John the Apostle

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John the Apostle
Hans Memling 039.jpg
Apostle
Born c. 6 AD
Bethsaida, Judaea, Roman Empire
Died c. 100[1]
Ephesus, Asia, Roman Empire
Honored in Christianity
Canonized Pre-congregation
Feast 27 December

John the Apostle (Aramaic Yoħanna, Koine Greek Ἰωάννης) (c. AD 6 – c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to The Bible. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of James, son of Zebedee, another of the Twelve Apostles. Christian tradition holds that he outlived the remaining apostles; and, was the only one not to die a martyr's death. The Church Fathers consider him the same person as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, and the Beloved Disciple.

The Church Fathers generally identify him as the author of five books in the New Testament: the Gospel of John, three Epistles of John, and the Book of Revelation. In The History of The Church, Eusebius says that the books of first John, and the gospel of John are heavily agreed upon as his. However Eusibius mentions that the consensus is that second and third are not his, but of some other John. Eusebius also goes to a 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.[2]The Gospel according to John differs considerably from the synoptic gospels, likely written decades earlier than John's Gospel. 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 and undoubtedly approved 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.[3] 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",[1] presumably in an attempt to reconcile tradition with the obvious differences in Greek style.

Some modern higher critical scholars have raised the possibility that John the Apostle, John the Evangelist, and John of Patmos were three separate individuals.[4] These scholars assert that John of Patmos wrote Revelation but neither the Gospel of John nor the Epistles of John. For one, 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(s) responsible for the fourth gospel".[5]

In the Bible[edit]

Russian Orthodox icon of the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, 18th century (Iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi Monastery, Karelia, Russia).

John the Apostle was the son of Zebedee and the younger brother of James, son of Zebedee (Saint James the Greater). Tradition, based on Sacred Scripture, considers Salome their mother.[6] James and John were the cousins of Jesus and their mother Salome was sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus.[7] Zebedee and his sons fished in the Lake of Genesareth. James and John first were disciples of Saint John the Baptist, their second cousin. Jesus then called Saint Peter and Saint Andrew, and these two sons of Zebedee to follow him. James and John did so and thus rank high among the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. James and John both held prominent positions for not only being the first of the disciples to be called but also because of their relationship to Jesus among the Apostles. Jesus referred to the pair collectively as "Boanerges" (translated "sons of thunder")[8] being that although their nature was of a calm and gentle manner, when their patience was pushed to its limits their anger became wild, fierce and thunderous causing them to speak out like an untamed storm. At one point John and his brother James wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan town, but Jesus rebuked them. [Lk 9:51-6] John survived longer than James by more than half a century after James became the first Apostle to die a martyr's death.

Peter, James and John were the only witnesses of the raising of Daughter of Jairus.[9] All three also witnessed the Transfiguration, and these same three witnessed the Agony in Gethsemane more closely than the other Apostles did.[10]

Jesus sent only John and Peter into the city to make the preparation for the final Passover meal (the Last Supper).[Lk 22:8][11] At the meal itself, the "disciple whom Jesus loved" sat next to Jesus. It was customary to lie along upon couches at meals, and this disciple leaned on Jesus.[10] Tradition identifies this disciple as Saint John[Jn 13:23-25]. After the arrest of Jesus, Peter and the "other disciple" (according to Sacred Tradition, John) followed him into the palace of the high-priest.[10]

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 [Jn 19:25-27]. After Jesus' Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, John, together with Peter, took a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the church. He is with Peter at the healing of the lame man in the Temple.[Ac 3:1 et seq.] With Peter he is also thrown into prison.[Acts 4:3] He is also with Peter visiting the newly converted in Samaria.[Acts 8:14]

A series of articles on
John in the Bible
Johannine literature
Gospel of John · First Epistle of John · Second Epistle of John · Third Epistle of John · Revelation
Authorship
John the Apostle · John the Evangelist · John of Patmos  · John the Presbyter · Disciple whom Jesus loved
Communities
Twelve Apostles · The Early Church
Related literature
Apocryphon of John · Acts of John · Logos · Signs Gospel

There 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 labor, until the persecution of Herod Agrippa I led to the scattering of the Apostles through the various provinces of the Roman Empire. [cf. Ac 12:1-17].

