John the Apostle
John the Apostle was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament. Generally listed as the youngest apostle, he was the son of Zebedee and Salome or Joanna. His brother was James, who was another of the Twelve Apostles. The Church Fathers identify him as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, John the Elder and the Beloved Disciple, and testify that he outlived the remaining apostles and that he was the only one to die of natural causes. However, modern scholars believe these to be separate people. The traditions of most Christian denominations have held that John the Apostle is the author of several books of the New Testament, although this has been disputed by some scholars.
Other references to John, James and John were the only witnesses of the raising of the Daughter of Jairus. All three also witnessed the Transfiguration, and these same three witnessed the Agony in Gethsemane more closely than the other Apostles did. John was the disciple who reported to Jesus that they had 'forbidden' a non-disciple from casting out demons in Jesus' name, prompting Jesus to state that 'he who is not against us is on our side'.
Jesus sent only John and Peter into the city to make the preparation for the final Passover meal. At the meal itself, the "disciple whom Jesus loved" sat next to Jesus. It was customary to recline on couches at meals, and this disciple leaned on Jesus. Tradition identifies this disciple as Saint John. After the arrest of Jesus, Peter and the "other disciple" followed him into the palace of the high-priest.
John alone among the Apostles remained near Jesus at the foot of the cross on Calvary alongside myrrhbearers and numerous other women; following the instruction of Jesus from the Cross, John took Mary, the mother of Jesus, into his care as the last legacy of Jesus. After Jesus' Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, John, together with Peter, took a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the church. He was with Peter at the healing of the lame man at Solomon's Porch in the Temple and he was also thrown into prison with Peter. He went with Peter to visit the newly converted believers in Samaria.
While he remained in Judea and the surrounding area, the other disciples returned to Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council. Paul, in opposing his enemies in Galatia, recalls that John explicitly, along with Peter and James the Just, were referred to as "pillars of the church" and refers to the recognition that his Apostolic preaching of a gospel free from Jewish Law received from these three, the most prominent men of the messianic community at Jerusalem.disciple whom Jesus loved as a brother or in whom Jesus loved as a friend is used six times in the Gospel of John, but in no other New Testament accounts of Jesus. claims that the Gospel of John is based on the written testimony of this disciple.
The disciple whom Jesus loved is referred to, specifically, six times in John's gospel:
- It is this disciple who, while reclining beside Jesus at the Last Supper, asks Jesus, after being requested by Peter to do so, who it is that will betray him.
- Later at the crucifixion, Jesus tells his mother, "Woman, here is your son", and to the Beloved Disciple he says, "Here is your mother."
- When Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb, she runs to tell the Beloved Disciple and Peter. The two men rush to the empty tomb and the Beloved Disciple is the first to reach the empty tomb. However, Peter is the first to enter.
- In John 21, the last chapter of the Gospel of John, the Beloved Disciple is one of seven fishermen involved in the miraculous catch of 153 fish.
- Also in the book's final chapter, after Jesus hints to Peter how Peter will die, Peter sees the Beloved Disciple following them and asks, "What about him?" Jesus answers, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!"
- Again in the gospel's last chapter, it states that the very book itself is based on the written testimony of the disciple whom Jesus loved.
There are also two references to an unnamed "other disciple" in and, which may be to the same person based on the wording in.
New Testament authorChurch tradition has held that John is the author of the Gospel of John and four other books of the New Testament – the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. In the Gospel, authorship is internally credited to the "disciple whom Jesus loved" in. claims that the Gospel of John is based on the written testimony of the "Beloved Disciple". The authorship of some Johannine literature has been debated since about the year 200.
In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius says that the First Epistle of John and the Gospel of John are widely agreed upon as his. However, Eusebius mentions that the consensus is that the second and third epistles of John are not his but were written by some other John. Eusebius also goes to some length to establish with the reader that there is no general consensus regarding the revelation of John. The revelation of John could only be what is now called the Book of Revelation. The Gospel according to John differs considerably from the Synoptic Gospels, which were likely written decades earlier. The bishops of Asia Minor supposedly requested him to write his gospel to deal with the heresy of the Ebionites, who asserted that Christ did not exist before Mary. John probably knew of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but these gospels spoke of Jesus primarily in the year following the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist. Around 600, however, Sophronius of Jerusalem noted that “two epistles bearing his name... are considered by some to be the work of a certain John the Elder” and, while stating that Revelation was written by John of Patmos, it was “later translated by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus,” presumably in an attempt to reconcile tradition with the obvious differences in Greek style.
