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Introduction to 2 John

Part 1: General Introduction

Outline of the Book of 2 John

  1. Opening of letter (1:1–3)
  2. Encouragement and the commandment to love one another (1:4–6)
  3. Warning about false teachers (1:7–11)
  4. Closing of letter (1:12–13)

Who wrote the Book of 2 John?

The author of this letter identifies himself only as “the elder.” However, the content of 2 John is similar to the content in John’s gospel. This suggests that the apostle John wrote this letter, and he would have done so near the end of his life.

To whom was the Book of 2 John written?

The author addresses this letter to someone he calls “the chosen lady” and to “her children” (1:1). Although this could refer to a specific woman and her children, that interpretation is unlikely. More probably, this is a figurative way to refer to a specific congregation and its members. This interpretation is supported by the way that John refers to the congregation with him as “the children of your chosen sister” in verse 13. This would be a readily understandable metaphor, since the word for “church” in Greek is a feminine noun. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

What is the book of 2 John about?

It appears that John addressed this letter to a specific congregation of believers. John’s purpose in writing this letter to them was to warn his audience about false teachers. John did not want believers helping or giving money to false teachers.

He probably intended this message to be passed on to all believers in general.

How should the title of this book be translated?

Translators may choose to call this book by its traditional title, “2 John” or “Second John.” Or they may choose a different title, such as “The Second Letter from John” or “The Second Letter John Wrote.” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/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. John wanted believers to offer hospitality to guests. However, he did not want believers to offer hospitality to false teachers.

Who were the people John spoke against?

The people John spoke against may have been those who later became known as Gnostics. These people believed that the physical world was evil. Since the physical body was seen as evil, they did not think that God could become human. Therefore, they believed that Jesus was divine but denied that he was human. (See: [[rc://en/tw/dict/bible/kt/evil]])

Part 3: Important Translation Issues

What are the major textual issues in the text of the Book of 2 John?

In 1:12, most modern versions of the Bible read “our joy.” There is another traditional reading that says “your joy.” If a version of the Bible already exists in your region, you should consider using the reading of that version in your translation. If not, you may wish to follow the reading that most Bible scholars consider to be authentic and say “our joy.” In this case, “our” would include both John and the letter recipients. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/translate-textvariants]])

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ὁ πρεσβύτερος

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The elder

In this culture, letter writers would give their own names first, referring to themselves in the third person. If that is confusing in your language, you could use the first person here. Or if your language has a particular way of introducing the author of a letter, and if it would be helpful to your readers, you could use it here. Alternate translation: “I, the elder, am writing this letter” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-123person]])

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ὁ πρεσβύτερος

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The elder

The elder likely means John, the apostle and disciple of Jesus. He refers to himself as elder either because of his old age, or because he is a leader in the church, or both. If you have a term for an older, respected leader, you can use it here. Alternate translation: “I, John, am writing this letter” or Alternate translation: “I, John the elder, am writing this letter” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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y7hw

figs-123person

ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ καὶ τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτῆς

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to the chosen lady and her children

In this culture, letter writers would name the addressees next, referring to them in the third person. If that is confusing in your language, you could use the second person here. Or if your language has a particular way of introducing the person who receives a letter, and if it would be helpful to your readers, you could use it here. Alternate translation: “to you, chosen lady, and to your children” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-123person]])

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a9w3

figs-metaphor

ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ

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to the chosen lady

Here, chosen lady could mean: (1) John is writing to a church and describing the group of believers as a lady. (In Greek, the word for “church” is feminine.) (2) John is writing to a specific woman and referring to her respectfully as lady. Alternate translation: “to the chosen church” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

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figs-idiom

ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ

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to the chosen lady

In this context, the term chosen indicates a person or group of people whom God has chosen to receive salvation. Alternate translation: “to the congregation that God has saved” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-idiom]])

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axty

figs-metaphor

καὶ τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτῆς

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and her children

Here, her children could mean: (1) just as “chosen lady” refers to a church, her children refers to the people who are part of that church. Alternate translation: “and to the believers in that group” (2) if this letter is addressed to an actual woman, it may refer to her biological children. (3) it refers to people whom the woman has led to faith as her spiritual children. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

