This Epistle was written by John, the son of Zebedee, the beloved Disciple, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. The outlines of his history and character have been fully given in the /Commentaries/PeoplesNewTestament/pnt.cgi?book=re&chapter=000#" (People's New Testament, Vol. I.) to which I refer the reader. Prominent in the Savior's earthly ministry, the active companion of Peter in the founding of the church in Judea, he was soon overshadowed in the Acts of the Apostles by the towering personalities of Peter and Paul. He is only named four times in the Acts Acts 1:13 Acts 3:1 Acts 1:4 Acts 4:13 Acts 1:19 Acts 8:14 Acts 12:2 , and his name only occurs once in the Epistles of Paul ( Gal. 2:9 ) in a passage which probably names the only occasion when he and Paul ever met face to face. The opinion of the early church was that his residence was in Palestine until the time approached for the overthrow of the Jewish state, and probably until he had been released from the sacred charge of the mother of Jesus by her death; that he then removed to Asia Minor to make his home at Ephesus among the great body of Gentile churches which had been robbed of the care of their founder, the great apostle to the Gentiles, by his martyrdom, and that in Ephesus he wrote the Epistles which are ascribed to him in the New Testament.
Its date is only a matter of conjecture. It is evident from the various false doctrines which the writer evidently had in view that it belongs to a later period than any other writings of the New Testament save those of John himself. It was probably written when John remained as the only survivor of the apostolic band, after his gospel, and when certain heresies began to assume form. Why it should appear without either the names of the author or of the churches to which it was addressed is uncertain, but it does demonstrate that it is a genuine Epistle, and no part of a forgery, as some German writers have held. A forged Epistle would be ascribed to an apostolic writer in order to gain its acceptance. The examples afforded by certain forged epistles of the early centuries, the so called Epistle to the Laodiceans for instance, settle this point. The peculiarities of the Epistle, which cannot be discussed in our limited space, will be best seen in the notes on the text.