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CSB 3 John 1:14: Peace to you. The friends send you greetings. Greet the friends by name.

mGNT 3 John 1:14: εἰρήνη σοι ἀσπάζονταί σε οἱ φίλοι ἀσπάζου τοὺς φίλους κατ’ ὄνομα

What does he mean by "the friends"?

Generally the brethren are referred to as "brothers" or "the saints".

The letter seems to be written from an elder to a guy with a big house who hosts the local assembly and hosts travelling preachers and stuff:

NIV 3 John

1This letter is from John, the elder.a

I am writing to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth.

2Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. 3Some of the traveling teachersb ["the brothers"] recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. 4I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.

Caring for the Lord’s Workers

5Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. 6They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. 7For they are traveling for the Lord,c and they accept nothing from people who are not believers.d 8So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.

9I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. 10When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.

11Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.e

12Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. We ourselves can say the same for him, and you know we speak the truth.

Conclusion

13I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. 14For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.

[15] fPeace be with you.

Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.

Footnotes: a 1 Greek From the elder. b 3 Greek the brothers; also in verses 5 and 10. c 7a Greek They went out on behalf of the Name. d 7b Greek from Gentiles. e 11 Greek they have not seen God. f 15 Some English translations combine verses 14 and 15 into verse 14.

Is it possible that "the friends" references traveling preachers from the elder's assembly there as guests? Perhaps a Christian idiom? Might it be saying:

"The friends (your former guests from us) send you greetings. Greet the friends (travelers from us there as guests) by name (κατ’ ὄνομα)".

Supporting that idea is verse 3:

NIV 3 John 3 Some of the traveling teachersb [literally, "the brothers"] recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth.

Is that the right idea?

Please see this related question.

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There is almost a play on words here that does not come out in English translations. Most of the time, as pointed out in the question, Paul and Peter address the members of the local congregation as "saints" or "brothers/brethren". Therefore, "friends" is unusual but not so much as it may appear.

Paul and Peter also instructed affection between members of the congregation.

  • Rom 6:16 - Greet one another with a holy kiss
  • 1 Cor 16:20 - Greet one another with a holy kiss
  • 2 Cor 13:12 - Greet one another with a holy kiss
  • 1 Thess 5:26 - Greet all God's people with a holy kiss
  • 1 Peter 5:14 - Greet one another with a kiss of love

Now to the "almost play on words". The Greek noun for kiss is "philema" and the verb is "phileo". The word for friend "philos" comes from the same cognate root. Thus, in Greek, a friend is one whom you kiss.

Therefore, in the last verse of 3 John, it appears that John is using "friends" and all the other designations almost synonymously.

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I answered this question on Quora, here.

The short answer is, a "friend" is one privy to the secrets of the kingdom of God. This was originally applied to the disciples in John 15:15 but 3 John is using it, I believe, with a broader context.

[Jhn 15:13-17 NLT] (13) There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. (14) You are my friends if you do what I command. (15) I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. (16) You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. (17) This is my command: Love each other.

There are other examples of "friends" as those with an intimate relationship here:

[Jas 2:21-24 NLT] (21) Don't you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (22) You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. (23) And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: "Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith." He was even called the friend of God. (24) So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

[2Ch 20:7 NLT] (7) O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham?

[Jas 4:4 NLT] (4) You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

John 15:15 certainly seems to echo this:

[Gen 18:17-19 KJV] (17) And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; (18) Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (19) For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

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