A messianic community was already in existence at Ephesus before Paul's first labors there (cf. "the brethren"),[Acts 18:27] in addition to Priscilla and Aquila. The original community was under the leadership of Apollo (1 Corinthians 1:12). They were disciples of St. John the Baptist, and were converted by Aquila and Priscilla. Then came St. Paul.[12]

While he remained in Judea and the surrounding area, the other disciples returned to Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council (about AD 51). 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.[9]

Of the other New Testament writings, it is only from the three Letters of John and the Book of Revelation that anything further might be learned about John, if we assume that he was the author of these books. From the Letters and Revelation we may suppose that John belonged to the multitude of personal eyewitnesses of the life and work of Jesus (cf. especially 1 Jn 1:1-5; 4:14), that he had lived for a long time in Asia Minor, was thoroughly acquainted with the conditions existing in the various messianic communities there, and that he had a position of authority recognized by all messianic communities as leader of this part of the church. Moreover, the Book of Revelation says that its author was on the island of Patmos "for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus", when he was honored with the vision contained in Revelation.[Rev. 1:9]

Though some scholars agree in placing the Gospel of John somewhere between AD 65 and 85,[13][page needed] John A.T. Robinson proposes an initial edition by 50–55 and then a final edition by 65 due to narrative similarities with Paul.[14]:pp.284,307 Other critical scholars are of the opinion that John was composed in stages (probably two or three).[15]:p.43 There is also a strongly held view amongst contemporary scholars that the Gospel was not written until the latter third of the first century AD. The Dean of New Testament at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Gail R O'Day, writes in her introduction to the Gospel in the New Revised Standard Translation of the Bible [16] "...a date of 75-80 CE as the earliest possible date of composition for this Gospel". Other reliable scholars are convinced that an even later date, perhaps even the last decade of the first century AD right up to the start of the 2nd century (i.e., 90 - 100) is applicable.[17]

The Eastern 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 September 26. On May 8 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.

Until 1960, another feast day which appeared in the General Roman Calendar is that of "Saint John Before the Latin Gate" on May 6, 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 (San Giovanni a Porta Latina) dedicated to him was built near the Latin gate of Rome, the traditional site of this event. Other Christians highly revere him but do not canonize or venerate saints.

Until the 19th century, the authorship of the Gospel of John had universally been attributed to the Apostle John. However, most modern critical scholars have their doubts.[8] In the Gospel authorship is internally credited to the disciple whom Jesus loved ("ο μαθητης ον ηγαπα ο Ιησους") in John 20:2. The term the Beloved Disciple ("ον εφιλει ο Ιησους") is used five times in the Gospel of John to indicate authorship.[18] John 21:24 claims that the Gospel of John is based on the written testimony of the "Beloved Disciple".

Extrabiblical traditions[edit]

Byzantine illumination depicting John dictating to his disciple, Prochorus (c. 1100).

Catholic tradition states that after the Assumption, John went to Ephesus and from there wrote the three epistles traditionally attributed to him. John was allegedly banished by the Roman authorities to the Greek island of Patmos, where some believe that he wrote Book of Revelation. According to Tertullian (in The Prescription of Heretics) John was banished (presumably to Patmos) after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering nothing from it. It is said that all in the entire Colosseum audience were converted to Christianity upon witnessing this miracle. This event would have occurred during the reign of Domitian, a Roman emperor who was known for his persecution of Christians in the late 1st century.

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, and passed on to him stories about John. In Against Heresies, Irenaeus relates how Polycarp told a story of

John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."[19]

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.[20][21] 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.[22][23] Zahn argues that this reference is actually to John the Baptist.[24] John's traditional tomb is thought to be located at Selçuk, a small town in the vicinity of Ephesus.[citation needed]

In art, John as the presumed author of the Gospel is often depicted with an eagle, which symbolizes the height he rose to in his gospel.[8] In Orthodox icons, he is often depicted looking up into heaven and dictating his Gospel (or the Book of Revelation) to his disciple, traditionally named Prochorus.

