The Elder and the Lady: A look at the language of 2 John

Margaret Mowczko writes: There are several women mentioned in the New Testament who in the past have had their ministries downplayed. Even today, some question whether Phoebe was deacon or minister of her church (Rom. 16:1–2), or whether Junia was really an apostle. Junia and a woman named Nympha have even had their gender obscured and are given masculine names in some older English translations of Romans 16:7 and Colossians 4:15, respectively.

But there is another New Testament woman whose ministry and identity have been diminished to such an extent that some do not even recognize that she was a real person. She is the woman who was a recipient of the letter we know as 2 John. In this article, I take a look at the text of 2 John. I especially look at the words the letter-writer uses to identify the people he mentions.


Following standard letter-writing protocol, 2 John opens with the sender identifying himself and the letter’s recipients. The sender refers to himself simply as “the elder;” he doesn’t give his name. He then mentions the recipients, also without naming names. The first recipient mentioned in 2 John is the “chosen lady.”

Many have assumed that “chosen lady” is used as a metonym, or metaphor, for a congregation, and does not refer to an actual person. This is despite the fact that no congregation is referred to as a “lady” (Greek: kyria) in the New Testament or in later writings.[1] And we don’t refer to congregations today as “ladies.” On the other hand, many women are addressed, or referred to, as kyria in ancient papyrus letters that still survive today.[2] Addressing a woman as kyria in a first-century letter is the equivalent of “Dear Madam” in more recent times.

Kyria is a term of respect and was also used for a high-status woman. The masculine form of the same word, kurios, is often translated into English as “lord,” “master,” or “sir” indicating the status associated with this term.[3]

While kyria occurs only twice in the New Testament, both times in 2 John, the word occurs in other Jewish and early Christian literature. For example, it is used in direct address by Isaac to his mother Sarah in the Testament of Abraham (circa AD 100), and by Perpetua’s brother and father to their sister and daughter, respectively, in the account of Perpetua’s martyrdom (AD 202 or 203). It is used by Hermas (a freed slave) when addressing his female former owner, Rhoda, in the Shepherd of Hermas (circa AD 100). Furthermore, Hermas frequently calls a woman who appears to him in visions as kyria. In the Acts of Paul and Thecla(circa AD 150), Thecla is referred to as kyria, or “mistress,” in relation to her maidservants. Kyria also occurs several times in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament in use during the early church period (Gen. 16:4, 8, 9; 1 Kings 17:17; 2 Kings 5:3; Psalm 123:2; Prov. 30:23; Isa. 24:2).

It is a common word in pagan writings, too. In a manual of Stoic ethical advice called The Enchiridion (AD 135), the Greek philosopher Epictetus writes that the title kyria was used by men trying to flatter young women. Clearly, kyria is not a rare or obscure word.

Sarah, Perpetua, Rhoda, Thecla, and the “ladies” mentioned in the Septuagint, were high-status women; some were in charge of their own households. The lady greeted in 2 John is also, most likely, a high-status woman and a householder.


The lady in 2 John is described as “chosen.” In a few New Testament letters, the adjective “chosen” (sometimes translated as “elect”) is used to describe someone mentioned in opening or closing greetings and addresses. Specifically, three individuals are described as “chosen” in New Testament letters: the lady in 2 John 1:1,[4] the sister mentioned in the closing greeting in 2 John 1:13,[5] and Rufus, who is mentioned in the closing greetings in Romans 16:13. “Chosen” is also used to describe the recipients of 1 Peter. Furthermore, “chosen” is used a few times, more generally, to describe those “chosen by God,” a phrase that refers to Christian believers (e.g., Tit. 1:1; Col. 3:12). The lady in 2 John and her sister are Christian believers.


The chosen lady is not the only recipient of the elder’s letter. The lady’s “children” are also recipients. Some have taken the word “children” literally and assume the lady was the natural mother of these “children” (2 John 1:1, 4 and 13). But this is not how the author of John’s letters uses the word.

In each of John’s three letters, “children” usually refers to Christians: to spiritual children or disciples.[6] A comparison of 2 John 1:4 with 3 John 1:4 illustrates this. In 3 John 1:4 it says, “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth” (CEB). Compare this with 2 John 1:4: “I was overjoyed to find some of your children living in the truth …” (CEB, italics added).


The fact that the lady and her children are distinctly addressed makes the idea that the lady is a church untenable: if the “chosen lady” is a metonym for a church, who then are her “children”?

Some have suggested that the “lady” represents a church and the “children” represents the congregation, but this idea does not correspond with how churches functioned in the first century. A congregation was a church, and a church was a congregation. (“Church” and “congregation” are both translations of the same Greek word, ekklēsia.)

In New Testament times, many congregations were small, comprising one or a few dozen people, and they mostly met in homes. In some cities and regions, there might be a network of house churches, with each network being overseen by elders or overseers. The chosen lady was, most likely, the host and leader of a congregation that met in her home.[7] It was to this lady and to her congregation that the elder writes.

Women were active in New Testament churches. They were involved in a variety of ministries. Some were prophets, deacons, or missionaries. Others, like the Chosen Lady, were hosts, patrons, and leaders who cared for local congregations. The participation of women in congregations and in missions, at all levels, was vital, valued, and acknowledged in New Testament letters. Today it is important to recognize that these women were not an anomaly. Women ministers were a feature of New Testament Christianity.


[1] A related but distinct word, to kuriakon, meaning “the Lord’s household” (i.e. a Christian congregation), is known from the third century, but not before. See E. A. Mathieson, The Perspectives of the Greek Papyri of Egypt on the Religious Beliefs, Practices and Experiences of Christian and Jewish Women from 100 CE to 400 CE. Doctoral thesis (2006) Macquarie University, at, p. 194.

[2] See my article Kyria in Papyrus Letters and the Elect Lady where I cite several ancient letters addressed tokyriai.

[3] Accordingly, kyria is translated as “gentlewoman” (the counterpart of “gentleman”) in 2 John 1:1 of the CEB.

[4] Kyria occurs in 2 John 1:1 and 5, but the CEB and NLT have not translated the second occurrence literally.

