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A DISCUSSION OF 2 JOHN 7-11

—REVIEW—

A comparison between 1 John 2:18, 19, 4:1-3, and 2 John 7-11 shows that the antichrists mentioned are active propagandists who deny “Jesus as coming in the flesh.” These had not been disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. But they “went out from ours” (= they went out from the true Christian doctrine).

In the Watchtower literature from 1930 to the present, there is no example of a discussion of the context of 2 John 7-11, claiming that the text refers to disfellowshipped persons.

The Watchtower of 1 August 1974 implies that 2 John 7-11 does not refer to disfellowshipped persons. But the passage literally refers to deceivers or antichrists who are active propagandists of false teachings. The reason why the passage is used in connection with disfellowshipped ones is that the GB says that disfellowshipped persons are like the antichrists. This means that there is no reference in the Bible saying that Christians shall not greet or speak with disfellowshipped persons. This is something that the GB has invented. But it is erroneously presented in the Watchtower literature as a Bible teaching.

Very few readers are able to differentiate between the view that 2 John 7-11 refers to disfellowshipped persons, and that disfellowshipped persons are like the antichrists mentioned in 2 John 7-11. Therefore, most readers are misled!  They think that 2 John 7-11 per context refers to disfellowshipped persons. Articles after 1974, such as The Watchtower of 15 September 1981, explicitly says that 2 John 7-11 refers to disfellowshipped persons.

The important point is that the Bible does not say that Christians shall not greet and speak with disfellowshipped persons. It is the view of the GB that is presented as a Bible teaching.

The first time 2 John 10, 11 is mentioned in the Watchtower literature after 1930 is in The Watchtower of 15 May 1943, page 148. The reference is to “the evil servant” class. The second time 2 John 10, 11 is mentioned is in The Watchtower of 1 June 1952, page 142, in the first article discussing disfellowshipping in detail. The verses are not used as evidence that the members of the congregation should not speak with or greet a disfellowshipped person. But they are used to show that disfellowshipped persons are not allowed to participate in meetings in private homes.

The Watchtower of 15 November 1952, pages 703, 704, applies 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 and 2 John 10 to disfellowshipping. The next reference to 2 John 10 is in The Watchtower of 15 October 1962, where we read: “But anyone making a practice of sin must be disfellowshipped. ( 1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 John 10, 11)” I will now discuss 2 John 7-11, and the maxim of this discussion is found in the frame below.

 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Look out for yourselves, so that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward.  Everyone who pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. The one who does remain in this teaching is the one who has both the Father and the Son. 10  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. 11  For the one who says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works. (2 John 7-11 NWT13)

“Holding to the Scriptures, neither minimizing what they say nor reading into them something they do not say, will enable us to keep a balanced view toward disfellowshipped ones”The Watchtower of 1974, page 472.

A COMPARISON BETWEEN 1 JOHN AND 2 JOHN 7-11

In order to understand 2 John 7-11, we need to understand 1 John 2:18, 19, and 4:1-3 because the three passages speak about the same issue.

18  Young children, it is the last hour, and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared, from which fact we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us (eks hēmōn), but they were not of our sort (eks hēmōn); for if they had been of our sort (eks hēmōn); , they would have remained with us (meth hēmōn). But they went out so that it might be shown that not all are of our sort (eks hēmōn). 1 John 2:18,19 (NWT13)

We note the plural word “antichrists,” and we may ask about its reference. The verses neither identify the antichrists nor tell what their errors are. But verse 19 tells something about their position. The first clause says, “They went out from us,” and there are three possible understandings of this clause. The important expression is eks (“out of, from”) hēmōn (“we, us”) Both the preposition and the pronoun stand in the genitive case, and there are three possible interpretations: 1) The case may be ablatival genitive, and that would mean that there is one group (the Christians), and the antichrists went out of this group and are no longer a part of it. 2) The case may be subjective genitive with the translation “out of ours” (“out of something that belongs to us”). What belongs to us (John and the Christian addressees) is the true Christian doctrine. 3) The case may be objective genitive, and the genitive points to the object (“of our sort”) The NWT84 and NWT13 takes the case as objective genitive by using “of our sort.” This may be correct, but I think that the subjective genitive is more likely: “out of ours” (= out of the true Christian doctrine).

