Original Research

The ethical implications of 2 John 10–11

Jan van der Watt
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 36, No 1 | a1483 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v36i1.1483 | © 2015 Jan van der Watt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 May 2015 | Published: 30 November 2015

About the author(s)

Jan van der Watt, Source texts of Judaism and Christianity, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands; Department of New Testament, University of the Free State, South Africa

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The imperative in 2 John 10–11 not to receive a visitor with a false doctrine into one’s house is one of the most controversial prohibitions in the New Testament, especially in light of the commandment of love, ancient hospitality conventions, and modern-day expectations of open discussion. This raises the question what this prohibition is specifically about and whether hospitality is really asked for. This question is considered in some detail in this article. A widely held view is that the prohibition in 2 John 10 is not in line with generally accepted Christian ethics, since it militates against the attitude of love, care, and hospitality. This view is dominant in commentaries. This article aims at countering this view by proposing that the issue is not hospitality but endangering the identity and tradition of the group. This should be regarded as a positive Christian value.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: I challenge theological readings of 2 John 10–11 that regard the text as unchristian in its exhortation. The results of the research show that hospitality is not the communicative centre of the text, but protection of the group, which was a common feature, not only in Christianity, but also in the ancient world in general. The future discourse should now move from focusing on moral issues related to hospitality to issues related to preserving tradition within a religion.


2 John; Hospitality;


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