[5] Phoebe of Cenchrea and Apphia of Colossae are each called “sister.”

[6] The plural of teknon (“child”) occurs in 1 John 3:1, 2, 10a, 5:2; 2 John 1:1, 4, 13; 3 John 1:4 (cf. 1 John 3:10b).

[7] It is believed that the chosen lady lived in a city in Asia Minor. Adolf von Harnack, for example, writes that the chosen lady held “a prominent position in some unknown church in Asia.” Harnack, The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, vol. 2, trans. James Moffatt (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1998), 224.

A version of this article was first published in Mutuality 23.4 (Winter 2016) (a publication of Christians for Biblical Equality–International)

Postscript 1

Today I read an article on The Gospel Coalition website, here, which is an excerpt from a book written by Kevin DeYoung. In his book, DeYoung states that the elect lady “is the church.” To support this idea he asserts, “most decisively, John uses the second-person plural throughout 2 John, indicating that he has not an individual in mind but a body of believers (vv. 6, 8, 10, 12).” However, this assertion is misleading.

There are 5 singular second-person pronouns when the lady is addressed directly in 2 John. And there is one singular third-person pronoun equivalent to “her.” Plural language is used when the lady along with her “children” are addressed or spoken about. (Somewhat similarly, Paul uses singular language when addressing Philemon but plural language in Phlm. 1:25 when addressing the church.)

Here is a screenshot of 2 John with the singular pronouns that refer to the lady highlighted. (In a footnote here I highlight the singular and plural language in an English translation of 2 John.)

elect lady Margaret Mowczko

Screenshot of 2 John in the SBL Greek New Testament
Taken from Bible Gateway 

Postscript 2: The Chosen Lady in the 1611 King James Bible

Someone pointed out to me today that a note in the first edition of the KJV (1611) says that the lady was an actual woman, “a certaine honourable matrone” to be precise. I checked this for myself and you can check it too, here.

(This piece was first published by Margaret in 2017 here, and updated subsequently.)

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79 thoughts on “The Elder and the Lady: A look at the language of 2 John”

  1. I have a question which is entirely incidental to the subject of this article but which has been puzzling me for a long time.

    In the 4th and 5th paragraph above the author discusses the Greek words κυρία and κύριος, transliterating them as “kyria” and “kurios”, respectively.

    In German, as well as in liturgical use in many languages including English, κύριος is transliterated as “kyrios” (i.e. “kyrie eleison”), yet in English I find it frequently transliterated as “kurios”.

    But that in one article, one sentence almost, the one is transcribed with ‘y’ and the other with ‘u’, is really a curious thing.

    Can someone shed light on this puzzle?

    • I am no expert, so this might be entirely wrong 🙂

      The pronuciation of Greek has shifted. Whereas (possibly) in the Classical period, the letter upsilon was used to represent a sound like our letter ‘u’ in English. But pronunciation changed, and the sound shifted to be more like ‘i’. This is then transliterated into ‘y’.

      I had an online NT Greek reading class where one of my fellow students is a Greek Orthodox monk. He reads the NT Greek basically using his native, modern Greek, phonetics, which can be significantly different from the ‘Erasmus’ pronunciation commonly used. The tutor was more of a Classical Greek (and Latin) guy. He suggested that by the time of the NT, the koine Greek pronunciation was already shifting from the Classical time, and might have been more like Modern (or, at least, Byzantine) Greek.

      The monk also said that NT Greek was not that easy to understand, the language has changed over two millenia. However, it is notable that in Greek we have a Scriptural language which has remained in continuous common usage over such a long period. Modern Hebrew was devised in the 19th Century, based on Biblical Hebrew. The latter was not a common spoken language by Jesus’ time. Mishnaic Hebrew is rather different. In other contexts, the common language adopted for liturgy etc, has become fossilised. Glagolitic is an example among the Slavs.

      But in Greece, you look above a door and see the light indicating the emergency exit, and it has the word: ΕΞΟΔΟΣ.

    • Thanks David, but I think you are mistaken here. The transliteration with Y is original, and comes from the capital form of upsilon in Greek itself.

      You are right about modern pronunciation; as far as I can tell, in modern Greek all of epsilon, eta, iota, and upsilon are pronounced i.

      However, upsilon following another vowel is pronounced as the consonant f! So thank you is ‘efkaristo’ not ‘eukaristo’.

      Useful though incomplete article here:

      And Wolf, in answer to your question: just inconsistency I am afraid!

      • As someone who has just studied Greek for the first time, I was annoyed to find almost no consistency of pronunciation for several of the letters. Even my tutors varied. 😉

  2. This is truly a fascinating read, not least as it give insight as to how the early church functioned and how it was led.

    Seems such a far cry from the religiosity we have to contend with today.

  3. Regarding Junia, is there not still a legitimate question over the correct understanding of the reference, that the text does not clearly say she was an apostle?

    I still find it hard to reconcile female leaders in the church and Paul’s keeping women quiet and prohibition on teaching. Perhaps the good lady could post a study on that?


    • PC –

      The use of the Greek word “andres” (= men) at Acts 20:17, may well suggest that all of the “elders”/bishops/spiritual leaders of Ephesus (Acts 20:17) were men – unless of Paul considered female Ephesian bishops/elders incapable of theological error !

      • PC –

        The use of the Greek word “andres” (= men) at Acts 20:17, may well suggest that all of the Ephesian “elders”/bishops/spiritual leaders of Ephesus (Acts 20:17) were mem – unless of course, Paul considered female Ephesian bishops/elders incapable of theological error !

        • No, the use of the term is more complex. Though it mostly refers to men (as opposed to women), it is used in the Letter of James clearly to refer to people. So there is some semantic overlap with anthropos.

          • Thank you, Ian.

            I remember an amusing quote from Professor, Sir Anthony Buzzard, regarding his opinion of the possibility of women being (Pauline) Church elders/leaders/bishops in the First century :

            “The Apostle Paul would never have allowed the buck to stop with a woman.”