The verb “went out” is active, and even if the case is ablatival genitive, the antichrists were not thrown out or expelled. But the active verb shows that in that case they went out by free will. If the genitive is subjective or objective, there is no physical activity. But “went out” means that the antichrists chose another doctrine than John and his addressees. I would like to quote the Hermeneia Commentary.

19  That the false teachers claim to be Christian follows from v. 19 (Greek text) “they went out from us, but they were not of us.” The negative assertion shows that the false teachers claim to belong to the Christian congregation, but unjustifiably so, as the author gives the reader to understand by the ambiguous sense of ex (“out of/from”): the heretical teachers belonged to the congregation at one time, for they emerged from it. That certainly does not mean that they were excluded (by excommunication, for instance). Nor does it mean that they organized themselves independently (for instance, as a sect). The repeated warnings against them show that they constitute a present danger to the congregation, and therefore understand themselves as legitimate members of the congregation. In the author’s judgment, that is a false assertion: “but they were not of (ex) us,” i.e., they doubtless went out of the congregation, but they did not stem “from” it, in truth they never essentially belonged to it.[1]

[1]. R. Bultmann, A Commentary on the Johannine Epistles. Hermeneia·—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973, 113.

“Hermeneia: There is no reason to believe that the antichrists had been excommunicated from the Christian congregation.”

THE FALSE DOCTRINES OF THE ANTICHRISTS

What was the false doctrine of the antichrists? We find the answer in 1 John 4:1-3 (NWT13)

Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired statement, but test the inspired statements to see whether they originate with God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know that the inspired statement is from God: Every inspired statement that acknowledges Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh originates with God.  But every inspired statement that does not acknowledge Jesus does not originate with God. Furthermore, this is the antichrist’s inspired statement that you have heard was coming, and now it is already in the world.

The focus here must be on the phrase “acknowledges Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh.” The use of “Christ” together with “Jesus” implies the persons did not deny that a man with this name had lived on the earth. So, the denial had to relate to the nature of this man. The Pre-Gnostic Kerinthos lived at the same time as the apostle John. He taught that Jesus was a mere man, though being holy. At his baptism, Christ, or the holy spirit, was sent from heaven and dwelt in the man Jesus. Thus, Jesus had come in the flesh but not Christ. This may have been what John had in mind.  In any case, there was a wrong view in connection with the nature of Jesus Christ that the antichrists taught.

On this background, we may get a correct understanding of 2 John 7-11. Verse 7 mentions “the antichrist” in the singular, and the antichrist is also called “the deceiver.” This shows that John speaks about one of the groups of antichrists as representing the whole group. The basic error of the antichrist is the same as the error 1 John mentions: “not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” The fact that the verb “to come” is perfect in 1 John 4:2 and present in 2 John 7 has little importance because both the Greek perfect and present are aspects, and each aspect stresses a different part of the same action and not the time of the action. Thus, both clauses may refer to the teaching of Kerinthos.

“The antichrists may have followed Kerinthos, and their teaching may have been that only Jesus had come in the flesh but not Christ. At his baptism Jesus merely received the Christ, that is, the holy spirit.”

Verse 9 confirms the error of the false teachers: “Everyone who pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God.” The words “(who) pushes ahead” are translated from the Greek word proagōn. According to Louw and Nida, the words have the meaning: “to go beyond established bounds of teaching or instruction, with the implication of failure to obey properly.”[1] To “push ahead” is the opposite of “to remain in the teaching of the Christ.” The deceivers spread a false teaching about Jesus Christ, and therefore they rightly were called antichrists.

The important point in our context is that neither in 1 John 2:18, 19 and 4:1-3 nor in 2 John 7-11 does John speak about disfellowshipped persons and how to treat such persons. But in both letters, John warns about the deceivers and antichrists who were a real danger for the Christians.

