Why was 2 and 3 John Canonized?


For our Epistles project, one of the questions we had to answer was why the book was canonized. So, as I read through looking for a topic to write about, I noticed that 2 and 3 John were not like the other books we have read. These two books are much different. The most easily seen difference is the length of the two books.

Second John has one chapter and thirteen verses.  Third John has one chapter and fifteen verses. Compared to the length of other books of the Bible, 2 and 3 John would be the equivalent to a long text message. Why, then, did these two short books become part of the biblical canon?

“The Muratorian canon is a manuscript fragment that represents the oldest known orthodox list (or canon) of the New Testament.” (www.churchhistory101.com). The Muratorian canon was compiled between 170-200 AD. The Muratorian canon included the following works: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John,Acts, all 13 Pauline letters, 1  John (possibly combined with 2 John), Jude, and Revelation.

A book is canonized based on three things: “apostolicity, true doctrine (regula fidei), and widespread geographical usage,” (www.britannica.com)

2 John:

Apostolicity: The author is the Apostle John according to www.gty.org. The author refers to himself as “the Elder”. This could mean that the Apostle John was old in age.

True Doctrine: Although the book is very short, it reiterates the basis of Christianity.  It tells the “elect lady” to love others and beware of false teachers.

Widespread Geographical Usage: The reason 2 John was written was to warn of showing false teachers hospitality. There are many “false teachers” during this time. Many people used this letter to justify the lack of Christian hospitality.


3 John: 

Apostolicity:  It is believed that the same person wrote 3 John that wrote 2 John, (www.gty.org). This letter can not be dated. However, the source says that word usage matches 1 and 2 John and may have been written closely together while John was in Ephesus.

True Doctrine: Like 2 John, this is a personal letter. There are many specific people mentioned. Unlike in 2 John, the author condemns those who do not show hospitality to others.

Widespread Geographical Usage: Hospitality and loving others are both important parts of Christianity. This book is used to justify showing hospitality to those in the Church.


Second and third John were disputed for many years because the letters were short, informal, written to one individual, and did not have a lot of theological basis. However, both books met the qualifications for canonization, and are now in the Bible.

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