Study Guide

The Elect Lady in Johannine Epsitles (1-3 John)

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The Elect Lady

The only woman mentioned in the elder's writing is the lucky recipient of his second letter. He addresses her only as "the elect lady" (2 John 1:1), which sounds pretty fancy. He also gives a shout-out to her children and tells them all that he loves them. Warm fuzzies all around.

So just who is the mysterious damsel? Was she some wealthy woman living in the first century? Did she provide financially for the community? Did she host church in her home? Was she a widow? And just how many kids did she have?

Okay, that's a lot of questions.

And now for the bummer answer: she probably wasn't even a real person. Though it's possible the elect lady is some ancient supermom, it's way more likely that she actually represents the individual Christian church the elder is writing to.

Think about it. The elect lady is the mother of many children (a term which the elder uses to describe Christians). And at the end of the letter, he writes to her, "The children of your elect sister send you their greetings" (2 John 1:13). Yup. We're probably talking sister churches here. (Note: that's different than sister wives. Though both have lots and lots of kids.)

Why is the church regarded as a lady? Good question. God is usually portrayed as masculine, but the Church has always had a kind of lady-vibe to it.

• In Revelation, the Woman Clothed with the Sun represents the church (Revelation 12:1).
• In John's Gospel, Jesus is described as "the bridegroom" (John 3:29), and some folks take that to mean the church must be his bride.
• Some Christians still refer to "Mother Church" to this day, which is way cooler than any boring old mothership or motherboard.

You go, girl.

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