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figs-abstractnouns

ἀγαπῶ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ

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love in the truth

If it would be helpful in your language, you could express the idea behind the abstract noun truth with an equivalent expression. The phrase the truth could: (1) refer to how John loves. Alternate translation: “truly love” (2) provide the reason for John’s love. Alternate translation: “love because we both know the truth” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-abstractnouns]])

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a50f

figs-hyperbole

πάντες οἱ ἐγνωκότες τὴν ἀλήθειαν

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all who have known the truth

John uses the phrase all the ones having known the truth to refer to believers who know and accept the true message about Jesus Christ. John is most likely using the term all as a generalization to mean all the believers who are with him and who know the people of this church. Alternate translation: “all who are with me and who know and accept the truth” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-hyperbole]])

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spdg

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τὴν ἀλήθειαν

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the truth

John uses the abstract noun truth to refer to the true message that Christians believe. If it would be helpful in your language, you could express the idea behind this termbehind this term with an equivalent expression. Alternate translation: “the true message” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-abstractnouns]])

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et6b

figs-exclusive

ἡμῖν…ἡμῶν

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us … us

If your language marks this distinction, the pronoun us would be inclusive here and throughout the epistle, because John always uses it to refer to both himself and to the recipients of the letter. The pronoun “we” would also be inclusive for that same reason, as would the pronoun “our,” if you choose to use it in your translation. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-exclusive]])

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a7rm

figs-idiom

εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

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to the age

This is an idiom. Alternate translation: “for all time” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-idiom]])

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gad9

figs-abstractnouns

ἔσται μεθ’ ἡμῶν χάρις, ἔλεος, εἰρήνη, παρὰ Θεοῦ Πατρός καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

1

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ

If it would be helpful in your language, you could express the idea behind the abstract nouns grace, mercy, and peace with verbal phrases, and use God the Father and Jesus Christ as the subject. Alternate translation: “God the Father and Jesus Christ will be kind to us, be merciful to us, and enable us to be peaceful” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-abstractnouns]])

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zfgr

ἔσται μεθ’ ἡμῶν χάρις, ἔλεος, εἰρήνη

1

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us

In this culture, letter writers would normally offer a good wish or blessing for the recipients before introducing the main business of the letter. But instead of a blessing here, John makes a declarative statement. This probably expresses his confidence that God will do as he promised. Be sure that your translation also expresses this confidence.

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vpl9

guidelines-sonofgodprinciples

Πατρός…Υἱοῦ

1

the Father … Son

Father and Son are important titles that describe the relationship between God and Jesus Christ. Be sure to translate them accurately and consistently. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/guidelines-sonofgodprinciples]])

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w6tr

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ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ

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in truth and love

If it would be helpful in your language, you could express the abstract nouns truth and love by stating the ideas behind them with adjectives or verbs. Here, these abstract nouns could refer to: (1) the qualities of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Alternate translation: “who are truthful and loving” (2) how believers should live, and thus are the conditions under which believers will receive the “grace, mercy, and peace” from God. Alternate translation: “as we continue to hold on to what is true and to love each other” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-abstractnouns]])

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ir6v

figs-you

σου

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your

The word your is singular here, since John is either addressing one woman, or the church collectively, as a “lady.” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-you]])

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ajlf

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ἐχάρην λείαν

1

If it is more natural in your language to state the reason first and then the result, you can put this after “I found some of your children walking in the truth,” as in the UST. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/grammar-connect-logic-result]])

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a3vs

figs-metaphor

τῶν τέκνων σου

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your children

See how you translated the term children in 1:1. This could refer to: (1) the people who are part of a certain congregation. (2) if this letter is addressed to an actual woman, it may mean either her biological children or (3) her spiritual children. Alternate translation: “the believers from your group” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

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figs-metaphor

περιπατοῦντας ἐν ἀληθείᾳ

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walking in the truth

John refers to living one’s life with the expression walking. Alternate translation: “living according to the truth” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