On this background, we can understand the meaning of 2 John 10: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.” What is the antecedent of “this teaching”? It must be “the teaching of Christ” in verse 9. But to what does “the teaching of Christ” refer? There is a genitive relationship between “teaching” and “Christ,” and of all the different meanings of the genitive case, only two are possible here, namely, subjective genitive and objective genitive. The NWT13 and most other translations view the construction as subjective genitive, which means that the teaching is owned by Christ or introduced by Christ. If the construction is taken as an objective genitive, the translation would be, “the teaching about Christ,” “the teaching that refers to Christ.” If this is the correct understanding of the genitive construction, it must refer to “Christ as coming in the flesh” in verse 7.  This means that those who push ahead do not remain in the teaching of Christ “as coming in the flesh.” The advantage of the view that the genitive is objective is that the words then have a concrete reference in the context, in verse 7. If the genitive is subjective, the reference is uncertain. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says:

“The teaching of Christ” can be construed as an objective genitive—i.e., the teaching about Christ—as Bultmann and Marshall read it. The reference would then be to the teaching that Jesus Christ has indeed come in the flesh. But it is equally possible that the genitive is subjective and refers to Jesus’ teaching in v.5 that “we love one another” (cf. Brooke, Schnackenburg, Stott, Westcott).[2]

There are several reasons to reject the view that “this teaching” refers to the clause “we love one another” in verse 5. First, when there are two possible antecedents, one in verse 7 and another in verse 5, in most cases, the nearest antecedent is the correct one. Second, the possible farthest antecedent is rather elusive. It is difficult to demonstrate that someone does not show real love for others. It is because of having “this teaching” that a person should not be received into the homes, and therefore, “this teaching” cannot be ambiguous and unclear. Third, to deny “Jesus as coming in the flesh” is a denial of one of the most basic Christian doctrines, and that would be a good reason not to welcome someone. Fourth, those who deny “Jesus as coming in the flesh” are called “deceivers,” and we will deny a deceiver, an active propagandist, entrance into our home. But a Christian will hardly say to someone. “You are not welcome into my home because you do not show the right Christian love.” Instead, a Christian would try to help a fellow Christian to show the right kind of love. Fifth, the expression in verse 9, “everyone who pushes ahead” (NW13), is a strong expression; the NEB rendering is, “Anyone who runs ahead too far.” This strong expression excellently fits a denial of one basic Christian doctrine. But we would hardly say, “Everyone who runs ahead too far by not showing love for others.” So, there are very good reasons to believe that that “this teaching” refers to “Jesus as coming in the flesh.

[1]. E. Nida, and P. Louw. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains. United Bible Societies, 1996.

[2]. Barker, 2 John, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 12, page 365.

NOT TO WELCOME A PERSON REFERS TO THE ACTIVE PROPAGANDISTS

The Watchtower of 1 August 1974, page 465, shows that the words about not receiving him into your homes or greeting him refer to active propagandists:

Note that in 2 John verse 7, the apostle John says that “many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Then John gives the warning to be on guard and not to receive such ones into one’s home, for these are active propagandists of false teachings, deceitful advocates of wrong conduct. They should be given no foothold from which to make further infiltration. One should not even greet them, so as to avoid being a sharer in their wicked works

If such a deceiver or antichrist wanted to enter the home of a Christian in order to spread his viewpoints, it would be correct to deny him entrance. The verb “to greet” (khairō) has the meaning “to enjoy a state of happiness and peace,” and the word was used to welcome a guest. A deceiver or an antichrist should not be welcomed! There are two important points here: The letter does not speak about disfellowshipping at all, but it speaks about active propagandists. And the word khairō was only used to greet a guest who would come to one’s home. Therefore, the word cannot be used to show that Christians shall not greet disfellowshipped persons they meet by saying “Hi” or “Hello.” When The Watchtower uses 2 John 10 as evidence that Christians must not speak with disfellowshipped persons and greet them, they are violating the maxim presented in the frame at the beginning. They read into the verses of 2 John 7-10, something that is not there and by this misapply the Holy Scriptures!

“2 John 7-11 cannot be applied to disfellowshipped persons; this is forbidden by the context. The reference to disfellowshipped ones by The Watchtower is a violation of the Holy Scriptures.”

The Watchtower of 1 August 1974 shows the real reason why 2 John 7-11 is applied to disfellowshipping.

2 JOHN 7-11 IS USED AS AN ILLUSTRATION OF DISFELLOWSHIPPED PERSONS

Let us now take a closer look at the discussion of 2 John 7-11 in The Watchtower of 1 August 1974. The basic error of the GB is that the article does not discuss the real meaning of 2 John 9-11 according to the context. But the verses are applied as an illustration of something else, and it is not easy for the reader to understand the difference between a direct application and an illustration. To apply an account as an illustration of something else means that the literal meaning of the text of the Bible is not used as the authority, but what the literal text reminds the author of is used. By this use, the authority is moved from the text of the Bible to the personal view of the author, and we must accept the author as the final authority. Let us look at the details. On pages 465 and  we read:

Do the apostle’s words here necessarily apply to all persons who are put out of the congregation for wrongdoing?…Are, then, all who have been disfellowshipped like the persons described in John’s second letter? At the time that they had to be disfellowshipped they were apparently following a course like such ones or at least manifesting a similar sentiment.