      • No, the use of the term is more complex. Though it mostly refers to men (as opposed to women), it is used in the Letter of James clearly to refer to people. So there is some semantic overlap with anthropos.

    • PC1, with the risk of over-simplifying, Paul was an egalitarian, but the pseudo-Pauls were sexist. These positions are irreconcilable, and we must choose a side. There is compelling evidence that Paul did not write the PE or 1 Cor 14:34-35.

  4. “The chosen lady was, most likely, the host and leader of a congregation that met in her home…” Can we be sure that those who hosted churches were also the leaders of the congregation? What is the evidence for that? Wouldn’t that mean leaders would inevitably be the members of society wealthy enough to own a home large enough to host a church? Would that really be in keeping with the gospel? Why make the connection here in 2 John? It’s a significant assertion but, seemingly, without much warrant, unless I’m missing that evidence.

    • @ Richard M

      Agreed. A lot depends on your definition of “leader” and “minister.” We know nothing about this woman’s actual role in her local church. The writer calls himself “the Presbyter,” or “the Elder” – a position of leadership. His concern is with “truth” – Christology, mutual love, the new commandment, antichrist, and the integrity of witness to the earthly Jesus.

      This letter is addressing problems within the church. John encourages community members to show their Christianity by adhering to the great commandment of mutual love and to the truth about Jesus.

      Is the false teaching a “spiritualising christology” that may tempt some members to discount teachings about the Incarnation and death of Jesus Christ? For their protection, the Elder forbids hospitality toward these unknown or “progressive” Christians (those who “run ahead” and do not continue in the teaching of Christ) to prevent their infiltration of the community. This letter is directed at doctrinal purity and active love in the form of pastoral advice to a threatened community.

      Who were these “deceivers” and what “progressivism” were they teaching? Is it possible that John was writing against some early form of Gnosticism? This targeted women.

      Gnosticism developing in the Church took many forms, then and now, and started to take root early on. This stressed a secret “gnosis” or knowledge as supreme authority. One such heresy was taught by Valentinus (AD 135-165) – “Sophia” or Wisdom was seen as a femi­nine virtue and the judge of the souls was portrayed as the “Virgin of Lights” attended by seven hand­maids. Its emphasis on the female character of “gnosis” led his followers to entice beautiful and wealthy Christian women by seduction and the prac­tice of magical arts.

      • Dear HJ;

        Bearing in mind your recent comments on the Paraclete not being an allegorical, self-reference (cf. John 16:25) to the exalted Lord Jesus Himself, returning to His disciples (cf. John 14:18) in spiritual form (cf. 2 Cor. 3:17-18; 1 John 2:1);

        Then, why do you think the Paraclete is not mentioned in 2 John 1:3, alongside God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Messiah – which would presumably be expected if the Paraclete was a distinct, Divine hypostasis, separate from the Father and the Son ?

        • @ John B

          Happy Jack has many talents, but reading the mind of the author of a 2000 year old letter is not one of them. It’s a very brief letter, written in some haste by the tone of it.

        • @ John B

          HJ is patiently awaiting a response to his questions following your assertion explanation that “Jesus was a uniquely born, sinless man, Who was predestined to be God’s Anointed , Messianic lord.”

          HJ asked: So he was created and came into existence at his natural birth? He was a natural man who at some point was anointed by God? When was that?
          And who were his parents?

          • Hi, Hj;

            I believe that your noted Roman Catholic scholar Raymond E. Brown, may be right in thinking that both Matthew and Luke possessed “Conception Christologies” (rather than literal, ‘Pre-existence Christologies’). Thus, for both Luke and Matthew, Jesus comes into being at his birth, and is thus, literally, “Son of God”(cf. Luke 1:35), as God is his direct Father (Luke 1:35). The same Christology would also appertain for the book of the Acts.

            Acts 2:34 reads :

            ” The Lord said to my lord”. (Goodspeed; Young’s Literal version, Emphatic Diaglott, et al)

            ‘Lord’ signifies the transliterated Hebrew ‘YHWH’ = GOD.
            ‘lord’ (lower case ‘l’) signifies the transliterated Hebrew ‘adoni’ = lord/master = a non-Deity title.

            Jesus is thus “made lord and Messiah” at his resurrection/exaltation (Acts 2:36), rather than being portrayed as a Divine, pre-existent being, who came down in human form and was always “God”. If the latter was the case, it is difficult to believe that the apostle Paul would not have mentioned this fact in Acts 14:11-18, where the subject matter does concern Divine beings coming down to earth in a human form.

            Your Roman Catholic scholar, Hans Kung believed that Acts 7:55-56 captured the essence of the relationship between the holy Spirit, Jesus and God :

            Stephen – full of the holy Spirit (= the power and love of God) , gazed into heaven and saw God’s glory, with Jesus, the Son of Man, standing at God’s right hand.

            Jesus, as the exalted Messianic Lord now shares in God’s glory and rule.

            Thus, as Kung essentially put it :

            ” God, the invisible Father, is above us.

            Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God, is with us.

            The holy Spirit, as God’s power and love, is in us “.

            (“Christianity : Essence, History and Future.”, by Hans Kung.)

          • J.B.
            Stephen’s vision.
            Unlike Zeus with Nike in his right hand Stephen only sees Jesus . The glory is not described in human form. There is only ever one God in human form presented to us. Since Jesus came , only He is .

          • Dear Steve;

            The Only true God, Himself (cf. John 17:1-3 = the Father) is invisible, and dwells in unapproachable Light whom no has seen, nor can see (1 Tim. 6:16).

            Stephen saw the Light/Glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right side. Hans Kung thus notes that as the Messiah, Jesus shares in God’s rulership, power and glory (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20-28).

            However, Hans Kung also notes that Stephen did not see a God with three faces, or see three men in the same form, or see any triangular symbol, which were all used in later Christian Art, to depict a Trinity conception of God.

          • J.B.
            Your Monos god looks a lot like Zeus holding Nike in his right hand and an eagle in his left.
            For Christians, God revealed Himself as YHWH the I AM. Who said why do you ask my name?
            His name is Wonderful…
            Wonderful=Jesus. Councillor= Spirit. Mighty God = Father.
            One God revealed systematically in history.
            Jesus is the only God you will ever see. Jesus has made the Father known.

