Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Who was the Chosen Lady in 2 John?

Who was the Chosen Lady in 2 John?

John’s second letter in the New Testament is addressed “to the chosen (or elect) lady and to her children” (eklektē kuria kai tois teknois autēs). In this short letter, John warns the lady and her children about false teachers “who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (verse 7), and he instructs them not to offer hospitality to the false teachers (10-11). As in his Gospel and other letters, John emphasises the themes of truth (verses 1-4) and love (verses 5-6).[1]

There has been much speculation as to who the original recipients of 2 John were. In particular, who the “chosen lady” was? Was her name Electa, Kyria, or Martha? Was she a mother, a house church leader, or a congregation?



Εklektē means “chosen” or “elect”. This woman addressed in 2 John was a Christian chosen by God, as all Christians are. While it is more likely that the word “elect” is simply used to describe the lady, Clement of Alexandra believed that eklektē was this woman’s name, a name we would translate into English as “Electa”. If so, eklektē kuria in 2 John 1:1 could be translated as “to Lady Electa”. However, the sister mentioned in the last verse of 2 John is also given the description as being “elect”. It seems unlikely that two women, somehow related, would have the same name. It is more probable that the chosen lady and the chosen sister are individuals like Rufus, a man described as “chosen” or “elect” in Romans 16:13.

“She who is in Babylon”, a congregation cryptically mentioned in 1 Peter 5:13 is also described as “elect”. Clement of Alexandria wrongly believed that “she who is in Babylon” was one and the same as the “chosen lady” in 2 John. [See endnote 14 for a discussion on this.] In his notes about 2 John, Clement wrote: “The second Epistle of John, which is written to Virgins, is very simple. It was written to a Babylonian lady, by name Electa . . .” I think it is unlikely that the chosen lady’s name was Electa. Furthermore, if her church was comprised of virgins, as Clement claims, it is important to note that the congregation was not just of virgin women, as we will see below.


If her name was not Electa, could 2 John have been addressed to a woman called Kyria?

Kuria (or kyria) is the feminine equivalent of kurios, a common word in the New Testament. BDAG gives two definitions for kurios: (1) “one who is in charge by virtue of possession”, and (2) “one who is in position of authority.”[2] Corresponding with these definitions, kurios is usually translated into English as “lord”, “master”, or “sir”.[3] The feminine kuria is usually translated as “lady” or “mistress” in texts outside of the New Testament.

While the word only occurs in 2 John in the New Testament, kuria occurs several times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.) It is used of Sarah as the mistress of Hagar the slave girl (Gen. 16:4, 8, 9); it is used of the widow of Zarephath who was mistress of her own household (1 Kings 17:17); it is used of Naaman’s wife (2 Kings 5:3); it is used of metaphorically of God as mistress (Psalm 123:2); and it occurs in sayings that figuratively contrast a mistress with her slave girl (Prov. 30:23 & Isa. 24:2).

Furthermore, I’ve comes across the word in several Jewish and early Christian Greek texts. For example, kuria is used in direct address by Isaac to his mother Sarah in The Testament of Abraham (3.10 recension A) (circa 100 AD), and by Perpetua’s brother and father to their sister and daughter, respectively, in the account of Perpetua’s martyrdom (para. 4 & 5) (202 or 203 AD). Thecla is also referred to as a kuria in The Acts of Paul and Thecla (para. 10)  (circa 150 AD).

Moreover, kuria occurs in hundreds of surviving papyrus letters addressed to women.[4] And it is commonly used by pagan writers. For example, in The Enchiridion (para. 40), Epictetus wrote that kuria was used by men to flatter young women (135 AD).

Clearly, kuria is not an obscure word. Considering how the word is used, it is apparent that kuria was a term of respect, and used for a woman in a powerful or elevated social position. Nevertheless, some believe kuria may have been the chosen lady’s name.

Athanasius was possibly among the first to propose that Kyria (a common transliteration of kuria) was actually the woman’s name.[5] John Wesley (who did not have access to many of the ancient Greek documents that are now available, such as the ones mentioned above) also believed that Kyria was the woman’s name. In his explanatory notes on John’s second letter,[6] Wesley claims that “Kyria is undoubtedly a proper name, both here [in 2 John 1:1] and in 2 John 1:5; for it was not then usual to apply the title of lady to any but the Roman empress.” BDAG, however, claims that it was rare for kuria to be used as a proper name and that its (rare) use as a proper name was late; (i.e. at a later time than the time of the writing of the New Testament). It is unlikely that the recipient of 2 John was a woman named Kyria.


A few people suggest that the chosen lady may have been Martha of Bethany, a friend of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels of Luke and John (Luke 10:38-41; John 11; 12:1-3).[7] Kuria is a Greek equivalent of “Martha”, “Martha” being the feminine form of an Aramaic word meaning “lord” or “master.”

Martha was a woman of tremendous faith and spiritual insight (John 11:22, 24, 27). She was also the mistress of an affluent home that was spacious enough to accommodate Jesus and others (John 12:1-5). Martha may well have hosted and led a church in her home after Pentecost. Was “the chosen sister” (mentioned in 2 John 1:13) Mary of Bethany, Martha’s sister? As appealing as this idea may be, there is no evidence in this letter, or from early Christian writings, that “the chosen lady” was Martha.

