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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

SEVERAL ancient writers have entertained doubts respecting the Second and Third Epistles of S. John, supposing them to have been written by John the Presbyter, not John the Apostle. They have been led to think this because the writer begins by calling himself the Elder, or the Presbyter, in Greek πρεσβύτερος. This doubt is mentioned by Eusebius (H. E. lib. 3 cap. ult.) and S Jerome (de Scrip. Eccles.). But that both these Epistles are canonical is now de fide, and also that they were written by S. John the Apostle. This appears, 1st. From the definition of the Council of Trent (sess. 4), and the Third Council of Carthage (cap. 47), and the Council of Laodicæa (cap. 59), and the 84 of the Canons of the Apostles.

2d. From the Fathers, viz. Irenæus (lib. 3 c. 13), S. Augustine (lib. 2 de Doct. Christ. c. 8). Hear also S. Jerome (Epis. ad Paul.): “James, Peter, John, and Jude the Apostles published seven epistles, both mystical, succinct, and brief, all about the same length: short in words, long in sentences, so that there are few readers who are unacquainted with them.”* He says elsewhere (Epist. ad Evagr.), “The son of thunder, whom Jesus loved most dearly, sounds with his trumpet; he, I mean, who from the Saviour’s breast drank rivers of doctrine, ‘the Presbyter to the Elect Lady and her children, whom I love in the truth.’ ”

3d. Similarity of style and matter is an argument for these two Epistles having the same author as the first. This is what Baronius says (An. 99, cap. 9): “Certainly, if ever it be allowable to judge by their likeness to one another that children are born of the same parents, any one can easily perceive, from the words, the sentences, the style, the tone, bearing as they do on the surface the same character, that these Epistles have proceeded from the same author. First, with regard to the words and sentences, there are many indications of this, as when he says in the First Epistle ‘I write not a new commandment unto you, but an old.’ So in the Second, ‘Not as writing a new commandment unto you, but that which we have had from the beginning.’ Again in the First, ‘Every one who denieth the Son, neither hath he the Father: he who confesseth the Son hath the Father also.’ And in the Second he utters the same sentiment in the words, ‘Every one who draws back, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God: he who abides in the doctrine of Christ hath both the Father and the Son.’ So too in the First, ‘Whosoever is born of God sinneth not. In the Third the same idea is thus expressed, ‘He that doeth good is of God; and he that is born of God sinneth not.’ And as in the First Epistle it is frequently inculcated that we should love in deed and in truth, in the Second and Third there are injunctions to love in truth. In the First Epistle we find, ‘Many false prophets are gone out into the world; in this is known the spirit of God,’ &c. So in the Second we find the same idea in almost identical words, ‘There are many seducers gone out into the world: he who confesseth not that Jesus is come in the flesh, this is a seducer and an antichrist.’ Again, we have in the First Epistle, ‘This is love, that we keep His commandments;’ and in the Second, ‘This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.’ This continual inculcation of charity, love, and truth in these two Epistles clearly indicates that we have in them a genuine transcript of the mind of S. John, just as we have in the First.”

To the objection that John writes of himself as the Elder, or Presbyter, I reply that in that age Presbyter and Bishop had the same meaning, as I have shown on 1 Tim. 4:14. Moreover, S. John, worn out at this time with the fulness of years and the weight of the apostolic dignity, was the oldest of all living Christians. The last of the Apostles, he lived until the age of Trajan, and died about A.D. 101.








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