Reference: John The Apostle
Younger than his brother James; being named after him in Matthew and Mark, the earlier Gospels; but Luke (Lu 9:28; Ac 1:13, the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus manuscripts), writing when John had gained so much greater prominence in the church, ranks him in the order of church esteem, not that of nature. Youngest of the twelve, probably of Bethsaida upon the sea of Galilee (Joh 1:44; Lu 5:10), the town of their partners Simon and Andrew. Caspari (Chronicles and Geogr., Introd. to Life of Christ) accounts for John's brief notice of Christ's Galilean ministry and fuller notices of His ministry in Judaea thus: Jewish tradition alleges that all Israelites dwelling in the Holy Land were entitled to fish in the sea of Gennesaret a month before each Passover, and to use the fish for the many guests received at the feast in Jerusalem. John used to stay in Galilee only during that month. However, no hint of this occurs in our Gospels. Zebedee his father owned a fishing vessel, and had "hired servants" (Mr 1:20).
Salome his mother ministered to the Lord "of her substance" (Lu 8:3), and was one of the women who came with Him in His last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (Lu 23:55; 24:1; Mr 16:1), and after His death bought spices to anoint His body. John's acquaintance with the high priest (Joh 18:15) had been in early life, for it is not likely it would commence after he had become disciple of the despised Galilean. Hence, probably arose his knowledge of the history of Nicodemus which he alone records. John had a house of his own to which he took the Virgin mother, by our Lord's dying charge (Joh 19:27). The name, meaning "the favor of God", had become a favorite one in the age where there was a general expectation of Messiah, and members of the high priestly families bore it (Ac 4:6). These hints all intimate that John belonged to the respectable classes, and though called by the council "unlearned and ignorant" he was not probably without education, though untrained in their rabbinical lore (Ac 4:13).
Zebedee's readiness to give up his son at Jesus' call speaks well for his religious disposition. Salome went further, and positively ministered to Jesus. Even her ambitious request that her two sons, James and John, might sit on either side of our Lord in His coming kingdom shows that she was heartily looking for that kingdom. Such a mother would store her son's memory with the precious promises of Old Testament. The book of Revelation in its temple imagery shows the deep impression which the altar, the incense, the priestly robes, and the liturgy had made on him. John's first acquaintance with the Lord was when John Baptist pointed his two disciples Andrew and John to the Lamb of God. John followed Jesus to His place of sojourn. John probably accompanied Him on His homeward journey to Galilee from Jordan (John 1), and then to Jerusalem (John 2-3), again through Samaria to Galilee (4), and again to Jerusalem (5), for he describes as an eye witness. Resuming his fishing occupation he received his call to permanent discipleship after the miraculous draught of fish (Lu 5:10; Mt 4:18-22).
In the selection of the twelve subsequently the two sons of Jonas and Zebedee's two sons stand foremost. Peter, James, and J. form the inner-most circle. They alone witnessed the raising of Jairus' daughter, Jesus' transfiguration, His agony in Gethsemane, and with the addition of Andrew heard His answer to their private inquiry as to when, and with what premonitory sign, His prediction of the overthrow of the temple should be fulfilled (Mr 13:3-4). Grotius designates Peter as the lover of Christ, John the lover of Jesus. John as a "son of thunder" (Mr 3:17) was not the soft and feminine character that he is often portrayed, but full of intense, burning zeal, ready to drink the Lord's bitter cup and to be baptized with His fiery baptism (Isa 58:1; Jer 23:29; Mt 20:22; Lu 12:49-50), impatient of anyone in separation from Jesus' company, and eager for fiery vengeance on the Samaritans who would not receive Him (Lu 9:49,53-54).