Other Speculations

Some people believe that the chosen lady was Mary the mother of Jesus. Certainly Mary would have been worthy of the title “lady”; however she would most likely have been deceased by the time John wrote this letter (circa 90-100 AD). Also, it seems unlikely that John would have had to write a letter to Mary, of all people, to warn her about being deceived by false teachers. Moreover, Mary and the apostle John may have shared the same home after Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:26-27). Presuming that John the apostle is the author of 2 John, he would not have written a letter to a housemate.[8] So for various reasons, Mary, the mother of Jesus, could not have been the chosen lady.

Others suggest that the chosen lady was one of Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:8-9). Early church writings inform us that Philip’s daughters were held in high esteem by the early church. Perhaps the chosen lady was one of Philip’s daughters, and the “chosen sister” another daughter. Some of Philip’s daughters went to live in Asia Minor, and it is commonly believed that the “Chosen Lady” is in Asia Minor, and possibly in Ephesus.


While we cannot know this woman’s name with any degree of certainty, there are some details in John’s second letter which indicate her role. This becomes even clearer when we compare 2 John with John’s other two New Testament letters, especially 3 John, as there are several distinct similarities between 2 John and 3 John.

A Mother?

Some people who take the word “children” (tekna) very literally believe that this letter was written to a mother with believing children (2 John 1:1, 4 & 13).[9] What these people have failed to take into account is that, in each of his three letters, John frequently used the word “children” (tekna and teknia) as a term to refer to Christians –  “spiritual children”.[10]

John writes to a man called Gaius[11] in 3 John 1:4 saying, I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.[12] Compare this with what John writes to the chosen lady in 2 John 1:4: I rejoiced greatly having found out from [some of] your children that they are walking in the truth. 

3 John 1:4 is very similar to 2 John 1:4. The children of 1, 2 and 3 John are “spiritual children”, not natural biological children. The children of the chosen lady were her “spiritual children” – Christians she personally cared about – her congregation.

A Church?

Many Bible scholars believe that John wrote his second letter to a specific individual; however some Christians (who cannot accept the possibility that a first century woman could have been a house church leader) believe that 2 John was addressed to a Christian community which John metaphorically referred to as “the chosen lady”.[13] They also believe that the “chosen sister” in 2 John 1:13 refers to another Christian community.

The shortcoming of this view is that nowhere else in the New Testament is a Christian community referred to as a “lady” kuria (or a “sister” adelphē)[14] John uses the word “church” (ekklesia) three times in his third letter: in 3 John 1:6, 9, 10. Why would John use the word “church” plainly in 3 John, but supposedly refer to the church metaphorically as a “lady” in 2 John?

Furthermore, John addressed his second letter to “the chosen lady” and to “her children”. If the “chosen lady” represents a church, who then are the children? If the “chosen lady” is a congregation and the children are a congregation, then John is addressing the same group twice. This simply doesn’t make any sense.

John used singular pronouns in the Greek when addressing the lady directly (in 2 John 1:4, 5 twice, 13 twice). For instance, in verse 5, John speaks directly to the woman and says, “Now I ask you (sg) lady . . .” This does not sound at all as though John were addressing a congregation. However, at other times in this letter, John used plural pronouns when referring to the lady and to her “children”.[15] The children were the church.  The “lady” is not a metaphor for a church; she was the church’s leader.

A Leader of Women?

Still another speculation is that the woman was indeed a church leader but that her congregation consisted only of women.[16] This speculation, however, does not stand up to the Greek grammar of the text. When John speaks about the children as those whom he loved in verse 1, the relative pronoun “whom” is grammatically masculine. The participle for “walking” in verse 4, referring to the “children”, and the reflexive pronoun “yourselves” in verse 8 are also grammatically masculine.[17]

The masculine gender is the “default” grammatical gender in Greek and is often used for groups that include both men and women. If the church of 2 John was only comprised of women, we would expect feminine relative pronouns and participles, etc. The Greek grammar rules out the possibility that the chosen lady was the leader of an all-female congregation.

A House Church Leader?

For the first couple of hundred years following the day of Pentecost, most Christian churches were house churches. We have ample and, I believe, irrefutable evidence that some of these churches were hosted and led by women. Even in the New Testament there are several women mentioned who were house church leaders.[18] It seems that John’s second letter was written to such a woman.[19]

The simplest and most straightforward explanation of who the “Chosen Lady” in 2 John 1:1 & 5 was, is that she was a Christian house church leader and host[19] whom John addressed directly at times in his second letter. And the most straightforward explanation of who her “children” were, is that they are other members of her household and congregation. It is very unlikely that the chosen lady was simply a mother. It is also unlikely that she symbolised a church. I believe that the chosen lady was a female house church leader.


[1] Some Bible scholars believe that 2 John was written by a well-known elder named John (mentioned by Papias and others), and was not written by John the apostle.

[2] BDAG refers to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, by Walter Bauer, revised and edited by F.W Danker, University of Chicago Press, 2000.

[3] In the Gospels, the owner of a vineyard is called a kurios, that is, he was the owner of the vineyard and the master of those who worked there (Matt 20:8; 21:40; Mark 12:9; Luke 20:13, 15). Jesus is often referred to as Lord (i.e. kurios) in the New Testament.