            We don’t come to Jupiter (Father Zeus) on the invite of the Eagle to (Nike) at his right hand.
            We come to Jesus who is at the centre of the throne. He is the One on the Throne. Before Him are the seven Spirits who draw all men to Him.

          • Steve;

            According to the ‘Jewish Study Bible’ the long name in Isaiah 9:5 is a throne name of the royal child, and does not apply to the child but to the God of the parent. The God of Mary, would be the God of the Jews, whom Jesus said was the Father (John 8:54; cf. John 8:41). The throne name includes ‘Father’, and Jesus is not ‘the Father’. To claim so, is indulge in modalism.

          • J.B.
            Isaiah 9:6
            For to us a child is born,
            to us a son is given;
            and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
            and his name shall be called
            Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
            Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

            Jesus is the Son and the Name.

            Perhaps , like Solomon, Jesus will assume the throne of his father while David is still alive. That is, what we understand as The Father in eternity will vacate his throne for his Son.
            These human dynamics serve for us as illustrations of profound truths beyond our understanding.
            I’ll stop here. Its off topic. Again. I have things, real things to do!

          • Steve :

            Isaiah 9:5b in the ‘Jewish Study Bible’ reads :

            ‘ He has been named
            “The Mighty God is planning grace,
            The Eternal Father a peaceful ruler”.’

            This is a throne name, and applies not to the child, but to the God whom the parent worshipped. This fact would have been known to the Gospel writers, which is why Isaiah 9:5b is never used in the New Testament.

            Jesus is not the Father. This is modalism.

        • @ John B

          Never mind what “scholars” believe; what do you believe?

          Was Jesus’ conception supernatural or natural? Was it virginal – i.e., was his mother impregnated by a man or not?

          And when was Jesus “anointed” by God as the Messiah?

          • HJ Your first sentence nails something to the mast. How often is it the case that when ‘scholarship’ is brought to the fore, theological realities disappear in a ‘cloud of unknowing’ .
            From reading many of your comments on the Cranmer blogsite, I would hardly have described Kung as’*your* Roman Catholic scholar’.
            As to your final point: JB (or is it Kung?) has missed out on the Baptism of Jesus. As far as I am aware, the first direct association between Jesus and the Spirit is on this occasion. Psalm 2:7 , a Messianic Psalm, declares “You are my Son, today I have become your Father.” But Isaiah 42:1 states :” Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; *I will put my Spirit upon him*.At his baptism, Jesus is both consecrated and empowered as Messiah who manifests the divine power and glory, but in the form of the suffering servant.Paradox has its place!

            PS Jack, now that you are a fully paid-up ( albeit somewhat ‘heretical’) member of the society, and given that we have now entered the post- anonimity era, are we now in a position whereby your real identity will be revealed? Is your surname really Russell?

          • @ Colin McC

            The contemporary theologian Happy Jack treasures is Joseph Ratzinger and his many insights into scripture, man, and the modern world.

            On December 15, 1979, Hans Küng is banned from teaching Catholic theology. On the 31st of the same month, the Archbishop and Cardinal of Munich preached a homily in which he defended the “faith of the simple”. Referring to the faith of the first Christians, which seemed to some to be too “simple”, he affirmed: “It seemed to them an impossible naivety that this Jesus of Palestine was the Son of God, and that his cross had redeemed the people of the whole world. […] So they began to construct their ‘superior’ Christianity, to see the poor faithful who simply accepted the letter as psychicsas people in a preliminary stage with respect to higher spirits, men over whom a pious veil had to be spread” (Against the Power of the Intellectuals, “30 Days” VI, 2 (1991) p. 68).

            Ratzinger continued in his sermon on the LiebfrauendomIn the Munich Cathedral: “It is not the intellectuals who give the measure to the simple, but the simple who move the intellectuals. It is not the scholarly explanations that give the measure to the baptismal profession of faith. On the contrary, in its naive literalness, the profession of baptismal faith is the measure of all theology” (Against the Power of the Intellectuals, pp. 68-69).

            The creed knows more than theologians who ignore it. Therefore, “the magisterium is entrusted with the task of defending the faith of the simple against the power of intellectuals. [It has] the duty to become the voice of the simple, where theology ceases to explain the profession of faith in order to take it over. [To protect the faith of the simple, that is, of those who do not write books, speak on television or write editorials in newspapers: that is the democratic task of the Church’s magisterium” (Against the Power of Intellectuals, p. 69).

            He concludes by recalling that the word of the Church “has never been kind and charming, as a false romanticism about Jesus presents it to us. On the contrary, it has been harsh and cutting, like true love, which does not allow itself to be separated from the truth and which cost it the cross” (Against the Power of the Intellectuals, p. 71).

            Happy Jack is …………….

          • Hi, HJ,

            “The angel answered and said to her, the holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason, the baby to be fathered will be called holy and the Son of God”.

            cf. Luke 1:35; NASB.

            Raymond E. Brown writes :

            ” Luke 1:35 has embarrassed many orthodox theologians, since in pre-existence theology a conception by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb does not bring about the existence of God’s Son. Luke is seemingly unaware of of such such a Christology; conception is causally related to divine Sonship for him.”

            Raymond Brown, “The Birth of the Messiah”, p.291.

            Historically, I think Raymond Brown is right. The same Christology would also apply in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’.

            Jesus was born as the Lord God’s Messiah (cf. Acts 2:26); but was only installed as God’s reigning Messing after His resurrection/exaltation (Acts 2:36; Psalm 110:1; Rom. 1:4; Math. 28:18).

          • @ John B

            Why not express your own faith rather than obfuscate and hide behind quotes from “scholars”?

            Straight question: Was Jesus miraculously conceived by the virgin Mary before she married Joseph?

            This is “allowed” as a possibility by the “scholar” Raymond Brown. Not so by the “scholar” Hans Kung, who seems to regard the virgin birth as a collection of uncertain, mutually contradictory, and legendary myths.