The Acts of John Tradition[edit]

Fresco of St. John the Evangelist adorning the dome of St. Peter's Basilica

Before Jesus ascended, he charged John with watching over the newly established Church. He was then established as a pillar at the Church of Jerusalem. While dying on the cross, Jesus instructed John to take care of Mary, his mother. John was the only apostle present at the crucifixion.

It was after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, where they were gathered in one place, John spent much of his time in Judea and in the surrounding lands preaching the gospel. He accompanied Peter through the temple one day and the Holy Spirit on their behest healed a lame beggar. The people in the temple were amazed and Peter testified to them and then again to the Jewish Council. They were arrested but later freed. In that day, Herod the king committed violence against some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John the Beloved with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. He was later freed by an angel of God.[25]

In 54 AD, Mary, the mother of Jesus, died and was buried and so John fulfilled his duty of caring for her until the very end. It was said[by whom?] that when they opened the tomb her body was gone. Catholic tradition says she rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven with both body and soul intact in what is called the Assumption of Mary,[26] however others say her body was taken away lest it become an idol.[citation needed] John and Mary Magdalene went north and visited the churches that were established along the way. They traveled as far as Asia Minor and settled in Ephesus. One night, while they slept a thief broke into their home and John confronted him, converted him to the faith, and told him to turn from doing evil. The thief's name was Cleophus whose name means "vision of glory". This story was shared among the Church and it became used as another example to describe the second coming of Christ as a "thief in the night".

John, one day, was going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, he then rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the Truth, is within." He wrote three epistles while living in Ephesus, and he also completed the Gospel of John during this period. John was taken away in the persecution of the Roman emperors in Ephesus, leaving Mary Magdalene in the care of Cleophus. Catholic tradition says Mary Magdalene later traveled to France and lived out her days there in penance.[27][28]

After having spent time imprisoned in Rome during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian, John was sentenced to be boiled in oil at the Colosseum. As mentioned above, Tertullian indicated (in The Prescription of Heretics) he endured no harm or suffering from the scalding oil. John was then sent by the Roman authorities to the Greek island of Patmos, where it is assumed he wrote the Book of Revelation (Rev 1:9) and where it is said he was later freed. When John was aged, he trained Polycarp, who later became Bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp, in turn, taught Irenaeus and passed on to him stories about John.

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.[24]

Liturgical commemoration[edit]

Saint John the Apostle
Tomb of St. John.jpg
The traditional tomb of St. John at Ephesus, Turkey.
Apostle, Saint
Honored in Catholicism
Feast December 27 (Western Catholicism)
September 26 & May 8 (Eastern Catholicism)
Attributes Book, a serpent in a chalice, cauldron, eagle
Patronage Love, loyalty, friendships, authors, booksellers, burn-victims, poison-victims, art-dealers, editors, papermakers, publishers, scribes, scholars, theologians

He is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion who commemorate him as "John, Apostle and Evangelist" on December 27.

The Eastern 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 September 26. On May 8 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.

Until 1960, another feast day which appeared in the General Roman Calendar is that of "St John Before the Latin Gate" on May 6, 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 (San Giovanni a Porta Latina) dedicated to him was built near the Latin gate of Rome, the traditional scene of this event.[29]

Other Christians highly revere him but do not canonize or venerate saints.

Islamic view[edit]

The Qur'an also speaks of Jesus's disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as "helpers to the work of God".[30] Muslim exegesis and Qur'an commentary, however, names them and includes John among the disciples.[31] An old tradition, which involves the legend of Habib the Carpenter, mentions that John was one of the three disciples sent to Antioch to preach to the people there.[32]

Latter-day Saint view[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) teaches that John received the promise of immortality from Jesus Christ, as recorded in John 21:21–23. 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.[33] John, along with the Three Nephites, will live to see the Second Coming of Christ as translated beings.[34]