[4] In the 1800s-1900s large amounts of ancient papyri were discovered in Egypt. Some of these papyri were letters addressed to women using the term kuria in a way that seems to denote both respect and affection. (Similarly some men are addressed as kurios as a term of respect and affection.) Kuria could be translated as “dear madam” in this context. (And kurios as “dear sir”.) These papyrus letters date from the first few centuries of the common era.  More about this here.

[5] Others, such as James Strong (who collated Strong’s concordance), also believe that Kyria was a proper name.

[6] John Wesley’s notes on 2 John can be found here.

[7] One such person is German theologian, Johann Benedict Carpzov II (1639–1699).

[8] Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John, the Apostle, may have spent their last years at Ephesus. It is believed that John wrote his Gospel and his letters from Ephesus.

[9] Matthew Henry, who refers to the chosen lady as Lady Electa, believes she was a mother, a “noble Christian matron”, rather than a church leader.

[10] In his first letter, John used the word “children” (tekna and teknia) numerous times  (e.g 1 John 2:1, 28; 3:1-2, 7, 10, 18; 4:4; 5:2, 21). These verses are not referring to his natural children, but to “children of God”.

[11] Gaius was a common Roman name. There are possibly four men named Gaius in the New Testament: a Macedonian who was Paul’s travelling companion and was seized at Ephesus (Acts 19:29); a man of Derbe who accompanied Paul from Corinth to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4); a Corinthian who was baptized by Paul (Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14;); and the man who was the recipient of 3 John.

[12] The apostle Paul also used the word “children” or “child” in reference to the Christian converts at Corinth and Galatia, and of Onesimus and Timothy, etc (1 Cor. 4:14-15; Gal. 4:19; Philm. 10 cf. Phil. 3:22).

[13] Clement of Rome, Jerome (ep. xi. ad Ageruchiam), and others believed that the word “lady” (kyria) was used symbolically for a church, i.e. a Christian community.  This is a popular view for people who do not acknowledge that women were church leaders in New Testament times.

[14] It is true that God’s people in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament are often referred to in feminine terms. The Greek word for congregation or church, ekklesia, is grammatically feminine (which explains why “she who is in Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13 refers to a congregation.) However the church is never referred to as a “Lady” or a “Sister”, or anything even remotely similar, in the New Testament.

In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter writes, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together (or  co-elect) with you sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark”. As mentioned in the article, Clement of Alexandria actually believed that the woman in Babylon was the same person as the chosen lady in 2 John. I do not believe that the female pronoun in 1 Peter 5:13 refers to a person. Peter describes the Christians in Asia Minor as “elect/chosen” in the opening of his letter (1 Pet. 1:1), while “she who is co-elect/chosen in Babylon”, mentioned at the closing of his letter, probably refers to the Christian community in Babylon, or more likely Rome. The syntax in First Peter is quite different to the syntax in 2 John, and I am strongly inclined to believe that the chosen lady and the chosen sister are individuals, like Rufus who is described as chosen/elect in Romans 16:13. (The NASB translates chosen/elect as “choice” in Rom. 16:13.)

[15] The old English of the King James Version makes it easier to distinguish between the singular (sg) “you”: thee, thy; and the plural (pl) you, ye, etc.  Here is the King James Version of 2 John in its entirety with underlined words were the singular and plural is clear in the Greek but ambiguous in English:

1 The elder unto the elect Lady and her children, whom (pl) I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;
2 For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever.
3 Grace be with you (pl), mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy (sg) children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.
5 And now I beseech thee (sg), Lady , not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee (sg), but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard (pl) from the beginning, ye should walk (pl) in it.
7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
8 Look to yourselves (pl), that we [you,pl] lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we [you,pl] receive a full reward.
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.  He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
10 If there come any unto you (pl), and bring not this doctrine, receive (pl) him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
12 Having many things to write unto you (pl), I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you (pl), and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
13 The children of thy (sg) elect sister greet thee (sg). Amen.

[16] It is important to note that many (grammatically) masculine participles and other words used in the New Testament apply equally to men and women believers. Many verses about salvation, for instance, are written using the default masculine gender (e.g. John 3:16).

[17] Priscilla (with her husband Aquila) (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3-5, etc), possibly Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Apphia (with Philemon and Archippus) (Philm 1:2), as well as “the chosen lady” (2 John 1:1, 5) and “the chosen sister” (2 John 1:13), may have been house church leaders.

Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Junia (Rom. 16:7), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3) and probably Lydia (Acts 16:40), plus others, were New Testament women with significant Christian ministries which probably included house church leadership. Just as there have been good and bad male leaders, there were good and bad female leaders.  Sadly, the church in Thyatira was being corrupted by the teachings and false prophecies of a wicked and immoral female leader (Rev 2:20-24), as was the church in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3-4 cf. 2:12).

[18] The New Living Translation (2007 edition) translates “kuria” in 2 John 5 as “friends”! This incorrect “translation” obscures the ideas that kuria was an individual, a woman, and a church leader. The New Living Translation is a deliberately biased version of the Bible. The translators clearly do not believe that women can be church leaders and have doctored their Bible version accordingly!
[The New Living Translation have inserted “So, an elder must be a man” into 1 Timothy 3:2. This phrase simply does not appear in any Greek manuscript of the New Testament. ]  My article Gender Bias in the NLT is here.