The important word in the quotation is “like.” The author does not say that John 9-11 refers to disfellowshipping, which clearly is not true. But the author asks if all disfellowshipped persons are like those who are mentioned in verses 7-11? The answer is that at the time they were disfellowshipped, they were like the deceivers and antichrists. But at some later time, the situation may have changed, and the disfellowshipped persons are no longer like the antichrists.

“2 John 7-11 does not refer to disfellowshipping. But The GB says that when a person is disfellowshipped, he or she is like the deceivers and antichrists mentioned in the passage. Thus, the authority is moved from the Bible to the GB. ”

This discussion again has moved the authority from the Bible to the author of the article. The author says that at the time of disfellowshipping, every person is like the antichrist. Such generalizations are questionable because the author does not know the circumstances of every disfellowshipped person. Moreover, a great number of disfellowshippings are made on the basis of human commandments made by the GB without any basis in the Bible and not on the basis of a violation of Biblical laws. And a great number are made on the basis of the subjective assessments of the members of a judicial committee, which may differ from the assessments of members of another committee in a similar situation. To say that all these disfellowshipped persons are like deceivers and antichrists is simply absurd.

“By applying 2 John 7-11 to disfellowshipped persons, not because the verses refer to disfellowshipped ones, but because the disfellowshipped ones are like the antichrists, the readers are misled. Most readers will conclude that 2 John 7-11 refers to disfellowshipped persons.”

The author has a good purpose for his comparison. He wants to show that while all disfellowshipped persons were like deceivers and antichrists at the time they were disfellowshipped, they later could change. To drive home this point, he says on page 468, “at 1 Corinthians 5:11 the apostle warns against mixing in company with one who ‘is’ a fornicator.” Because there are two kinds of disfellowshipped persons, the elders can be allowed to approach them who “are not fornicators etc.,” in order to help them to return to the congregation and be reinstated. The motive behind this reasoning is fine. But the use of 2 John 9-11 to achieve this fine goal is really bad. By using the word “like,” the author admits that 2 John 9-11 has nothing to do with disfellowshipping. And to use verses that have nothing to do with disfellowshipping in an argument in favor of two kinds of disfellowshipped persons is bad indeed. Most readers will be misled because they think that John 9-11 really deals with disfellowshipping.

In The Watchtower of 15 September 1981, a view that differs from the view in the articles about disfellowshipping from 1974 is presented.

All faithful Christians need to take to heart the serious truth that God inspired John to write: “He that says a greeting to [an expelled sinner who is promoting an erroneous teaching or carrying on ungodly conduct] is a sharer in his wicked works.”​—2 John 11.

The Watchtower of 1 August 1974 argues that John 9-11 does not discuss disfellowshipping. But the verses are an illustration of those who are disfellowshipped. But the quotation above claims without any contextual evidence that 2 John discusses an expelled sinner. The expression in The Watchtower of 1974 is correct, and the view in The Watchtower of 1981 is wrong.

2 JOHN 7-11 APPLIED TO DISASSOCIATED PERSONS

The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” (2019) 18.1, 2. says:

Whereas disfellowshipping is an action taken by a judicial committee against an unrepentant wrongdoer, disassociation is an action taken by a baptized member of the congregation who no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The book lists four situations as “Actions that may indicate disassociation.”

  • Making Known a Firm Decision to Be Known No Longer as One of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • Joining another Religious Organization and Making Known His Intention to Remain with It.
  • Willingly and Unrepentently Accepting Blood.
  • Taking a Course That Violates Christian Neutrality.

The way disassociated persons are viewed clearly shows that the concept “disassociation” is a euphemism for “disfellowshipping.” (MBR pages 216-219) The Watchtower of 15 July 1985, page 31, has the following question:

Did 2 John 10, which says not to receive into one’s home or to greet certain ones, refer only to those who had promoted false doctrine?

The article first quotes the JW lexicon Aid to Bible Understanding: “Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the ‘antichrist’ (1 John 2:18, 19).”