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ddnx

figs-abstractnouns

ἐν ἀληθείᾳ

1

If your language does not use an abstract noun for truth, you could use a phrase with an adjective. Alternate translation: “in a way that agrees with the true message from God” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-abstractnouns]])

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s7hr

καθὼς ἐντολὴν ἐλάβομεν παρὰ τοῦ Πατρός

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just as we have received a commandment from the Father

The expression received a commandment expresses the idea that God commanded the believers to do something. If it would be helpful in your language, you could make the Father the subject of a sentence with the verb “command.” Alternate translation: “just as the Father has commanded us”

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w7f1

guidelines-sonofgodprinciples

τοῦ Πατρός

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the Father

Father is an important title for God. Be careful to translate it accurately and consistently. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/guidelines-sonofgodprinciples]])

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καὶ νῦν

1

The words and now signal that what follows is the main point of the letter, or at least the first main point. Use a natural way for introducing the main point in your language.

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figs-you

σε,…σοι

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you … to you

These instances of you are singular since John is once again addressing the church in a figurative way as a “lady.” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-you]])

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figs-metaphor

κυρία

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lady

See how you translated lady in verse 1 (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

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u38f

figs-explicit

οὐχ ὡς ἐντολὴν καινὴν γράφων σοι

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not as writing a new commandment to you

John does not refer to himself explicitly as the person writing. If your language requires you to state the subject of a verb, you could add a pronoun here. Alternate translation: “not as though I were writing you a new commandment” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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figs-explicit

ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς

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from the beginning

The phrase from the beginning refers to the time when John and his audience first believed in Jesus Christ. Alternate translation: “since the time that we first believed” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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vmm8

ἀρχῆς, ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους

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the beginning—that we should love one another

If it would be helpful in your language, you could start a new sentence here. Alternate translation: “the beginning. He commanded that we should love one another”

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nw4g

figs-metaphor

περιπατῶμεν κατὰ…ἐν αὐτῇ περιπατῆτε

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we should walk according to … you should walk in

In these instances the expression walk means to “obey.” Alternate translation: “we should obey … you should obey it” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

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cl95

figs-you

ἠκούσατε…περιπατῆτε

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you heard … you should walk

The term you is plural in this verse, because John is addressing a congregation of believers. This is the case throughout the rest of the letter, as well, except in verse 13, because there John returns to his metaphor of referring to a church as a woman and its members as her children. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-you]])

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grammar-connect-logic-result

ὅτι

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For

Here, For introduces the reason why John wrote about the commandment to love and obey God in the previous verses—it is because there are many who pretend to be believers but they do not love or obey God. Use a natural way to introduce this reason in your language. See the UST. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/grammar-connect-logic-result]])

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w25m

figs-explicit

ὅτι πολλοὶ πλάνοι ἐξῆλθαν εἰς τὸν κόσμον

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For many deceivers have gone out into the world

This seems to be an implicit reference to the false teachers whom John discusses in verses 10–11. Alternate translation: “For many deceivers are going around from place to place” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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x8yl

figs-metonymy

Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί

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Jesus Christ coming in flesh

The expression coming in flesh is a metonym for being a real, physical person and not a spiritual being only. Alternate translation: “that Jesus Christ came as a real human” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metonymy]])

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vqnb

figs-explicit

οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ πλάνος καὶ ὁ ἀντίχριστος

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This is the deceiver and the antichrist

Here, this could refer to: (1) the activity of deceiving others or to the kind of teaching that these people are doing. Alternate translation: “This is the work of the deceiver, the antichrist” or “This kind of teaching comes from the one who is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2) any member of the group of deceivers. Alternate translation: “Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” If it would be helpful, you could make one of these meanings explicit. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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vfdn

ὁ πλάνος καὶ ὁ ἀντίχριστος

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the deceiver and the antichrist

In your translation, it may be helpful to clarify that the deceiver and the antichrist are one person, not two.