[19] There is really only one reason why people try to argue that the chosen lady was not a church leader. That reason is the understanding by some Christians that Paul’s prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 (of a woman teaching and domineering a man) is a timeless and universal command.  1 Timothy 2:12 is discussed here.

© 29th of January, 2011; Margaret Mowczko  

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Kuria “Lady” in Papyrus Letters
The First Century Church and the Ministry of Women
New Testament Women Church Leaders
Junia and the ESV
Did Priscilla Teach Apollos?
Euodia and Syntyche: Women Church Leaders at Philippi
Paul’s (Gender-inclusive) Qualifications for Church Leaders
Old Testament Priests and New Testament Ministers
Masculine and Feminine Leadership
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority

Posted January 29th, 2011 . Categories/Tags: Bible Women, Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Ministry, Women in Ministry, , , , , , , , ,

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42 comments on “Who was the Chosen Lady in 2 John?

  1. […] I have yet to see a Bible study or commentary that includes “lady” among the usual metaphors for the universal or local church.  It is unlikely that very early church congregations were referred to using a term of nobility and/or authority.    The only reason why some suggest that the “chosen lady” was a metaphor for a congregation is because they cannot accept that a woman was a church leader.  The NLT also suggests that the chosen sister (mentioned in 2 John 13) was also a metaphor for a congregation.  However it was this sister’s “children” who were a congregation. […]

  2. […] But as it concerns eldership/leadership, as said before, the woman over the church in II John 2 is always interesting to consider, amongst many others: 2 John 1:1-3/2 John 1. […]

    • Shalom!
      RE: Identifying the “Lady” in John’s letters
      Referencing the Septuagint, surely the translation of the NT… of the Hebrew text translated by Greek-Jews (Hellemistic Jews), called men of God, in all interpretation of identifying the “Lady”, I am reading here interpretation based mainlynon the
      Greek translation of words ,ignoring the deeper root Hebrew / Aramaic interpretation of “the Lady”. Let us keep in mind the cultural background of the author Yohanan,John, the realization of his Jewish heritage and use of terminology.
      Let us view a metaphorical interpretation of Lady. Firstly, in reference to an early Christian community, the word translates in the feminine form in Hebrew as “Kehillah” or “Kehillat” , assembly. Secondly, in many references in the Tanakh, referred to as Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament we will find “Israel” referred to as a woman, lady, by the prophets Hosea being one. There is no doubt in my mind that Yohanan, John, is making reference to the newly established Christian community, probably in Asia Minor. It is quite obvious, also metaphorical use is being utilized in his reference to “Children”. I think many would agree That we are referring to Spiritual Children, as Yeshua, Jesus makes it clear that we all must become children as His followers. Yohanan renders warning of defilement, pollution, already creeping into the newly established Assembly of Believers / Christian community, the Kehillah.

      • Marg says:

        Hello B.Aju,

        Sorry, I couldn’t follow some of your statements.

        ~ The Septuagint is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. The Septuagint also includes Jewish (non-biblical) writings written between 200 BC- 100 AD. I’ve noted in the article every occurrence of kuria in the biblical texts contained in the Septuagint.

        ~ I haven’t ignored the Aramaic word which is similar in meaning to the Greek word kuria. Martha’s name comes from the Aramaic word for “lady”. Furthermore, while John (or Yohanan) had a Galilean Jewish background, there is no reason to think that he was writing to a woman and a congregation who shared this background or heritage. It is more likely that the lady was a Gentile living in Asia, and that John wrote to her in away she could readily understand.

        ~ Qehillah (or kehillah) is nothing like the Hebrew word for “lady”. Qehillah occurs twice in the Hebrew scriptures and means, as you say, an “assembly”, a “congregation”. No woman is ever referred to as Qehillah. Also, while Israel is referred to in feminine terms, Israel is never called a “lady”.

        ~ The Hebrew word which can be translated as “lady” (as in a high status woman) is gebereth. In the Septuagint, gebereth is often translated into Greek as kuria.

        ~ We are in agreement that “children” refers to “spiritual children” who comprise the church addressed in some parts of 2 John. I also assert with reasonable confidence, based on the use of kuria in hundreds of ancient literary and papyri sources, that the Chosen Lady was the leader of this community and is addressed as an individual 2 John.

  3. […] The Chosen Lady in 2 John […]

  4. […] The woman over the church in II John is always interesting to consider, amongst many others […]

  5. To me, the most likely prima facie suggestion (which, however, is not even discussed among most commentators) would be that the recipient of this intimate letter is the most “elect” of all women, the very one that Jesus Himself entrusted to John’s personal care: Mary, the mother of Jesus!

    In fact, it is surprising that Jesus didn’t consign her to one of her other four sons. Jesus was raised among a family of at least seven: five brothers and two sisters.8 James and Jude became believers after the resurrection and, in fact, each wrote the books in the New Testament that bear their names. Jesus appeared to James after His resurrection.

    And Mary did have a sister as alluded to in v.13. We know so little of her subsequent history from the Scriptures; there are only minimal allusions in the Book of Acts (Acts 1:14).

    The “Elect Lady” is loved “by all they that have known the Truth”(v.1). Who else would be loved by ALL other believers? To whom else could this refer? This, too, seems to point to far more than simply a prominent personage within their local church!