            What say you John Bradley?

            You contend that “Jesus … was only installed as God’s reigning Messing after His resurrection/exaltation.”

            Which is it?

            Do you believe in the empty tomb, in Jesus’ miraculous physical resurrection, and his post-resurrection bodily encounters with his disciples?

          • To HJ;

            I believe in the Bible as ultimately, the sole and infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. This is why I am not a Roman Catholic.

            Of course Jesus was raised physically from the dead, and of course His tomb was empty, and of course Jesus had post-resurrection meetings with His disciples.

            Furthermore, of course Jesus was miraculously conceived by God the Father, through the power of His holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Incidentally, this fact again demonstrates that the holy Spirit is not a distinct divine hypostasis separate from the Father, otherwise the holy Spirit would be the real ‘Father’ of Jesus.

            Acts 2:22-36 clearly says that Jesus was a man through Whom God performed miracles and signs. He was subsequently executed but God raised Him from dead, and exalted him to his right hand, in fulfilment of Psalm 110:1, where “Yahweh (God) said to my lord” (‘lord’ = Hebrew ‘adoni’ = a non-Deity title), “sit here at my right hand, until I make thine enemies a footstool”. When this occurs, Jesus will deliver up the kingdom to God (our Father), (1 Cor. 15:24), and be subjected to God (1 Cor. 15:28), so that God will rule directly, and be “all in all” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20-28).

            Thus, Jesus was made ‘lord’ and ‘Messiah’, as Acts 2:36 clearly says (in fulfilment of the prophecy of Psalm 110:1). If Jesus had always been ‘LORD God’, then he couldn’t be made ‘LORD God’. Jesus is not ‘LORD God’, but the ‘lord Jesus Messiah’ (cf. 1 Peter 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:3; Rom. 15:6)

            As Anglican Canon, Anthony E. Harvey noted, the N.T. never clearly breaks the bounds of Jewish, Unitarian Monotheism (cf. “The Constraints of History”). Cf. John 17:1-3; John 20:17; Rev. 3:12; 1 Cor. 15:20-28.

          • @ John Bradley

            You say: “I believe in the Bible as ultimately, the sole and infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. This is why I am not a Roman Catholic.”

            Happy Jack says: It’s probably why you are not a Christian as you reject the Tradition of the Church as expressed in her Creeds. Where does Scripture teach that it is “the sole authority” for Christian faith and practice? And why the caveat “ultimately”? This equivocation suggests you understand that whilst Scripture is inerrant, interpretations of it are not. How does Scripture answer the question of resolving disputes when Christians disagree on what Scripture teaches?

            You say: “This is why I am not a Roman Catholic.”
            Happy Jack says: The Catholic Church teaches: ”The books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.”

            Moving on.

            You say: “Of course Jesus was raised physically from the dead, and of course His tomb was empty, and of course Jesus had post-resurrection meetings with His disciples … (and) … of course Jesus was miraculously conceived by God the Father, through the power of His holy Spirit.”

            Happy Jack says: Ah, you are more inclined towards simpler Socinian beliefs rather than its more complex, idiosyncratic later variants, and not towards the many faces of Arianism. So many unitarian variants – and all based on Scripture alone!

            So far as HJ understands it, despite your obfuscation and avoidance of clarity, you believe the Father of Jesus is the one and only true God; the Son, Jesus, is a fully human being, and the Holy Spirit is the power of God. You hold that Trinitarianism has no biblical foundation, is contradictory and is inconsistent with Scripture, and imported from Platonic philosophy.

            You say: “Incidentally, this fact (Jesus’ miraculous conception) again demonstrates that the holy Spirit is not a distinct divine hypostasis separate from the Father, otherwise the holy Spirit would be the real ‘Father’ of Jesus.”

            Happy Jack says: According to your erroneous reading of Scripture. Throughout Scripture we see that three distinct but inseparable Persons constitute the indivisible Divine essence. What distinguishes them is not a difference in attributes; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinguished by their personal properties.

            God is both one and three at the same time. He is not one and three in the same sense. God is one in essence but three in Person. God revealed to Moses that He is self-existent; He has the power of Being in and of Himself. He depends on nothing and no one for His existence. God alone exists by His own power. No one made Him or caused Him. He exists eternally on His own power.

            Scripture teaches that there are certain things God has hidden from us (Deut. 29:29). It also teaches that God is not completely comprehendible by men, nor are His ways fully understood by men (Rom. 11:33–34; 1 Cor. 2:16). Nevertheless, as we examine the Bible, as a Christian community, many Divine mysteries are unfolded by God Himself. Though we may not understand completely how God is three in Person and One in essence, we do know the simple truth that He is.

            There’s no way other than a Triune understanding to read the opening of John’s Gospel that doesn’t involve distortion of the text. You’ve tried and failed. The Son is “begotten not “created.” From all eternity, the Father generates the Son. This act is not like human generation, which creates a new being in time; rather the Father eternally generates the Son. There was never a time when only the Father existed and then He started to beget the Son.

            In the same way, as HJ has previously demonstrated, John 14 establishes that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and a third Person in addition to the Father and the Son. Your response was one of ad hominem and was illogical. In addition to John 14, passages like Hebrews 9:14, Psalm 139:7–10, Luke 1:35, and 1 Corinthians 2:10–13 ascribe the characteristics of God to the Holy Spirit, establishing that He is fully God.

            On the basis of these passages and many others, the Christian faith understands that the One God exists as three distinct Persons within the Godhead. The Father has always been, the Son has always been, and the Holy Spirit has always been eternally proceeding from or through the Father and the Son.

            Happy Jack noticed this from an earlier blogpost where your anti-Trinitarian opinion was peppered everywhere:

            Geoff: June 3, 2023 at 10:35 am
            “We disagree profoundly and worship a different God.
            The only reason you are on this site is to attack the Trinity.”

            Happy Jack tends to agree and has decided he will no longer engage with you on this subject. It is unproductive. Instead, he will pray for you.

            God Bless.

