3 John

Instructions to a Beloved Child

The Recipient

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth (3 John 1).

The name Gaius was one of the most common male names throughout Roman history, second only to the name Lucius. The name appears several times in the New Testament (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 1 Cor 1:14; Rom 16:23), although none can be connected with any certainty with the recipient of this letter. This stele, which mentions a certain Gaius of a slightly later time, was photographed at the Hierapolis Museum.

John's Greeting

Beloved, I pray that in all things you may prosper and be in health (3 John 2).

This verse is widely recognized by scholars as a stereotypical greeting for a letter of the period, though surely the greeting was a heartfelt prayer when uttered by John. The term “beloved” is specifically Christian, but the wish of good health for the addressee was standard in letters. This 2nd-century slab was offered by the guild of incense and perfume sellers, and it includes wishes for the health of the imperial household.

Spiritual Children

I have no joy greater than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth (3 John 4).

John refers to Gaius as one of his “children,” usually understood not as referring to a blood relationship but to their relationship in the faith. This statue fragment comes from the sanctuary of Apollo at Idalium, Cyprus. It is thought to depict the hand of a parent on the head of a child, a metaphor that fits John’s concern and affection for his spiritual children. This artifact was photographed at the British Museum.

The Church in Ephesus

They have testified to your love before the church (3 John 6).

“The church” can probably be taken to refer to John’s home church, which according to church tradition was at Ephesus. Hundreds of years later, a magnificent basilica was built in Ephesus in memory of John’s ministry in the city.


Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but imitate what is good (3 John 11).

This mosaic depicts actors preparing for a play; the seated man is the choregos, a wealthy patron who financed the chorus. The other men are in various stages of dressing for their roles as they choose masks (left) and don costumes that go with the part they are to play. This mosaic was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

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