    We should not presume that any of us is beyond the need for encouragement or exhortation. Why would Mary – a blessed but human believer – be any exception? Especially during a time when widespread attacks on the deity of Jesus Christ was the topic of the day! Mary was subject to the same frailties as we are: pride, doubts, and a need of frequent encouragement, counsel, and, perhaps, exhortation. A tendency toward pride could certainly have been her most serious challenge: the most blessed of all women who had ever walked the earth! And yet, having to live with the clouds of legitimacy, and other doctrinal issues, over her firstborn.

    Just read through the Second Epistle of John from Mary’s perspective, and see what the Spirit confirms to you.

  6. Marg says:

    Thanks for your comment, Michael.

    I have read 2 John with Mary, the mother of Jesus, in mind; however I do not believe that she was the recipient of John’s letter.

    Most Bible scholars date John’s letters to about 90-100AD. Mary would most likely have been dead by that time. And if she were still living, she would probably have been living with John (John 19:26-27). I don’t think that John would write a letter to a housemate. (I have a few other comments about this in the article.)

    In the NT, other than the chosen lady and the chosen sister, Rufus is also called “chosen” (Rom 16:13). I don’t think that “chosen” was a particularly special adjective. We are all chosen. 🙂

  7. Regarding the dating of the letter, I would respectfully disagree because of some vital concepts:

    On Paul’s return from his third missionary journey, he met with the Ephesian elders at Miletus (some 30 miles south of Ephesus) and delivered to them that touching farewell address in which he warned them of the forthcoming false teachers (Acts 20:18-35). It was THIS subsequent rise of these false doctrines which is the FOCUS OF ALL THREE of John’s later epistles.

    It would seem that II John was written to this very community, but at an earlier date than I John (since the false teachers, the “Gnostics,” evidently still had access to the church in II John, but had seceded from it in I John) (1 John 2:19), and thus would have been earlier then A.D. 85. The conjecture concerning the identity of “the Elect Lady” would also imply that II John was written earlier than A.D. 85, since Mary would have been about a century old by then.

    By the time that John is subsequently in exile on the isle of Patmos, Ephesus was prominent as the first of the seven churches in Revelation for which Jesus includes a report card. The church at Ephesus, by then, had apparently exercised effective diligence regarding false doctrine, but had “left their first love” (Revelation 2:1-7).

    The apostle John, according to tradition, spent his final years in Ephesus, where he died and was buried.

  8. Marg says:

    Some thoughts:
    According to Eusebius, John was exiled during the reign of Domitian, so Revelation could have been written in the late 80sAD. The Gospel of John was written around 100AD, and John’s letters a few years earlier.

    Ireneaus and Clement of Alexandria both say that John wrote his Gospel from Ephesus. I mention this in my intro to John’s Gospel here.

    Mary spent her last years at Ephesus and is also buried there. Mary would have been considerably older than John. Most movies about Jesus have middle-aged actors playing the disciples, but the real disciples were probably in their late teens and early twenties during Jesus’ earthly ministry. So John may have been in his 80s when writing the letters, but Mary would have been 110 at that time, if she were still alive.

    Christian Gnosticism spread quickly and became even more influential in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when they had even more access to even more churches. Christian Gnosticism in NT times was just getting started. More on this here.
    I still think it unlikely that the chosen lady is Mary.

    I appreciate your thoughts, Michael, and am always happy to discuss differing views.

  9. […] John used the word “children” (tekna and teknia) numerous times in his first letter. (E.g 1 John 2:1, 28; 3:1-2, 7, 10, 18; 4:4; 5:2, 21 cf 3 John 4.)  He also referred to the Chosen Lady’s followers/church members as her “children” (2 John 4).  These verses are not referring to natural children, but to “spiritual” children.  […]

  10. Mathew Jacob says:

    First of all, congratulations on a wonderfully learned piece of Biblical scholarship!

    Inputs from Michael and discussions between him and Marg are also appreciated.

    I would also like to go with Michael that the chosen lady here would most and very much possibly be Our Lady the Virgin. However, I sincerely disagree with Michael of the fact that St. Mary had other children. Holy Bible never says that Mary, the theotokos, gave birth to other children. It only says, brothers/sisters of Jesus, which in a very stricter sense does not always, necessarily and exclusively mean born of Mary, but cousins too. The language of Jesus’ time had such provisions and freedoms of expressions and their thought process was not the one exactly comparable with that the Western European/American one though. We have to keep this in mind. Let us say, apples are apples and oranges are oranges, although both have spherical shapes!

    Now, coming back to St. Mary: I prefer to go with the tradition that St. Mary passed away about August 15 of the Gregorian Calendar, and it was some 24 years later the death of Jesus Christ. We can debate about this though, but I do not want to at the moment.

    If St. Mary had already passed away before the coining of the second letter of John, how can we refer to this chosen, elect lady as St. Mary? Just because she had already passed away and the Holy Church is identified metaphorically with St. Mary. She is the second Eve, who untied the spell from the Father through her intelligent obedience. She gave birth to ‘God become human’ and when a person is baptized into the Holy Church, he/she is baptized as brother or sister to Jesus, as child of God the Father. When a person receives Holy Eucharistic Communion that person has the blood of Jesus in him/her and there is even a blood relationship with Jesus, not metaphorical but real! So the elect lady that John refers to can be Mary, the Virgin. Her children all around the world and of all generations are exhorted with guidelines to lead a life of obedience by the one, whom the Lord entrusted His own mother with, and now through this special relationship with Jesus, mother of all Christians.