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it9t

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βλέπετε ἑαυτούς

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Watch yourselves

The implication is that the believers are to “watch” themselves, that is, be careful, so that they are not deceived by the deceivers and antichrists. Alternate translation: “Be careful not to let the deceivers and antichrists influence you” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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i8n6

figs-explicit

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what

The word what is more fully defined in the next phrase as a “reward.” If it would be helpful in your language, you could state “reward” here, as well. See the UST. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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r9ky

figs-exclusive

εἰργασάμεθα

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we have worked for

The word we here is inclusive. John, his audience, and others have all worked to build up the faith of the believers to whom John is writing. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-exclusive]])

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mn3v

figs-metaphor

πᾶς ὁ προάγων καὶ μὴ μένων ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ

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everyone who goes beyond and does not remain in the teaching of Christ

John refers to the teaching of Christ as a place where faithful believers remain and also as a place that false teachers leave as they go beyond. The expression goes beyond refers to teaching new and false things that Jesus did not teach. Alternate translation: “Everyone who teaches things that Jesus did not teach” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

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x3ae

figs-infostructure

πᾶς ὁ προάγων καὶ μὴ μένων ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ

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Everyone who goes beyond and does not remain in the teaching of Christ

These two phrases mean the same thing, one stated positively (goes beyond) and the other stated negatively (does not remain). If it is mote natural in your language, you can reverse the order of these, as in the UST. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-infostructure]])

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xty9

figs-explicit

Θεὸν οὐκ ἔχει

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does not have God

To have God means to have a relationship with God as Savior through faith in Jesus Christ. If it would be helpful in your language, you could express this explicitly. Alternate translation: “does not belong to God” or “does not have a right relationship with God” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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x523

ὁ μένων ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ, οὗτος καὶ τὸν Πατέρα καὶ τὸν Υἱὸν ἔχει

1

The one who remains in the teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son

Alternate translation: “Someone who follows Christ’s teaching belongs to both the Father and the Son”

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xwoe

grammar-connect-logic-contrast

ὁ μένων ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ

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The one who remains in the teaching

This phrase is in contrast to the previous sentence. If it would be helpful in your language, you could use a word or phrase to mark this contrast, as in the UST. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/grammar-connect-logic-contrast]])

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vg19

figs-nominaladj

οὗτος

1

this one

John is using the demonstrative adjective this as a noun, to refer to a kind of person. ULT indicates this by adding the word one. If your language does not use adjectives in this way, you can translate this with an equivalent phrase. Alternate translation: “such a person” or “that kind of person” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-nominaladj]])

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k8cv

guidelines-sonofgodprinciples

τὸν Πατέρα καὶ τὸν Υἱὸν

1

the Father and the Son

Father and Son are important titles that describe the relationship between God and Jesus Christ. Be sure to express these titles consistently and accurately. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/guidelines-sonofgodprinciples]])

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x7pw

figs-explicit

εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς, καὶ ταύτην τὴν διδαχὴν οὐ φέρει

1

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching

The word anyone here implies “any teacher or preacher.” John does not want the believers to welcome any teacher who does not teach what Jesus taught, and specifically that Jesus came as a human being (see verse 7). Alternate translation: “If anyone comes to you, claiming to be a teacher, but he teaches differently than this” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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xafi

figs-metaphor

ταύτην τὴν διδαχὴν οὐ φέρει

1

does not bring this teaching

John is speaking of a teaching or a message as if it were an object that someone could bring. If you would not use this kind of metaphor in your language, you could use one that has the same meaning or use plain language. Alternate translation: “does not teach this same message” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

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ls1c

figs-explicit

μὴ λαμβάνετε αὐτὸν εἰς οἰκίαν

1

do not receive him into your house

John does not want the believers to accept a false teacher into their homes and, as a result, support his false teaching by showing him respect and providing for his needs. Alternate translation: “do not support him or encourage him by welcoming him into your home” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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lbct

figs-explicit

χαίρειν αὐτῷ μὴ λέγετε

1

do not say to him, “Greetings”

John warns the believers not to greet a false teacher respectfully in public. The implication is that he does not want them to do anything that might look like they are endorsing a false teacher or that would give a false teacher good standing in the eyes of others. Alternate translation: “do not give him a respectful public greeting” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

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uhea

ὁ λέγων…αὐτῷ χαίρειν

1

the one who says to him, “Greetings”

