Hospitality in 2 and 3 John

I discovered something about the New Testament world this week. I had always known hospitality was really important in the ancient Greco-Roman world, but I never seemed to realize how big it was in the early Christian community. Take a look at 2 John 10-11 where St. John commands his readers not to play host for or even greet heretical teachers. It seems extreme to us, but these teacher relied on the good will of Christian communities to find a place to stay and food to eat when they were traveling. By not hosting them, communities could prevent the spread of false teachings.

In 3 John 8, the apostle commends the reception–which implies food and shelter–of the letter carriers. Not only that, but one of John’s specific charges against the heretical Diotrephes is that he will not “welcome,” i.e. give food and shelter to, the brothers.

The giving of hospitality was essential for the early evangelists. The witholding of hospitality could be used by various leaders–good and bad–as a tool to prevent certain teachers from spreading their doctrines. A very interesting economic fact about the early Church…

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