The elect lady

John wrote his second epistle to “the elect lady and her children.” This unusual greeting may have been John’s way of singling out an individual that preferred to remain anonymous or code words for a group of people that John knew would understand who they were without mentioning any names. John’s second letter was written around 85-95 A.D., a time period when the persecution of first century Christians was at a peak. John may have wanted to let his audience know that they were highly regarded by him and yet were being protected from unnecessary exposure.

The Greek word translated lady, Kuria (koo-ree’-ah) is the feminine of the word kurios (koo’-ree-os) which means supreme in authority (G2962). Kurios is most often translated as Lord and was used primarily to address Jesus during his ministry on Earth. John may have used the female version of the word kurios intentionally to signify the church or the entire body of believers that was later identified as “the bride” in his book of Revelation. The Greek word translated elect, eklektos (ek-lek-tos’) means select or chosen out. Eklektos also appears in Revelation 17:14 where it says, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. (italics mine)”

John’s message to the elect lady was prefaced with a declaration of authenticity, something that would make it clear to the readers of his letter that it was indeed John that was writing to them. He stated, “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever” (2 John 1:1-2). The Greek word translated truth, aletheia (al-ay’-thi-a) was somewhat of a signature word for John. He used it 20 times in his gospel to communicate the message of Jesus to unbelievers that were skeptical about his deity. John was most likely referring to Jesus when he said, “all they that have known the truth; for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever” because Jesus referred to himself as the truth when he told his disciple Thomas “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

John took great care to open his letter to the elect lady and her children in a way that was unmistakable even though the letter itself was very brief, only 13 verses from beginning to end. It hardly seems worth it to go to such great lengths to formulate an elaborate greeting for a letter with so little content. It seems as if John’s primary objective was to acknowledge his reader rather than to convey an important message. Perhaps, John was sending what we would refer to today as a quick note or an instant message, just to let them know he was alive and well. John’s closing comment suggests that he intended to make a personal visit and preferred to speak to the elect lady, whoever she was, face to face. He told her, “Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full” (2 John 1:12).

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