Until the 19th century, the authorship of the Gospel of John had been attributed to the Apostle John. However, most modern critical scholars have their doubts. Some scholars place the Gospel of John somewhere between AD 65 and 85; John Robinson proposes an initial edition by 50–55 and then a final edition by 65 due to narrative similarities with Paul. Other scholars are of the opinion that the Gospel of John was composed in two or three stages. Most contemporary scholars consider that the Gospel was not written until the latter third of the first century AD, and with an earliest possible date of AD 75-80: “...a date of AD 75-80 as the earliest possible date of composition for this Gospel.” Other scholars think that an even later date, perhaps even the last decade of the first century AD right up to the start of the 2nd century, is applicable.
Nonetheless, today many theological scholars continue to accept the traditional authorship. Colin G. Kruse states that since John the Evangelist has been named consistently in the writings of early Church Fathers, “it is hard to pass by this conclusion, despite widespread reluctance to accept it by many, but by no means all, modern scholars.”
The Gospel of John was written by an anonymous author. According to Paul N. Anderson, the gospel “contains more direct claims to eyewitness origins than any of the other Gospel traditions.” F. F. Bruce argues that 19:35 contains an “emphatic and explicit claim to eyewitness authority.” Bart D. Ehrman, however, does not think the gospel claims to have been written by direct witnesses to the reported events.
Book of RevelationAccording to the Book of Revelation, its author was on the island of Patmos "for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus", when he was honoured with the vision contained in Revelation.
The author of the Book of Revelation identifies himself as "Ἰωάννης". The early 2nd century writer, Justin Martyr, was the first to equate the author of Revelation with John the Apostle. However, most biblical scholars now contend that these were separate individuals since the text was written around 100 AD, after the death of John the Apostle, although many historians have defended the identification of the Author of the Gospel of John with that of the Book of Revelation based on the similarity of the two texts.
John the Presbyter, an obscure figure in the early church, has also been identified with the seer of the Book of Revelation by such authors as Eusebius in his Church History and Jerome.
John is considered to have been exiled to Patmos, during the persecutions under Emperor Domitian. Revelation 1:9 says that the author wrote the book on Patmos: “I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation,... was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Adela Yarbro Collins, a biblical scholar at Yale Divinity School, writes:
Some modern higher critical scholars have raised the possibility that John the Apostle, John the Evangelist, and John of Patmos were three separate individuals. These scholars assert that John of Patmos wrote Revelation but neither the Gospel of John nor the Epistles of John. The author of Revelation identifies himself as “John” several times, but the author of the Gospel of John never identifies himself directly. Some Catholic scholars state that "vocabulary, grammar, and style make it doubtful that the book could have been put into its present form by the same person responsible for the fourth gospel."
Extrabiblical traditionsThere is no information in the Bible concerning the duration of John's activity in Judea. According to tradition, John and the other Apostles remained some 12 years in this first field of labour. The persecution of Christians under Herod Agrippa I led to the scattering of the Apostles through the Roman Empire's provinces.
A messianic community existed at Ephesus before Paul's first labors there, in addition to Priscilla and Aquila. The original community was under the leadership of Apollos. They were disciples of John the Baptist and were converted by Aquila and Priscilla. According to tradition, after the Assumption of Mary, John went to Ephesus. Irenaeus writes of "the church of Ephesus, founded by Paul, with John continuing with them until the times of Trajan." From Ephesus he wrote the three epistles attributed to him. John was allegedly banished by the Roman authorities to the Greek island of Patmos, where, according to tradition, he wrote the Book of Revelation. According to Tertullian John was banished after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering nothing from it. It is said that all in the audience of Colosseum were converted to Christianity upon witnessing this miracle. This event would have occurred in the late 1st century, during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, who was known for his persecution of Christians.
When John was aged, he trained Polycarp who later became Bishop of Smyrna. This was important because Polycarp was able to carry John's message to future generations. Polycarp taught Irenaeus, passing on to him stories about John. Similarly, Ignatius of Antioch was a student of John and later appointed by Saint Peter to be the Bishop of Antioch. In Against Heresies, Irenaeus relates how Polycarp told a story of
It is traditionally believed that John was the youngest of the apostles and survived them. He is said to have lived to an old age, dying at Ephesus sometime after AD 98, during the reign of Trajan.
An alternative account of John's death, ascribed by later Christian writers to the early second-century bishop Papias of Hierapolis, claims that he was slain by the Jews. Most Johannine scholars doubt the reliability of its ascription to Papias, but a minority, including B.W. Bacon, Martin Hengel and Henry Barclay Swete, maintain that these references to Papias are credible. Zahn argues that this reference is actually to John the Baptist. John's traditional tomb is thought to be located in the former basilica of Saint John at Selçuk, a small town in the vicinity of Ephesus.
