The reason many scholars believe a different person than John the Apostle wrote these three letters comes down to who “The Elder” is.
Papias (c. 60 – 130 AD), the bishop of Hierapolis in ancient Turkey—who was often quoted by the ancient theologian Irenaeus (c. 180 AD) and the ancient historian Eusebius (c. 320 AD)—referred to a “John” sometimes as the “apostle” and sometimes as the “elder.”
This has led many to believe there were, in fact, two leaders in the first century church named John—the Apostle, and the one he mentored, a younger man also named John, who would one day become known as the “elder.” This John would, it is believed, add the prologue, the epilogue, and some teaching to the John the Apostle’s original gospel. He would also, possibly, eventually pen the three letters attributed to John.
1 John is actually unsigned. It is written something in the style of a circular, the kind of letter meant to be passed along among all the churches. Another example of circular might be Paul’s letter to the churches in Ephesus, written warmly, yet in a somewhat impersonal way that would allow every church to receive it with equanimity.
2 John, however, is not only signed, but addresses the recipient of his letter specifically, adding in notes of a personal nature. It is thought perhaps (whichever John wrote these) the author intended 2 John and 3 John to act as cover letters for the circular (1 John) which would have come with them.
There is some question as to who the letter is addressed to.
Is it a church?
Or is she a specific woman?
Let’s begin with a review of what we have read already, in John’s letter, and a summary of what lies ahead on John’s second two letters.
With many thanks to a really wonderful resource on YouTube called “The Bible Project,” let us begin our study of 2 John with this overview of 1, 2, and 3 John.
[Manuscript of the New Testament with the text of the Second Epistle of John 1-5 (5th or 6th century) | By Unknown author – Uncial 0232 (Gregory-Aland), manuscript of the New Testament, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44136584%5D