    One more question remains. Who then the elect sister of v. 13 is? It is the Church of Ephesus, I presume. The well executed Hebrew Parallelism is to be noted here. On the one hand at the beginning, the elect Lady is St. Mary and it is the Church on v. 13.

    Finally, Holy Church is the bride of Christ and how can she be sister to St. Mary, the theotokos? Second person of Holy Trinity become human, in flesh through and through, from a woman, who was His own creation. If a creation can become the mother of the creator in His incarnation, through an eternal and extra-creational relationship with Christ, St. John can make such a statement most perfect and metaphysical comparison between Holy Church and St. Mary. We need to go a little beyond from literal search alone and have to move to the spiritual meaning of these biblical verses, like Theodore of Mopsuestia suggests, if literal exponentia leaves us with speculations alone.

    In other words, St. Mary has a two-fold significance: Just as a frail human, who badly needs salvation that her Son effects and as a metaphysical symbol that parallels with the Holy Church as a whole! Is this not great? Are not the whole womenhood honored through the one woman, who untied the curse upon the whole creation through her wonderful obedience? Of course, it does, I believe!

  11. Mathew Jacob,

    Please read Matthew 1:24-25:

    “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son : and he called His name Jesus.”

    If Mary didn’t have any children by Joseph, the “till she she had brought forth her firstborn son” would be a untrue. You would have the Holy Bible be misleading by saying Mary was a perpetual virgin.

    Also, according to the marriage customs of the time, the marriage was not complete until the two entered into consummation through sex.

    Paul, in quoting from Genesis, said to the Ephesians:

    “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).

    The words used for “joined,” both in Genesis and Ephesians, mean “to cleave,” as through the physical union of consummation.

    If Mary had remained a perpetual virgin, and denied Joseph physical consummation, she would have been living in perpetual sin. Sex is a must for any married couple, which is why sex before marriage as well as adultery are both vehemently condemned throughout Scripture.

    [Edited by moderator.]

  12. Marg says:

    Thanks for your comment Matthew. I like to learn what other people think about biblical matters. However, I don’t think there is any biblical reason to assume that Mary remained a virgin once she had given birth to Jesus (Matt 1:24-25).

    And I can’t see that remaining a virgin adds anything to Mary’s wonderful vocation or reputation as the mother of Jesus Christ, or that it was beneficial for a married woman.

    I take it that you see things from a Roman Catholic perspective which holds some extra-biblical writings in high regard, such as the Infancy Gospel of James. (I particularly dislike this “gospel” and think it says fanciful things, indeed terrible things, about Jesus.)

    I have seen the word “kuria” used in too many papyrus letters to think that the title is particularly special. (See footnote 4.) Moreover the word “chosen” (eklektē) is a common word in the New Testament, used for other individuals and church communities (e.g. Rom 16:13; Col 3:12; 1 Pet 1:1; 5:13.)

    I don’t think we can say with any certainty who the chosen lady or the chosen sister were. In the same way we do not know which Gaius was being addressed in John’s 3rd letter.

  13. It is cool to think about it being Mary. She is a possibility for the Chosen Lady, and benefit can be gained from reading the letter from her perspective. Even if it wasn’t to her, but someone else. It still seems to me that it was written to her, but obviously not for the same reasons and Matthew here.

    As for the Protevangelium of James, it blatantly goes against Scripture. This Gnostic work, which attempts to “honor” Mary’s virginity to the end, records that Jesus was NOT born in Bethlehem, and that he was NOT born in the normal way, but just appeared.

    According to this work of fables, the Jesus it talks about is NOT the Messiah. Prophecy was clear that the Messiah was to be born IN BETHLEHEM EPHRATAH (Micah 5:2). In Chapter 21 of the Protevangelium of James, the Magi were in Bethlehem before Joseph and Mary got there, and visited Jesus in a cave, contradicting the Magi’s own account (see Matthew 2:11).

    In Chapter 23 of the Protevangelium of James, it says Herod thought John the Baptist was the newborn king but could not find him. Thus, according to this work, Herod murder John’s father Zacharias, and his clotted blood turned to stone in the Temple (Chapter 24).

    This Gnostic work treads dangerously on the edge of making Jesus out to be a hybrid Nephilim by saying Jesus was not born normally but just “appeared.”. The reason for the flood, and the reason that the Israelites were to kill every man, woman, and child in the promised land, was to rid the land of the hybrids so the Messiah could come (Genesis 3:15). If the Messiah’s line was corrupted, then Jesus was not the Messiah; man would still be in his sins.

    I say take this Protevangelium of James and throw it in the trash. If you want to study an extrabiblical book outside of the Bible, read the Book of Enoch, or Jasher, or Jubilees. If you like Daniel, then pick up the Maccabees. They aren’t Scripture by any means (although you COULD make a good argument for Enoch), but they are good viable historical works, nonetheless.

  14. Marg says:

    I completely agree that the first book of Enoch and the first two books of the Maccabees have much more value than the Protoevangelium (or Infancy Gospel) of James.

