Tuesday, 30 June 2020
Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 2 John -12
John’s short letter begins its closing remarks here, and it is in a manner which is very similar to his next letter, 3 John. He begins with, “Having many things to write to you.” It is an indication that John had a lot on his mind, but either time, strength, or maybe caution because of the sensitive nature of what he desired to say, precluded him from putting his thoughts down. For whatever reason, he cut his thoughts short.
He then next says, “I did not wish to do so with paper and ink.” The words “to do so” are supplied by the translators, supposedly for clarity. However, they then make the verse illogical. The two thoughts would show someone not thinking clearly –
“I have a whole bunch to write to you, but I don’t want to do so with paper and ink.” “What are you going to write with then? Crayons and a plank of wood?”
Rather, John is saying, “I had a lot to write to you, but I purposed not with paper and ink.” It shows that despite having the desire to write, he decided that putting his words to paper and ink was not the best means of conveying what he desired to say.
As a point of interest, the word translated as “paper” is chartés. It is found only here in Scripture. Vincent’s Word Studies explains the word –
“The Egyptian papyrus or byblus, Cyperus papyrus, anciently very common, but not now found within the limits of the country. It is a tall, smooth flag or reed, with a large triangular stalk, containing the pith which furnished the paper. The paper was manufactured by cutting the pith into strips, arranging them horizontally, and then placing across them another layer of strips, uniting the two layers by a paste, and subjecting the whole to a heavy pressure. The upper and middle portions of the reed were used for this purpose. The fact that the plant is no longer found is significant in connection with Isaiah’s prophecy that “the flags (Hebrews suph, papyrus) shall waste away” (Isaiah 19:6). The plant grew in shallow water or in marshes, and is accordingly represented on the monuments as at the side of a stream or in irrigated lands. The Jews wrote on various materials, such as the leaves of the olive and palm, the rind of the pomegranate, and the skins of animals. The tablet (πινακίδιον, Luke 1:63) was in very common use. It consisted of thin pieces of wood, strung together, and either plain, or covered with papyrus or with wax.”
The word translated as “ink” is melan. It literally means “black.” This is its third and last use in Scripture. Again, Vincent’s says, “Ink was prepared of soot or of vegetable or mineral substances. Gum and vitriol were also used. Colored inks, red and gold, were also employed.”
John next says, “but I hope to come to you and speak face to face.” Whatever is on John’s mind is either not pressing enough to spend a lot of time writing, or it is too important or sensitive to be put into writing. Thus, it will have to wait until they can speak “face to face.” The Greek literally reads, “mouth to mouth.” As Paul uses the term, “face to face,” in 1 Corinthians 13:12, John’s words here should be translated as he says them, thus avoiding the confusion of having two separate thoughts translated in the same way.
Finally, John gives the reason for such an intimate discussion, saying, “that our joy may be full.” Here, the verb is a perfect participle. It is more rightly translated as, “having been completed,” or “filled full.” John is saying that fellowship in such matters is far more satisfying than simply putting thoughts on paper. Such thoughts can be misconstrued, fail to express proper emotion, and so on. It is evident from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 7 that the words of his previous letter to those at Corinth had been taken in an unintended light. Because of this, he spent time and effort to ensure that things were properly understood. However, when speaking intimately, the joy of the conversation, and the surety that the discussion is fully understood, is always a blessing to the souls of those who participate in them.
Life application: It is apparent that John had a lot on his mind when he started writing but wearied of “paper and ink.” Instead, he decided to hold off on his thoughts until he could speak with the elect lady.
When John would meet up with the lady, he says their conversation would make his joy full. The way he says it brings about the thought of not only being full, but continuing to be filled, even to overflowing. He gives the same sentiment in 1 John 1:4 – “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” John had a passion for those he addressed, and it is apparent that he truly reveled in them and their company. We can learn a great deal from such an attitude as we relate to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ – not only sharing time with them, but truly reveling in their company and sharing the close bond which is with our Lord and Savior.
Heavenly Father, what a joy it is to read your Word each day and to share in the personal thoughts of those who have written down the various passages of it. They are thoughts which deal with their relationships with You, with other people of faith, and how we also should interact between one another. Thank You for including these treasures in Your word. Amen.