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The Second Epistle of John begins (NIV empahsis mine):

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth—because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

Wikipedia currently states: "who the elect lady is no one knows." I couldn't help but wonder whether that was really true. So I put it to you all: who is the "elect lady?" Is she even supposed to be an individual?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

According to the NET translators notes:

This phrase may refer to an individual or to a church (or the church at large). Some have suggested that the addressee is a Christian lady named “Electa,” but the same word in v. 13 is clearly an adjective, not a proper name. Others see the letter addressed to a Christian lady named “Kyria” (first proposed by Athanasius) or to an unnamed Christian lady. The internal evidence of 2 John clearly supports a collective reference, however. In v. 6 the addressee is mentioned using second person plural, and this is repeated in vv. 8, 10, and 12. Only in v. 13 does the singular reappear. The uses in vv. 1 and 13 are most likely collective. Some have seen a reference to the church at large, but v. 13, referring to “the children of your elect sister” is hard to understand if the universal church is in view. Thus the most probable explanation is that the “elect lady” is a particular local church at some distance from where the author is located.

A commentary further points out it is unlikely that the letter was written to an anonymous female recipient because St. John's third letter is made out to a specific recipient whose name is given (Gaius), so this would certainly not be a pattern for St. John.

Due to the fact that "elect/chosen lady" (ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ) is used with plural verbs in the majority of appearances (vv. 6, 8, 10, and 12) and the instances where it is not could still be understood as having a plural referent without a contradiction in meaning (vv. 1 and 13), it seems most likely that the "elect lady" is a collective reference, most likely to an unspecified church/group of believers.

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Endings in both 2 and 3 John indicate personal letters with universal application. John was personal even in 1 John where clearly no one in particular is named. Where John uses metaphor he makes it clear of whom. Occams principle would lead us to 2 and 3 John as written to specific people.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please consider registering an account to fully take advantage of what this site has to offer. Also, be sure to check out the site tour and in particular what constitutes a good answer. We aren't a discussion board, so answers are expected to 1) answer only the question asked and 2) do more than just state your opinion. As worded, this does not seem to answer the question asked but instead just gives some thoughts on related matters. – ThaddeusB Oct 11 '15 at 15:30

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