  15. Linda says:

    I wanted to comment that I have some relative’s with the last name, Kyriazakos. I remember while taking a ferry in Greece years ago some crew members asked about the name, and they said it meant “God” the first part at least. I was looking at your article for another reason today. It’s very well done and informative. Thank you for your research. I hope to study this out more deeply. Blessings in Messiah!

  16. Marg says:

    Hi Linda, Thanks for your comment. 🙂

    Here’s a bit more info:

    The word kyrios means “lord” and often refers to God; however the Greek word for “God”, strictly speaking, is theos.

    Sunday is called kyriakē in Greece, which is an adjective meaning “the Lord’s” as in “the Lord’s Day”.

    Kyria (Kuria) is not an uncommon name among Greek women nowadays.

    I wonder what Kyriazakos means?

  17. […] This woman was a Christian leader.  John wrote a letter to her which is included in the canon of the New Testament (2 John 1ff).  More about this real woman here. […]

  18. mary says:

    Thanks guys! I have learned a lot reading your comments. I have the feeling that the chosen lady is somewhere in Asia. A Christian woman from Asia. She is the chosen lady. That’s what I thought.

  19. Rewards says:

    […] In 2 John 1:8, John urges the Chosen Lady and her congregation to take care that they do not lose the reward they have worked for. […]

  20. Marg says:

    Hi Mary, I’ve tried to see if there are hints as to her whereabouts in the text of 2 John, but there really aren’t any clear indications.

    The warning about the docetic heresy (that Jesus did not really come in the flesh) points to Asia Minor where the heresy flourished (2 John 1:7). The letters to Timothy (when he was in Ephesus in Asia Minor) contain instructions about dealing with the heresy. The letter to the Colossians in Asia Minor is full of teachings designed to correct Docetism. John’s own concern (he was in Ephesus when he wrote his three letters) reveal his concern for the heresy. However, 1 Peter (addressed to all the Christians in Asia Minor) doesn’t mention it.

    My guess would be that the Chosen Lady was either in Asia Minor or Macedonia, as some communities there didn’t seem to have a problem with women in ministry – women such as Nympha, Priscilla, Lydia, Euodia, Syntyche, etc.

  21. mary says:

    Marg, thanks so much for the reply. I appreciate it. You are a godly woman and a very smart lady. I do have a question for you if you don’t mind. This afternoon while peeling potatos I found a divine sign. The sign of the cross. Do you think God has a message for me? Just curious. I have never encountered something like this in the many years of peeling potatoes
    I think we can only know who this “chosen lady” is during the second coming of Christ. In my opinion, this chosen lady might be the bride of Christ during the second coming. I do believe that the chosen lady refers to an individual and not the church. Her children are the other Christians who believe in God and His Son Jesus..God bless you, Marg.

  22. Marg says:

    Hi Mary, I think only you can answer that question. I would think that the shape of a cross is common in nature and not necessarily a divine sign. Did you receive a message? An instruction or word of comfort?

    God bless you too.

  23. […] The Chosen Lady in 2 John […]

  24. […] Who was the Chosen Lady in 2 John? […]

  25. christine porter says:

    Thank you to all who contributed. I found the discussion edifying, thought-provoking and enlightening, and truly appreciate all the scholarly effort shared. I will come back to this blog! Shalom <

  26. Marg says:

    Thanks Christine. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

  27. Tom Bowring says:

    An interesting article but I am worried you miss represent the more modern view of church recipience.
    I want to take issue with just a few points you raise.
    Firstly you say few commentators and scholars believe the lady to be a church. In the contrary, most modern scholars believe the lady to be a church addressed by John around 90AD from Ephesus. The sister being the church that the letter is penned from.
    The children of said lady are the congregation of that church, a point you seem to jump over maybe in an effort to belittle the contrary evidence to your view?
    The view of church recipience is not, as you state, advanced by those hostile to female church leadership. In fact the view is supported by many women in leadership and, as stated earlier, most modern scholars irrespective of sex.
    You make no reference to the Greek grammar used in the original text which differs largely from that of 3 John which is a personal letter (an AV would highlight this by the switching from ye and thee to your and you throughout 2 John). A modern commentary would highlight this in a more literarly appealing way than I can.
    The personal exhortations to love, most notably as a commandment from the beginning, would be amiss if indeed delivered to a single lady.
    The letter is a direct answer to the Gnostic preachers that were spreading false teachings around the churches. They are rightly called anti-christs and John is warning churches about welcoming them to preach at meetings (which were held in homes) less they drive any from the truth. To miss the overall aim of this letter is to miss the intention John desired, the guarding of churches against false teachings, not the well being of one single lady.
    Sadly, I’m afraid your personal motif and bias toward the issue of gender discrimination has clouded your intake of evidence on the contrary side of the argument. Indeed I agree gender equality is something shown throughout the Bible and Jesus taught clearly on the equality of women. However I’m afraid 2 John is not one of these places and to state so misuses the text.
    But it is amazing God gives us the ability and humbleness to debate such issues openly and in love.

  28. Marg says:

    Hi Tom,

    The letter is addressed to the chosen lady and to her children. I don’t think I skip over this. I state it explicitly. However the point of my article is to try and identify the chosen lady, and so I have concentrated on her.