    • Yes, the hosts were the leaders of the churches. This explains why Acts mentions Lydia, Jason, Justus, and Tyrannus. The issue is discussed by Gupter in his recent “Tell Her Story”. See also my “Name giving by Paul and the destination of Acts”, which has been discussed on this blog, and shows that these hosts were given leadership names.

    • There were various ministries that involved leadership in first-century churches, and most of them did not require wealth. Having a home large enough to be used as a base for a congregation, however, did mean that hosts typically had money.

      In house churches, the host would manage or organise things, but Paul encouraged participation in ministry from all suitably gifted people (e.g., 1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16). And a lot of ministry was done by travelling apostles, prophets, and teachers, and by reading aloud letters of prominent ministers. Travelling ministers and expensive letters were typically sponsored by patrons.

      Margaret Y. MacDonald comments on gatherings in Roman homes, including church meetings.

      “In the Roman world, it was normal procedure for the person in whose house a group met to preside, select the meal, and organize the entertainment to follow, which could include a visiting philosopher or wisdom figure. It is reasonable to conclude that women such as Lydia in Philippi and Phoebe in Cenchreae were presiding in their homes as they entertained Paul and his fellow workers.”
      Margaret Y. MacDonald, ‘The Religious Lives of Women in the Early Christianity,’ Women’s Bible Commentary, Third Edition, Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, Jacqueline E. Lapsley (eds) (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 640-647, 642.

      Also, the protection and welfare these hosts offered to fledgling congregations in an often hostile environment was valuable.

      “Christianity was a movement sponsored by local patrons …” Edwin A. Judge, The Early Christians as a Scholastic Community (London: Tyndale Press, 1960), 8.

  5. If, as some think, this epistle was written from Patmos then this was a time of persecution for the Church, then it might make sense not to identify who the sender or receivers are.
    Opinion is much divided on whether this is addressed to to an individual woman or Church.
    Many translations record v4 as ”I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. English Standard Version etc.
    Perhaps like most churches throughout time there were “tares”within the church and as well as external persecution John identifies that some had crept into the churches with false teaching.
    As love was a foundation doctrine along with belief of the truth John warned not to “love”everyone reguardless of the unchanging truth taught from the begining .To those who taught false doctrine advising the church
    “ v10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house and do not give him any greeting,

  6. John speaks of a woman elsewhere. Revelation 12 and Revelation 19. Here she represents a great body of people – Israel and the Church. She is characterized as female in line with OT writings and multiple NT references to to he Church as Christ’s bride.
    It is entirely consistent with this that a local church should be referred to by John as a woman of high status.
    Her children being the members of the church is consistent with Galatians 4:21-31.

  7. Thanks for the interesting article. I find it fascinating that, even within some comments here, there is an implication that women are more easily deceived than men, or wouldn’t have been in leadership in the early church. Thank goodness we have the example of our Lord Jesus and the way he treated women.

    I recently read The Lost Apostle, by Rena Pedersen, and found it very thought provoking.

    • Glenys :

      Of course women have a role in the Church. But Phoebe was an invaluable “diakonon” (servant) in the Church (Romans 16:1) – not an elder/bishop.

    • You mean the fact He didnt appoint any women as His 12 apostles, only men, and referred to a Gentile woman as a dog?! Ok then.

      Im also assuming within Judaism men would have been the leaders of local synagogues. i suspect it would have been natural for such an arrangement to continue in the Christian church, at least at the start, as there was no logical reason why women should suddenly be able to be in teaching and leadership positions. After all, it took a vision for the apostles to change their minds just on the eating of food. Much is played on the idea that women were the first witnesses of the resurrection, even though as witnesses such testimony would have largely been dismissed, thus showing it was genuine testimony. I agree with that. But again I would find it odd if such a change in mindset towards women would suddenly occur in the church, many of whose leaders came with a Jewish background.

      It may very well have been a cultural issue, with Paul etc continuing with such a mindset. and as such is fine today. But Im still not convinced that Paul taught, as recorded in the NT, that women were to be teachers, apostles, leaders etc etc just as men in the church.

  8. “ The elder, To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth—”

    Is it not strange writing to be writing to two unnamed groups, and have one be literal followed immediately after by a metaphor?

    If he had wanted to write to a woman (let’s call her Lydia) and the church that met in her house then John could have easily have written “To Lydia and the church that meets in her house.”

    In contrast, if John views the church as in some way different but related to the congregation – as he obviously does from Revelation – then he is obliged to use metaphor and there’s no simpler one or one more basic from Jewish thought than the one he used.

    The fact the Greek of the time does not include a word for church is not evidence of John not referring to the church – not unless you are taking the Whorf hypothesis – but a reason to take the 2 John 1 1 as one consistent metaphor.

    • In addition, on the “literal woman/metaphorical children” claim. Are you ruling out the congregation including her literal children (if any)? Or saying that it is possible that “and to her children” is referring to a mix of her blood-children and non-blood people sitting under her?

    • No one is named in the letter, including the letter’s author. The author refers to himself simply as “the elder.”

      The author of John, as an older Christian, speaks as father figure. However, “children” is more than a metaphor in his letters where the word consistently refers to Jesus-followers. The first Christians saw themselves as being part of an actual new family. They regarded each other as actual siblings, with Jesus as their older brother.

  9. This passage reminds me somewhat of Robert Brownings wonderful christian philosophical poem Rabbi ben Ezra:
    This in part a rebuttal of the hedonistic FitzGerald’s Rubaiya.
    The poem is a sometimes a bit obscure but with the addition of a couple of excellent analyse is more intelligible. which see here:-
    It seems to me a very sane and rewarding view of life.

