Commentary for: 2 John 1:1   

The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not I only, but also all those who have come to know the truth,

“chosen.” From the Greek adjective, eklektos (#1588 ἐκλεκτός). [For more information on “chosen,” see commentary on 2 Timothy 2:10].

“lady.” From the Greek kuria (#2959 κυρία), this word is the feminine form of kupios, “Lord.” It is hard to translate into English. We do not have a word like “lordess;” the phrase “female lord” would be awkward; and “mistress” or “dame” give a totally wrong impression. The terminology “lords and ladies” was commonly used of the ruling class of society at the time of the writing of the King James Version, and the term “Lady” is still used in some circles in the sense of a woman who is in authority or control of a household or holds a position of authority in government. Therefore, although the meaning “lady” as one who had some authority over others was much clearer during the time of King James, when the culture of lords and ladies was much more prominent, still today it seems the best choice we can make for kuria. Picturing a church as a woman is not out of line with the Bible, which sometimes figuratively speaks of the Christian Church as a woman (cp. 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:26). Unfortunately, for most people today the term “lady” brings to mind a “well-mannered woman” regardless of the authority she has. Thus, the translation, “lady” is imperfect at best, and an example of why there is a need for commentary and footnotes to help explain the biblical text.

The majority of lexicographers believe the term is used metaphorically for the church (BDAG; Louw-Nida; TDNT; Gingrich; Metzger, Textual Commentary) and we agree with this for a number of reasons. The adjective “elect” is used of a church in 1 Peter 5:13; in Galatians 4:22-31 the church (new covenant) is referred to as our mother, while we, its members, are the children. However, Thayer and Vine maintain that it is a proper noun, Cyria; that is, the name of an actual woman to whom the epistle is addressed. However, this is refuted by BDAG, which claims it is late and rare as a proper name. Some other commentators hold that it is simply a general designation for an unspecified woman. Although it is possible, but not likely, that there was a woman to whom the epistle was addressed, if that is the case then she and the authority she held would represent the authority of the church in which she had authority, which would have been a “mother” church. It is most likely that the majority of the lexicographers are correct and the verse is referring to a mother church.

Further evidence for the chosen lady being a mother church is the last verse in the epistle, which reads, “The children of your chosen sister greet you.” It is much less likely that John would refer to a woman’s Christian sister as a “chosen sister,” than he would refer to a “sister church” as a “chosen sister,” and why, if her literal sister was “chosen” (saved) too, would her nieces and nephews send greetings but not the sister herself? In the Epistles, the word “chosen” (eklektos, #1588 ἐκλεκτός) only refers to an individual Christian one time, and when it does it specifically says his name (“Rufus;” Rom. 16:13), whereas “chosen” is a common designation for the Christian Church or a larger body of Christians (cp. Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 1:1; etc.). Also, although at the end of the epistles it was common for people to send greetings, when they did they were always specifically named. It was also common for a local church (a “sister” congregation”) to send greetings, and of course in those situations the people were not named, but the greeting came from the church (cp. Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 16:19).

Commentary for: 2 John 1:1