The LDS Church teaches that John the Apostle is the same person as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, and the Beloved Disciple.[34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem (2007) [c[clarification needed] 600], "The Life of the Evangelist John", The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John, House Springs, Missouri, USA: Chrysostom Press, pp. 2–3, ISBN 1-889814-09-1 
  2. ^ The History of the Church by Eusibius. Book three, point 24.
  3. ^ Thomas Patrick Halton, On illustrious men, Volume 100 of The Fathers of the Church, CUA Press, 1999. P. 19.
  4. ^ Griggs, C. Wilfred. "John the Beloved" in Ludlow, Daniel H., ed. Selections from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Scriptures of the Church (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1992) p. 379. Griggs favors the "one John" theory but mentions that some modern scholars have hypothesized that there are multiple Johns.
  5. ^ Introduction. Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible: Translated from the Original Languages with Critical Use of All the Ancient Sources : including the Revised New Testament and the Revised Psalms. New York: Catholic Book Pub., 1992. 386. Print.
  6. ^ By comparing Matthew 27:56 to Mark 15:40
  7. ^ By comparing John 19:25 to Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40
  8. ^ a b c Foley OFM, Leonard. "Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast", (revised by Pat McCloskey, OFM), American Catholic.org
  9. ^ a b "Fonck, Leopold. "St. John the Evangelist." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 6 Feb. 2013". Newadvent.org. 1910-10-01. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  10. ^ a b c Butler, Alban. The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, Vol.IV
  11. ^ While Luke states that this is the Passover,[Lk 22:7-9] the Gospel of John specifically states that the Passover meal is to be partaken of on Friday[Jn 18:28]
  12. ^ "Vailhé, Siméon. "Ephesus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 6 Feb. 2013". Newadvent.org. 1909-05-01. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  13. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. McGraw-Hill, 2006. ISBN 978-0-07-296548-3
  14. ^ Robinson, John A.T. (1977). Redating the New Testament. SCM Press. ISBN 978-0-334-02300-5. 
  15. ^ Mark Allan Powell. Jesus as a figure in history. Westminster John Knox Press, 1998. ISBN 0-664-25703-8 / 978-0664257033
  16. ^ .Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2003, p.1906
  17. ^ Reading John, Francis J. Moloney, SDB, Dove Press, 1995
  18. ^ John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20
  19. ^ Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.3.4.
  20. ^ Cheyne, Thomas Kelly (1901). Encyclopaedia Biblica, Volume 2. Adam and Charles Black. pp. 2509–2511.  Although Papias' works are no longer extant, the fifth century ecclesiastical historian Philip of Side and the ninth-century monk George Hamartolos both stated that Papias had written that John was "slain by the Jews."
  21. ^ Rasimus, Tuomas (2010). The Legacy of John: Second-Century Reception of the Fourth Gospel. BRILL. p. 5. ISBN 9789004176331.  Rasimus finds corroborating evidence for this tradition in "two martyrologies from Edessa and Carthage" and writes that "Mark 10:35-40//Matt. 20:20-23 can be taken to portray Jesus predicting the martyrdom of both the sons of Zebedee."
  22. ^ Culpepper, R. Alan (2000). John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of A Legend. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 172. ISBN 9780567087423. 
  23. ^ Swete, Henry Barclay (1911). The Apocalypse of St. John (3 ed.). Macmillan. pp. 179–180. 
  24. ^ a b Zahn, T. "John the Apostle", in Schaff, Philip. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VI: Innocents - Liudger, p.203
  25. ^ Acts 12:1-10
  26. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Assumption of Mary". Newadvent.org. 1950-11-01. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  27. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Mary Magdalen". Newadvent.org. 1910-10-01. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  28. ^ "Pilgrimage to La Sainte Baume". Mary-magdalene.com. 2004-12-24. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  29. ^ Saint Andrew Daily Missal with Vespers for Sundays and Feasts by Dom. Gaspar LeFebvre, O.S.B., Saint Paul, MN: The E.M. Lohmann Co., 1952, p.1325-1326
  30. ^ Qur'an 3:49-53
  31. ^ Historical Dictionary of Prophets In Islam And Judaism, Brandon M. Wheeler, Disciples of Christ: "Muslim exegesis identifies the disciples as Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, Philip, John, James, Bartholomew, and Simon"
  32. ^ Hughes Dictionary of Islam, Habib the Carpenter
  33. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 27:12.
  34. ^ a b "John", Bible Dictionary (LDS Church).

External links[edit]