.

3 John 1:7

ὑπὲρ γὰρ τοῦ ὀνόματος ἐξῆλθον

Here, the name refers to Jesus. This could mean: (1) They left where they were in order to tell others about Jesus. (2) They left where they were because others forced them to leave because of their belief in Jesus. (3) This refers to both of these things. Alternate translation: “since they have gone out to tell people about Jesus” (See: Metonymy)

μηδὲν λαμβάνοντες

This could mean: (1) Unbelievers have not helped them by giving them anything. (2) They did not accept any help or gifts from unbelievers.

τῶν ἐθνικῶν

Here, Gentiles does not just mean people who are not Jewish. It refers to any people who do not trust in Jesus.

3 John 1:8

ἵνα συνεργοὶ γινώμεθα τῇ ἀληθείᾳ

“so that we will cooperate with them in announcing God’s truth to people”

τῇ ἀληθείᾳ

Here, the truth is spoken of here as though it were a person that John, Gaius, and others worked for. This could mean: (1) This refers to “the true message from God” as in the UST. (2) This refers to “God, who is Truth.” (See: Personification)

3 John 1:9

τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ

Here, the church refers to Gaius and the group of believers who met together to worship God.


He was a member of the congregation. (See: How to Translate Names)

ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων αὐτῶν

“who loves to be the most important one among them” or “who loves to act as though he is their leader”


The word us is exclusive; it refers to John and those with him and does not include Gaius. It may also be a polite way for John to refer to himself. See the UST. (See: Exclusive and Inclusive ‘We’)

Διοτρέφης, οὐκ ἐπιδέχεται ἡμᾶς

Saying Diotrephes … does not accept us does not mean that he has physically rejected John and those with John, but it is a shorter way of saying that he does not accept John’s authority or the instructions that John gives. See the UST. (See: Metonymy)

3 John 1:10

λόγοις πονηροῖς φλυαρῶν ἡμᾶς

“that is, that he says evil things about us that certainly are not true”

οὔτε αὐτὸς ἐπιδέχεται τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς

“he does not welcome the fellow believers”

τοὺς βουλομένους κωλύει

There are words left out but they are understood from the previous clause. Alternate translation: “he stops those who want to welcome the believers” See the UST. (See: Ellipsis)

ἐκ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἐκβάλλει

“forces them to leave the group of believers”

3 John 1:11


Here, Beloved is used as a term of endearment for Gaius as a fellow believer. See how you translated this in 3 John 1:5.

μὴ μιμοῦ τὸ κακὸν

“do not copy the evil things that people do”

ἀλλὰ τὸ ἀγαθόν

There are words left out but they are understood from the previous clause. Alternate translation: “but imitate the good things that people do” See the UST. (See: Ellipsis)

ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστιν

“comes from God”

οὐχ ἑώρακεν τὸν Θεόν

“Seeing” here is a metaphor that stands for knowing or understanding. Alternate translation: “has not experienced God” or “has not believed in God” Also see the UST. (See: Metaphor)

3 John 1:12

Δημητρίῳ μεμαρτύρηται ὑπὸ πάντων

You can state this in active form. Alternate translation: “All who know Demetrius bear witness of him” or “Every believer who knows Demetrius speaks well of him” See the UST. (See: Active or Passive)


This is probably a man whom John wants Gaius and the congregation to welcome when he comes to visit. He may be the person delivering this letter. (See: How to Translate Names)

ὑπὸ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας

“the truth itself speaks well of him.” Here, truth is described as though it were a person speaking. Here, truth refers to “the true message from God.” Alternate translation: “everyone who knows the truth knows that he is a good person” Also see the UST. (See: Personification)

ὑπὸ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας

There are words left out of this clause but they are understood from the previous clause. Alternate translation: “he is borne witness to by the truth itself” (See: Ellipsis)

ἡμεῖς δὲ μαρτυροῦμεν

What John is confirming is implied and can be made explicit here. Alternate translation: “we also speak well of Demetrius” Also see the UST. (See: Assumed Knowledge and Implicit Information)


Here, we refers to John and those with him and does not include Gaius. (See: Exclusive and Inclusive ‘We’)

3 John 1:13

This is the end of John’s letter to Gaius. In this section, he mentions coming to see him and closes with a greeting.

οὐ θέλω διὰ μέλανος καὶ καλάμου σοι γράφειν

This is a doublet, because ink and pen stand for the process of writing that was already mentioned. John is not saying that he would write them with something other than ink and pen. He is saying that he does not wish to write these other things at all. Alternate translation: “I do not want to write about them to you” (See: Doublet)

3 John 1:14

στόμα πρὸς στόμα

Here, mouth to mouth is an idiom meaning “in person.” Alternate translation: “in person” (See: Idiom)

3 John 1:15

εἰρήνη σοι

“May God give you peace”

ἀσπάζονταί σε οἱ φίλοι

“The believers here greet you”

ἀσπάζου τοὺς φίλους κατ’ ὄνομα

“Greet each of the believers there for me”