    The letter is clearly written by John. And I have made a few speculations about the sister, but since so few words are given about her I have not written much about it. However I have not ignored her.

    I make several references to the Greek. In fact my views on the topic have been formed by reading the Greek, including the Greek of John’s other letters. Moreover by reading other ancient Greek papyri, I have come to the conclusion that Kuria was indeed a lady, as there are many papyrus letters addressed to other Kuriai. Kuria was a term of respect frequently used in letters written to Christian women in early church times, much like “sir” and “madam” is used today for men and and women. In my reading of ancient papyri, however, I have never come across a congregation called kuria.

    In case you’re interested: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kuria-lady-in-papyrus-letters/

    It is the Greek grammar which shows that the children (the congregation) and the lady are not one and the same.

    I have included the King James translation in the endnotes. I’ve even emboldened the singular and underlined the plural pronouns and verbs to highlight the switches from singular to plural. I make note of the singular and plural words in the body of my article to make my point about Kuria, addressed in the singular, being a person.

    How can it be wrong for John to remind Kuria, his sister in Christ, of the command that we are to love one another? You, a man, mentioned “love” to me, a woman, in your final sentence – it was literally your last word – and I didn’t take it amiss. Love is what is supposed to characterise us.

    I completely agree with you that the letter was written with concern about Gnostic false teachers. John tells the congregation not to admit such people into the house. As you know, most congregations met in homes in the early days of Christianity. And some of these homes were owned by women.

    I would be very interested in evidence (from the text, grammar, or historical context) that is contrary to what I have written, as I am always trying to hone my knowledge. However, I ask that you to read my endnotes before replying as I think, judging by some of your comments (especially about the AV and Greek grammar), that you may have skipped over them.

    Finally, nowhere do I say “few commentators and scholars believe the lady to be a church” or anything like this. And so I can’t help wondering if you left your comment without reading the article carefully.

  29. […] Note that Lydia, Priscilla with Aquila, Nympha, the Chosen Lady, and possibly Chloe, were hosts of house-churches and may have been regarded as episkopoi in the primitive (very early) church. Women in Macedonia had more social freedom and power than many women in the Greco-Roman world. This is evident “in the narrative in Acts of Paul’s work in Macedonia. In Philippi, Paul’s first contact was with the meeting for prayer by a riverside, and he spoke to the women gathered there (Acts 16:13). Lydia was obviously a leading figure in Philippi (Acts 16:14). In Thessalonica, many of the chief women were won for Christianity, and the same thing happened at Berea (Acts 17:4 & 12). . . . it is well worth remembering, when we are thinking of the place of women in the early church and of Paul’s attitude to them, that in the Macedonian churches they clearly had a leading place.” (Barclay 2003:86)

  30. […] New Testament women who were involved in leadership ministries:
    Priscilla (with her husband Aquila) (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3-5, etc), Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Apphia (with Philemon and Archippus) (Phlm. 2), “the chosen lady” (2 John 1) and “the chosen sister” (2 John 13), were all house church leaders mentioned in the New Testament.

    Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Junia (Rom. 16:7), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3) and probably Lydia (Acts 16:40), plus others, were New Testament women with significant Christian ministries and which probably included house church leadership.

    Just as there have been good and bad male leaders, there were good and bad female leaders. Sadly, the church in Thyatira was being corrupted by the teachings and false prophecies of a wicked and immoral female leader (Rev. 2:20-24), as was the church in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3-4 cf 2:12). […]

  31. […] Other New Testament women who hosted church meetings in their homes include Mary of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:40), the Chosen Lady (2 John 1), and possibly Chloe of Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11), etc. […]

  32. Noah Gregory says:

    This is an interesting article. I personally believe the lady and sister may have been real female leaders or they may have been metaphors for two churchs. Not the congregation, but the church itself, and the children are the congregation.

  33. […] Like Chloe, several other women mentioned in the New Testament were householders who seem to be independent of a husband or father: Lydia; Nympha; the “chosen lady”; Martha; etc. […]

  34. […] The New Testament identifies several women who were householders: Mary of Jerusalem, Lydia in Philippi, Prisca with Aquila, Chloe of Corinth, Nympha of Laodicea, and the Chosen Lady in Asia Minor, etc. These women, some of whom may have been independently wealthy widows, would have exercised leadership within their own households, managing the running of their homes and home-based businesses and industries. They maintained their position when they hosted church meetings in their homes, especially as most of the church members would have included their family members, slaves, and clients.[2] […]

  35. […] These churches met in ordinary homes. The householder, who could be a relatively wealthy woman (e.g. Lydia, Nympha, the Chosen Lady, etc) or man (e.g. Stephanas, etc) or couple (e.g. Priscilla and Aquila), not only hosted frequent church gatherings in their relatively spacious homes, but they had a particular responsibility for the welfare of the other members. […]

  36. […] Hay varios comentarios al respecto. Clemente de Alejandría, cree que su nombre es “Εklekt” cuyo significado es “elegida” o “escogida”, seria, algo asi como “Señora Electa” (ver: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-chosen-lady-in-2-john/) […]

  37. […] Ignatius uses similar language when speaking about Gavia and her “children”, as John does in his three New Testament epistles, when describing house churches and their members.[10] Adolf Harnack associates both Gavia and Alke with the “chosen lady” of Second John […]

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