1, 2 & 3 John
D. A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo
An Introduction to the New Testament
Like the epistle to the Hebrews, 1 John does not exhibit any of the formal characteristics that are normally associated with the openings of letters written in Greek in the first century. Nevertheless, the personal references, the common ties the author shares with his readers, and the explicit historical referents (e.g., 1 John 2:19) make it clear that this writing was not intended to be an abstract paper, a mere brochure, or a tractate for all Christians everywhere: it was meant to be read as a pastoral letter to a congregation, or to a number of congregations. There is something to be said for the view that its atypical form is a reflection of its author’s intention to send it to several congregations along with an accompanying note personalizing each delivery: 2 John could be one such note (3 John does not qualify nearly so well) and may be the only one that has come down to us.