  10. I think it more likely that ‘the chosen Lady’ refers metaphorically to a local church rather than a high-born individual woman.
    1. Singular pronouns are used in verses 4 and 5 (‘some of thy children walking in the truth”, ‘I beg thee … that we love one another’) but then the text switches seamlessly to second person plural verbs or pronouns in verses 6 , 8, 10, 11 (‘ye have heard’, ‘ye should walk’, ‘look to yourselves’, ‘lest ye lose’, ‘do not ye receive’, ‘I have much to write to you’, ‘to be with you’) before reverting to ‘thee’ and ‘thy’ in the farewell in verse 13. If ‘the lady’ was a literal individual rather than a collective for a local church, why is she singled out for the admonition in verse 5? Was she individually forgetful of this command? I find it more natural for the apostle to be saying: ‘Dear Church, remember the most important thing!’
    2. By way of comparison and contrast, 3 John is evidently a personal letter written to Gaius and all the second person pronouns and verbs are singular. But 1 John has no name for ‘the elect lady’, suggesting a collective rather than an individual.
    2. ‘children’ is a common designation of Christians in 1 John, and the metaphor is an obvious one for those who have been born again. No need to take it literally in 2 John – or to say ”Lady’ is literal but ‘children’ is metaphorical.”
    3. As Chefofsinners has noted above, the metaphor of a woman – and a mother – for the church is found in Rev 12 (although Catholics take this as a literal reference to Mary. ‘Regina Coeli’!) and Galatians 4, and the metaphor has deep and multifarious roots in Scripture, where the Church is the Bride of Christ. Protestants often cavil against the idea of ‘Mother Church’ in reaction to ‘Romanism’ but not Calvin who insisted that the Church is the ‘Mater Fidelium’.

    • @ James

      >>the metaphor of a woman – and a mother – for the church is found in Rev 12 (although Catholics take this as a literal reference to Mary. ‘Regina Coeli’!)<<

      Not quite literally!

      As one Catholic apologist explains:

      The vision contains “fusion imagery,” in which one symbol is composed of elements from several different things …

      The Woman in Revelation 12 is part of the fusion imagery/polyvalent symbolism that is found in the book. She has four referents: Israel, the Church, Eve, and Mary.

      She is Israel because she is associated with the sun, the moon, and twelve stars. These symbols are drawn from Genesis 37:9–11, in which the patriarch Joseph has a dream of the sun and moon (symbolizing his father and mother) and stars (representing his brothers), which bow down to him. Taken together, the sun, moon, and twelve stars symbolize the people of Israel.

      The Woman is the Church because, as 12:17 tells us, “the rest of her offspring” are those who bear witness to Jesus, making them Christians.

      The Woman is Eve because she is part of the three-way conflict also involving her Seed and the Dragon, who is identified with the ancient serpent (the one from Eden) in 20:2. This mirrors the conflict in Genesis 3:15 between Eve, the serpent, and her unborn seed—which in turn is a symbol of the conflict between Mary, Satan, and Jesus.

      Finally, the Woman is Mary because she is the mother of Jesus, the child who will rule the nations with a rod of iron (19:11–16).

      Because the Woman is a four-way symbol, different aspects of the narrative apply to different referents. Like Mary, she is pictured as being in heaven and she flies (mirroring Mary’s Assumption). Like the Church, she is persecuted by the Devil after the Ascension of Christ. Like Israel, she experiences great trauma as the Messiah is brought forth (figuratively) from the nation. And like Eve, it is her (distant) seed with which the serpent has his primary conflict.

      Conversely, portions of the narrative do not apply to each referent. Mary did not experience literal pain when bringing forth the Messiah, but she suffered figuratively (the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart at the Crucifixion). Eve did not ascend to heaven. And the Church did not bring forth the Messiah (rather, the Messiah brought forth his Church).

      • Jack – yes, literally – you just made my point. That Catholics understand Rev 12 as having a literal reference to Mary, doesn’t preclude it having other collective referents. You will know the image is common in Marian iconography and is the basis for the title ‘Regina Coeli’ because the figure is in heaven with the sun, moon and stars at her feet and Catholics believe that Mary ascended into heaven – as you will have marked two days ago. The image is also the origin of the EU flag of twelve stars in a circle, Protestant biblical interpretation generally denies a Marian referent.
        But I am a little surprised to read that you don’t think Mary experienced literal pain in giving birth. Where do we read this? The Protevangelium of James, perhaps?

        • @ James

          That’s why HJ said “not quite literally.” We consider one of a number of references – not an exclusive one.

          So far as Mary’s painless birth is concerned, Scripture teaches that as a result of original sin, God would “greatly multiply” the pains of labour not only for Eve, but for all women. It is therefore fitting that Mary alone would be exempt from such pains as a sign of her unique holiness.

          In Isaiah 66:22 – a text referenced in Revelation 21:1 – we read: Listen, an uproar from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to his enemies! Before she was in labour she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?

          To what do we apply this in its fullest sense?

          St Gregory of Nyssa stated it as far back as Ad 388 AD.; St. Ambrose of Milan in AD 391.

          Dr Taylor Marshall gives the citations and quotes here:

          After a little research I discovered that of the 33 Doctors of the Church, none deny the painless and intact nativity of Christ. Moreover, at least 20 of the Doctors of the Church explicitly affirm that the birth of Christ was painless and miraculously left Mary’s physical virginity intact. Again, it all goes back to Isaiah 66:7: “before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” This prophecy refers to Christ plain and simple.

          • Well, Jack, that’s a new one to me! Is this Catholic doctrine or a theologoumenon? I knew there was the belief that the hymen remained intact through the birth, which always seemed like hyper-reasoning to me, and an odd way of thinking of virginity.
            Of course, I really don’t think Isaiah 66.7 is a prophecy of Mary, but I know the early (Gentile) church went scouring the OT to find references to Mary, all of which seem to be far-fetched and not doing real justice to the text. I do want to love and honour the Mother of the Lord, but a lot of Marianism does seem to be built on a very insecure foundation.

          • @ James

            The Church teaches de fide (“of Faith” – infallibly true) that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ our Saviour. She conceived as a virgin, she gave birth as a virgin, and she remains a virgin forever.

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church: “ The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin”. (CCC #499)

  11. The ‘Christians for Biblical Equality–International’ who first published “a version” of this article in 2016, in its Statement of Faith and Core Values lists the following:

    [W]e lament that the sins of sexism and racism have been used to historically oppress and silence women throughout the life of the church. ​

    We resolve to value and listen to the voices and lived experiences of women throughout the world who have been impacted by the sins of sexism and racism. ​

    Patriarchy (male dominance) is not a biblical ideal but a result of sin that manifests itself personally, relationally, and structurally.

