Robert Young in his literal translation gives us 'choice Kyria' for εκλεκτη κυρια, in 2 John 1:1.

The elder unto the elect lady and her children [2 John 1:1, KJV]

Now, I know that some suggest these two words (coupled with the expression later of an 'elect sister') are all a code (possibly in a letter sent from Patmos whilst under detention and unable to fully express himself) which John sent out regarding gentiles and Jews.

But John's salutation suggests Young's interpretation rather than the 'code' suggestion for John says, Grace mercy and peace, in this epistle, an apostolic salutation reserved for individuals (see 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus compared to epistles to churches) rather than, Grace and peace, which is usual for corporate situations.

And the choice of 'lady' by the KJV translators is questionable (Kurios means Lord - kuria ?). England may possess both 'Lords' and 'Ladies' but I am not so sure that Hellenistic Greece recognised such an arrangement.

A previous question about this produced an answer which did not address the salutation matter. And the answer pointed out the use of plurals, not singulars, but did not perceive that the plurals would encompass the woman addressed and her children, all of whom 'walked in truth' and therefore would be included in the plural references.

Therefore the previous question and its accepted answer have not sufficiently dealt with this question, the reason that I address it again.

Can anyone shed further light on this ?

  • There's little if any internal evidence that the author of Revelation is the same as the author of the fourth gospel and the three epistles attributed to a "John." I think if you include that in your question (“possibly in a letter sent from Patmos whilst under detention and unable to fully express himself”), you need to establish its validity first. Jul 21 '20 at 13:50
  • @DerÜbermensch I am quoting from the KJV which accepts John as the author and I am using the tag below - the website's tag - which also states John as the author. I am not entering into the dispute regarding authorship, I am accepting the KJV and the website's designation. I suggest you bring up authorship as a separate question and fully explain your doubts about it in that question.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 21 '20 at 13:56
  • I see that somebody has proposed this question as a duplicate of who are the lady chosen by God and her sister in 2 John. Again, I think this is a slightly different question, but it's a little unusual to have three questions sharing quite this narrow a view of focus. I don't think any of these are strictly duplicates, but I could be wrong...
    – Steve Taylor
    Jul 23 '20 at 13:58
  • 1
    @SteveTaylor Yes, close scoping on the focus. But there is little agreement (among logical commentators) and I am almost inclined to think that John wrote to someone specific, yet fully intended that we should see a wider application, just as the writer to Hebrews must have realised that we who are gentiles (and especially we in the present day state of the church) would need every word of what he wrote to the Diasporic Jews.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 23 '20 at 14:36

The standard commentaries have slightly more views on this subject than authors, suggesting any kind of unanimity is still a long way off. However, the OP seeks the collected wisdom of this forum so we shall oblige. Many of the claims made in the standard commentaries are without basis so I shall avoid them.

What we do know is that the epistles in the NT are generally addressed to either the church universal (eg, James, 1 John, Peter, etc), or, specific congregations (eg, Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, etc), or, to a person such as Philemon, Timothy and 3 John, etc. The form of the opening address is noticeably different in each case.

For example, 3 John begins: "The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth." Philemon, 1 & 2 Timothy are similar. 2 John bears the stamp of addressing a local church leader, who is unnamed except by title, "Mistress", and a qualifying adjective, "elect".

The word used for "lady" or "mistress" is κυρία - just the feminine form of κύριος. κυρία only occurs twice in the NT in 2 John 1 & 5, and BDAG defines it as (#1):

"a woman of special status, lady, mistress ... used in addressing a definite person ... LXX uses it to designate the mistress as opposed to the slave.

BDAG also reports that some believe that κυρία means a church or congregation, which I struggle reconcile with the facts, although it might be grammatically possible.

If the "elect lady" (as almost all versions have it) is a person, then it may well be either:

  • The mistress of a household, or,
  • The leader of a church congregation

Either is probable. The latter possibility is consistent with Bible history of significant female leaders such as:

  • Women could be significant leaders, eg., Deborah. Judges 4.
  • Women could be prophets of God; eg, Miriam (Micah 6:4, Ex 15:20, 21), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20), Isaiah’s wife (Isa 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36), The four daughters of Phillip (Acts 21:8, 9), etc.
  • Paul had female co-workers in Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2, 3) as well as Junia the apostle (Rom 16:7). Nympha appears to be the leader of the church that met in her house at Laodicea (Col 4:15).
  • Women are specifically mentioned as being deacons (using the masculine noun for the female in the Greek!!). Rom 16:1, 2, 1 Tim 3:11.

In fact, both the above possibilities could simultaneously be true - the elect lady may have been the mistress of here household who had been elected leader of the local congregation. Any more than this we cannot say because we do not have any more information.

  • (+1) I would add Priscilla to your list, noting that three times Aquila is named first but three times it is Priscilla.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 21 '20 at 12:08
  • @NigelJ - My apologies - I should have the female leader, Priscilla who taught the Apostle Apollos “more adequately”, Acts 18:26. It is significant that Priscilla is listed before her husband, Aquila, in this passage. King Lemuel was taught by his mother, Prov 31:1-9.
    – Dottard
    Jul 21 '20 at 21:25

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