Then the article continues:

A person who had willfully and formally disassociated himself from the congregation would have matched that description [of being a deceiver and an antichrist]. By deliberately repudiating God’s congregation and by renouncing the Christian way, he would have made himself an apostate. A loyal Christian would not have wanted to fellowship with an apostate.

This is again a misuse of the Bible and a generalization that ascribes bad motives to a great number of people. I will use point 1) above to illustrate this. Members of the GB have in writings and talks advocated that children of JW should be baptized at a very early age. In my view, this is wrong because young children are not able to understand what dedication to Jehovah really means. Recently, I got an E-mail from a Witness who was baptized when he was seven years old, and I know of others who have been baptized before they were 10 years old.

Suppose now that a person was baptized at an early age, and as an adult, he realizes that he was persuaded by his parents to be baptized and that he did not really understand what he did. He feels that he became a part of the organization because of his parent’s will and not because of his own will. So he writes a letter telling that he does not want to be counted as one of JW.  He has formally disassociated himself. But is this person like the deceivers and antichrists mentioned in 1 John 2:18, 19 and 2 John 10, who were active propagandists? To claim that simply is nonsensical. And what about a person who has been treated in a bad way by the elders of his congregation, and who is so broken that he feels he cannot be in the congregation anymore? Or what about a person who has been sexually mistreated by someone in his or her congregation? Therefore he or she leaves the congregation. These are definitely not like the antichrists who were active propagandists.

I will also use point 4 above as an illustration. Point 18.3.4 in “Shepherd The Flock Of God” shows that “to disassociate oneself” is a euphemism for disfellowshipping:

If his employment makes him a clear accomplice in nonneutral activities, he should generally be allowed six months to make an adjustment. If he does not, he has disassociated himself.

I will illustrate this situation. A brother is working for a company that, among many other products, also makes parts for engines that are used in fighter jets. The elders view the brother’s work as a violation of his Christian neutrality, and the elders give him six months to change his occupation. The brother says that the company produces different items that have nothing to do with the military, and the parts of engines is only a relatively small part of the total production. So he does not want to get a new job. After six months, he is viewed as one who has disassociated himself from the congregation by his free will. But in reality, he was thrown out of the congregation against his will. Has this brother deliberately repudiated God’s congregation and renounced the Christian way? Absolutely not! It was the elders who forced him to disassociate himself.

Those who have disassociated themselves are treated exactly in the same way as those who have been disfellowshipped. No one greets them and no one speaks with them; they are treated as if they do not exist. And John 10 is used as a pretext for this treatment.

CONCLUSION

A comparison between 1 John chapters 2 and 4 and 2 John 7-11 shows that the deceivers and antichrists were active propagandists who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. None of these scriptures deals with disfellowshipping.

The words “do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him” exclusively refer to the deceivers and antichrists, and these words have nothing to do with disfellowshipped persons.

The Watchtower of 1 August 1974 shows why 2 John 7-11 has been applied to disfellowshipped persons. But the article indicates that these verses do not refer to disfellowshipped persons. But the passage is used as an illustration of disfellowshipped persons. This is an extremely important saying because it shows that it is not the Bible that says that Christians shall not greet disfellowshipped persons or speak with them. But this is a non-biblical decision made by the GB. And the pretext used is that disfellowshipped persons are like the deceivers and antichrists mentioned in 2 John 7-11. All of this indicates a break with the maxim used in this article. The literal meaning of the text of the Bible is set aside, and the opinion of the GB is presented in a way as to give the reader the impression that this is the view of the Bible. The readers are misled.

2 John 7-11 is also applied to disassociated persons. Again, likeness is stressed. At the time a person has disassociated himself, he or she is like the deceivers and antichrists. But later, the person may change. Again, the view of the GB is presented as Bible truth.

CHALLENGING QUESTIONS

  1. Can you prove on the basis of the context that 2 John 7-11 deals with disfellowshipped persons?
  2. When The Watchtower of 1 August 1974 shows that 2 John 10 is only used as an illustration, and thereby imply that it has nothing to do with disfellowshipping, how can The Watchtower of 15 September 1981 apply 2 John 10 to disfellowshipped persons? Is it not misleading the readers?
  3. When the elders give a brother six months to change his occupation because they have decided that his job violates his neutrality, and he continues in his job. Has he then disassociated himself from the congregation? Or has he been thrown out because of the view of the elders?
Rolf Furuli

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