John is also associated with the pseudepigraphal apocryphal text of the Acts of John, which is traditionally viewed as written by John himself or his disciple, Leucius Charinus. It was widely circulated by the second century CE but deemed heretical at the Second Council of Nicaea. Varying fragments survived in Greek and Latin within monastic libraries. It contains strong docetic themes, but is not considered in modern scholarship to be gnostic.
Liturgical commemorationThe feast day of Saint John in the Roman Catholic Church, which calls him "Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist", and in the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Calendars, which call him "Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist", is on 27 December. In the Tridentine Calendar he was commemorated also on each of the following days up to and including 3 January, the Octave of the 27 December feast. This Octave was abolished by Pope Pius XII in 1955. The traditional liturgical color is white.
Until 1960, another feast day which appeared in the General Roman Calendar is that of "Saint John Before the Latin Gate" on 6 May, celebrating a tradition recounted by Jerome that St John was brought to Rome during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, and was thrown in a vat of boiling oil, from which he was miraculously preserved unharmed. A church dedicated to him was built near the Latin gate of Rome, the traditional site of this event.
The Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite commemorate the "Repose of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian" on 26 September. On 8 May they celebrate the "Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian", on which date Christians used to draw forth from his grave fine ashes which were believed to be effective for healing the sick.
Latter-day Saint viewteaches that, "John is mentioned frequently in latter-day revelation. These passages confirm the biblical record of John and also provide insight into his greatness and the importance of the work the Lord has given him to do on the earth in New Testament times and in the last days. The latter-day scriptures clarify that John did not die but was allowed to remain on the earth as a ministering servant until the time of the Lord’s Second Coming ". It also teaches that in 1829, along with the resurrected Peter and the resurrected James, John visited Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the priesthood authority with Apostolic succession to earth. John, along with the Three Nephites, will live to see the Second Coming of Christ as translated beings.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that John the Apostle is the same person as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, and the Beloved Disciple.
Islamic viewThe Quran also speaks of Jesus's disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as "supporters for Allah". Sunnah did not mention their names either. However, some Muslim scholars mentioned their names, probably relying on the resources of Christians, who are considered "People of the Book". Muslim exegesis more-or-less agrees with the New Testament list and says that the disciples included Peter, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, Andrew, James, Jude, John and Simon the Zealot. Notably, narrations of People of the Book are not to be believed or disbelieved by Muslims as long as there is nothing that supports or denies them in Quran or Sunnah.
In artAs he was traditionally identified with the beloved apostle, the evangelist, and the author of the Revelation and several Epistles, John played an extremely prominent role in art from the early Christian period onward. He is traditionally depicted in one of two distinct ways: either as an aged man with a white or gray beard, or alternatively as a beardless youth. The first way of depicting him was more common in Byzantine art, where it was possibly influenced by antique depictions of Socrates; the second was more common in the art of Medieval Western Europe, and can be dated back as far as 4th century Rome.
Legends from the Acts of John, an apocryphal text attributed to John, contributed much to Medieval iconography; it is the source of the idea that John became an apostle at a young age. One of John's familiar attributes is the chalice, often with a serpent emerging from it. This symbol is interpreted as a reference to a legend from the Acts of John, in which John was challenged to drink a cup of poison to demonstrate the power of his faith. Other common attributes include a book or scroll, in reference to the writings traditionally attributed to him, and an eagle, which is argued to symbolize the high-soaring, inspirational quality of these writings.
In Medieval and through to Renaissance works of painting, sculpture and literature, Saint John is often presented in an androgynous or femininized manner. One famous example is Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper, whose androgynous portrayal of John/The Beloved Disciple is brought to notice in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, where one of the book's characters suggests that the feminine-looking person to Jesus' right is actually Mary Magdalene. Historians have related such portrayals to the circumstances of the believers for whom they were intended. For instance, John's feminine features are argued to have helped to make him more relatable to women. Likewise, Sarah McNamer argues that because of his status as an androgynous saint, John could function as an "image of a third or mixed gender" and "a crucial figure with whom to identify" for male believers who sought to cultivate an attitude of affective piety, a highly emotional style of devotion that, in late-medieval culture, was thought to be poorly compatible with masculinity. After the Middle Ages, feminizing portrayals of Saint John continued to be made; a case in point is an etching by Jacques Bellange, shown to the right, described by art critic Richard Dorment as depicting "a softly androgynous creature with a corona of frizzy hair, small breasts like a teenage girl, and the round belly of a mature woman."