CLAIM: John writes, “I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face” (3 Jn. 13). Catholic apologists claim that this implies that oral tradition is greater than written Scripture.
RESPONSE: In response to this view, we might ask: Wouldn’t we rather speak to someone than write a letter to them? This passage asserts that face to face communication is better than the written word, as any married couple would tell you. We would much rather talk with our spouse (or friend as in this context) in person, rather than communicate through a letter correspondence. However, this does not necessarily imply that John was writing about doctrine here. He was more likely writing about personal subjects, as the context makes clear in verse 15 (“Greet the friends…”).