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5 The Inhospitality of Diotrephes

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Chapter Summary

A traditional interpretation, represented by Theodor Zahn, held that Diotrephes was an autocratic bishop who had the power of excommunication. Adolf Harnack saw the chief importance of 3 John in the information it affords us with regard to the development of church organization in Asia Minor. Acknowledging that the authors are limited to probabilities, this chapter suggests that they attempt to understand Diotrephes in light of the main subject of 3 John, which is the extension of hospitality to fellow Christians. The practice of private hospitality was widely recognized as a virtue in antiquity, but may have declined as such in the pagan world of the first century AD. The early church reflects the mobility of Roman society as well as the practice of private hospitality. The subject with which 3 John deals is hospitality, and the Elder accuses Diotrephes of refusing hospitality to strangers.

Keywords: 3 John; Adolf Harnack; Diotrephes; early Christian hospitality; Roman society

10.1163/9789004256521_007
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