Alternate translation: “any person who gives him a respectful public greeting”

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n7zt

κοινωνεῖ τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ τοῖς πονηροῖς

1

shares in his evil deeds

The verb shares in expresses the concept of assisting and helping to advance the activity of the false teacher. Alternate translation: “takes part in his evil deeds” or “helps him in his evil deeds”

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gq26

figs-ellipsis

οὐκ ἐβουλήθην διὰ χάρτου καὶ μέλανος

1

I did not want with paper and ink

Here John leaves out some of the words that a sentence would need in many languages in order to be complete. If it would be helpful to your readers, you could supply these words from earlier in the sentence. Alternate translation: “I did not want to write these things with paper and ink” (See: Ellipsis)(See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-ellipsis]])

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nx77

figs-metonymy

διὰ χάρτου καὶ μέλανος

1

with paper and ink

John is not saying that he would rather write these things with something other than paper and ink. Rather, he is speaking of those writing materials to represent writing in general. He means that he wants to visit the believers personally and to continue his communication with them directly. Alternate translation: “to communicate these things in writing” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metonymy]])

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v4v2

figs-idiom

στόμα πρὸς στόμα λαλῆσαι

1

to speak mouth to mouth

The expression mouth to mouth is an idiom, meaning to speak in their presence. Use an idiom in your language with this same meaning, or simply express the meaning plainly. Alternate translation: “to speak face to face” or “to speak to you in person” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-idiom]])

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12

auwq

figs-activepassive

ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν πεπληρωμένη ᾖ

1

so that your joy might be made complete

If it would be helpful in your language, you could express this with an active verb form. Alternate translation: “so that this will make your joy complete” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-activepassive]])

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hwtk

figs-abstractnouns

ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν πεπληρωμένη ᾖ

1

so that your joy might be made complete

If it would be helpful in your language, you could express the idea behind the abstract noun joy with an adjective such as “joyful.” Alternate translation: “so that this will make you completely joyful” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-abstractnouns]])

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lt77

translate-textvariants

ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν πεπληρωμένη ᾖ

1

your joy might be made complete

See the note in Part 3 of the General Introduction to 2 John about the textual issue here. Alternate translation: “our joy might be made complete” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/translate-textvariants]])

60

2JN

1

12

k9yt

figs-exclusive

ὑμῶν

1

your

If you use “our” here instead of your, it would include both John and the letter recipients. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-exclusive]])

61

2JN

1

13

fh6j

figs-metaphor

τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἀδελφῆς σου τῆς ἐκλεκτῆς

1

The children of your chosen sister

This could: (1) be a metaphor. Just as John uses the term “chosen lady” as a figurative expression for the group of believers to whom he is writing in verse 1 and the term “her children” for the members of that group, also here John is describing his own group of believers as the chosen sister of that group and the members of his group as the children of this sister. Alternate translation: “The members of the chosen group of believers here” If you choose to keep the metaphor in the text, you may want to include an explanation of the meaning in a footnote. (2) refer to the biological children of a specific woman who is the biological sister of another specific woman to whom John is writing. (3) John may be using the words sister and children in a spiritual sense, but to refer to an individual woman and the other people that she has led to faith in Jesus. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])

62

2JN

1

13

aonw

figs-idiom

τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἀδελφῆς σου τῆς ἐκλεκτῆς

1

The children of your chosen sister

In this context, the term chosen indicates someone whom God has chosen to receive salvation. In the context of John’s metaphor, this indicates a church or group of people whom God has chosen to receive salvation. Alternate translation: “The members of this group of believers in Jesus” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-idiom]])

63

2JN

1

13

a4rc

ἀσπάζεταί σε

1

greet you

As was customary in this culture, John concludes the letter by extending greetings from people who are with him and who know the people to whom he is writing. Your language may have a particular way of sharing greetings in a letter. If so, you can use that form here. Alternate translation: “send you their greetings” or “ask to be remembered to you”

64

2JN

1

13

qjdz

figs-you

σε…σου

1

your … you

The pronouns you and your are singular here, in keeping with John’s metaphor of writing to a congregation as though it were a lady. (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-you]])