    Patriarchy is an abuse of power, taking from women and girls what God has given them: their dignity, freedom, and leadership, and often their very lives.

    While the Bible reflects a patriarchal culture, the Bible does not teach patriarchy as God’s standard for human relationships.

    Christ’s redemptive work frees all people from patriarchy, calling women and men to share authority equally in service and leadership.

    Followers of Christ are to advance human flourishing by opposing injustice and patriarchal teachings and practices that demean, diminish, marginalize, dominate, abuse, enslave, or exploit women, or restrict women’s access to leadership in the home, church, and world.

    This begs the question, are Christian women oppressed by a sexist, patriarchal Church which marginalises them and their opinions, talents, and gifts? Has the Church denied women education, spiritual formation, and opportunities for service? Does the actual historical evidence support such an assertion?

  12. HJ Thanks for resolving the conundrum “Happy Jack is ………” Dotty!
    I see that Kung continues to be lauded as the oracle of all NT wisdom. Your quote from the then Cardinal Ratzinger re Kung is still apparently apposite.

      • Jack The reference doesn’t refer to one’s particular contours as to that specific breed’s gritty determination.

        • Ah, HJ got the breeds mixed up. He’ll take Jack Russell over a Dachshund. Both are determined, ferocious, with high stamina to chase out prey that’s gone to ground. Now where has that pesky John Bradley gone!

          • @ James

            Apologies, the pain free labour and delivery of Jesus’ birth is taught on the level of the ordinary Magisterium and, as such, this teaching is a matter of legitimate debate in the Church.

            Since the Catholic Church holds that Mary was free from original sin at conception, the logic is she would consequently be free of child bearing pain. The majority of Western Fathers emphasised Mary’s physical integrity. They compared the birth of our Lord to Him miraculously emerging from the closed tomb or appearing suddenly in the upper room although the doors were locked.

            On the other hand, the Eastern Fathers emphasised Mary’s joy and freedom from pain in giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God. They looked upon Mary as the New Eve, free of the pain of original/ancestral sin because she was sanctified at His conception. HJ isn’t sure but believes this is taught canonically in the East.

  13. In 2 John there are some odd anonymities. The author withholds his own name, and the name of the recipient and that of her “sister” in the last verse: “The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.” The anonymities could be to protect the individuals in case the letter fell into the hands of opponents. I wonder why the “sister” herself does not send greetings. Could it be that the “sister” was the author herself? In that case the masculine πρεσβύτερος would further protect the identity of the author, I suppose.

    • Of course, if the “sister” is also another church then it would make sense that John is saying that the congregation of John’s church send their greetings. That, I would suggest, is more plausible than John being a woman who is pretending to be a man but then forgets his pretense at the end.

  14. I think taking the “elect lady” as refering to an actual woman, but “her children” as figuratively refering to ‘spiritual children or disciples’ (of the elect lady) is a bit destabilising for this theory. Especially when in v. 13 we have more children mentioned and another elect lady/sister (who as mentioned, doesn’t herself send greetings). Presumably, on this view they would also be spiritual children of another (unnamed) actual woman who is the sister of the first mentioned “elect lady”.
    If I was going to adopt this view (which I don’t think I am) I think I’d go for actual children, which would also account for v. 4 a bit better. (But perhaps doesn’t account for the actual content of the letter).

    • I think that’s a fair comment. I would add that the letters of Revelation 1-3, which are written to actual local churches, are addressed to the “angels” of these churches. Most commentators (rightly) understand “angels” as personifications of the local churches rather that an individual being. I think something similar is going on in 2 John.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Peter.
      Κυρίᾳ is attested 6 times as a personal name, and it would be a very suitable leadership name or title for a female church host. Churches were formed when the head of a household converted their household members and friends. The members of the church were then the “children” of the head of the household. Fictive kinship language (including “children” in the Johannine epistles) was so common that the use of “children” in v. 1 should not encourage us to find other metaphors in the same verse. Marg’s argument is strong unless someone can either find cases where κυρίᾳ is used as a metaphor for a church, or show that unattested metaphors abound in the Johannine epistles. Comfort states that Clement of Alexandria thought her name was “Electa”.

      Also, isn’t Marg right that people would not have distinguished between a church and its congregants?

      Hmm…. Maybe the elect Lady and her spiritual sister were church hosts who visited each other, as church hosts did, and maybe the spiritual sister was the bearer of 2 John. This would explain why verse 13 sends greetings to the elect κυρίᾳ, but not to her “children”, for the elect Lady would have been known to the “children” of her “sister”. The elect “sister”‘s role as letter carrier explains why she does not send greetings, and why she is commended with the word “elect”. If, on the other hand, the elect κυρίᾳ is a metaphor for a church, verse 13 seems a bit awkward. We would expect the “children” of one church to greet the “children” of the other, or we would expect the elect sister to greet the elect lady. Why did the author not simply write “your (singular) elect sister greets you (singular)”?

  15. Greetings Richard!
    KURIA seems an unusual personal name. (And I’m not sure that is what is being claimed here) Where is the evidence on that?

    • Greetings Peter! The 6 attestations that I mentioned come from the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names.See here
      I note now that there are also 22 attestations of the name in Egypt, though most of these are late. See
      My point is that church hosts were often given new names that reflected their leadership roles, and that Κυρια could work as a name and would be very suitable as a leadership name. Indeed, we have a nice example of it being used as a second name in the second century: Antonia Asklepia alias Kuria (Ἀντωνίᾳ Ἀσκληπιάδι τῇ καὶ Κυρίᾳ). In 2 John it could also just be a title, of course.

      If Κυρία is a metaphor for a church, and is “elect”, what is the difference between it and its “children”? Surely it is the “children” who are “elect”.

      • This is really interesting. But of course it follows the habit in many cultures of people being given names which describe their role (Smith, Fletcher, Thatcher) alongside place names (Marsh, Brook, Lake, Rivers) and characteristics (Short, Little, Hardy and Wise).


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