Nor was this characteristic restricted to his as yet undisciplined state; it appears in his holy denunciations long afterward (1Jo 2:18-22; 2Jo 1:7-11; 3Jo 1:9-10). Through his mother John gained his knowledge of the love of Mary Magdalene to the Lord, which he so vividly depicts (John 20). The full narrative of Lazarus' restoration to life (John 11) shows that he was an eye witness, and probably was intimate with the sisters of Bethany. He and Peter followed Jesus when apprehended, while the rest fled (Joh 18:15), even as they had both together been sent to prepare the Passover (Lu 22:8) the evening before, and as it was to John reclining in Jesus' bosom (compare Song 8:3,6) that Peter at the supper made eager signs to get him to ask our Lord who should be the traitor (Joh 13:24). While Peter remained in the porch John was in the council chamber (Joh 18:16-28). John, the Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene accompanied the Saviour to Calvary, and to him Jesus committed as to a brother the care of His sorrowing mother.
Peter and John were in the same abode the ensuing sabbath, and to them Mary Magdalene first runs with the tidings of the tomb being empty. Ardent love lent wings to John's feet, so that he reached the tomb first; but reverent awe restrained him from entering. Peter more impulsive was first to enter (Joh 20:4-6). For at least eight days they stayed at Jerusalem (Joh 20:26). Then they appear in Galilee (John 21) again associated in their former occupation on the sea of Galilee. As yet they were uncertain whether the Lord's will was that they should continue their apostolic ministrations or not; and in the interval their livelihood probably necessitated their resuming their fishing occupation, which moreover would allay their mental agitation at that time of suspense. John with deeper spiritual intuition was first to recognize Jesus in the morning twilight, Peter first in plunging into the water to reach Him (Joh 21:7). Peter's bosom friendship for John suggested the question, after learning his own future, "Lord, and what shall this man do?" (Joh 21:21).
In that undesigned coincidence which confirms historic truth, the Book of Acts (Ac 3:1; 4:13; 8:14) represents the two associated as in the Gospels; together they enter the temple and meet the impotent man at the Beautiful gate; together they witness before the council; together they confirm in the faith, and instrumentally impart the Holy Spirit by laying hands on, the deacon Philip's converts in Samaria, the very place where John once would have called down fire to consume the Samaritans. So complete was the triumph of grace over him! At Stephen's death he and the other apostles alone stayed at. Jerusalem when all the rest were scattered. At Paul's second visit there John (esteemed then with James and Peter a "pillar") gave him the right hand of fellowship, that he should go to the pagan and they to the circumcision (Ga 2:9). John took part in the first council there concerning circumcision of the Gentiles (Ac 15:6). No sermon of his is recorded, Peter is always the spokesman.
Contemplation and communion with God purified the fire of his character, and gave him that serene repose which appears in his writings, which all belong to the later portion of his life. He is not mentioned as married in 1Co 9:5, where, had he been so, it would probably have been stated. Under Domitian (about A.D. 95) John was banished to Patmos (Re 1:9,11). "I John ... your companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle ... Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." The seven churches of western Asia were under his special care. In the Acts, epistles to Ephesians, and Timothy, recording Paul's ministry in connection with Ephesus, no mention occurs of John being there. Again John does not appear in Jerusalem when Paul finally visited it A.D. 60. Probably he left Jerusalem long before settling at Ephesus, and only moved there after Paul's martyrdom, A.D. 66. Paul had foreseen the rise of Gnostic heresy in the Ephesian region.
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The materials for a life of St. John may be divided into three parts: (1) The specific information given in the canonical Scriptures; (2) early and well-attested tradition concerning him; (3) later traditions of a legendary character, which cannot be accepted as history, but which possess an interest and significance of their own. But when all the evidence on the subject is gathered, it is impossible to give more than a bare outline of what was in all probability a long life and an unspeakably important ministry. The present article must he taken in conjunction with those that follow, in view of the controversies which have arisen concerning the authorship of the 'Johannine' writings.
1. The Scripture data.
Son of Zebedee, and brother of James. James and John were fishermen, but when the Lord called them, they forsook all and followed Him. The Lord surnamed them BOANERGES, 'sons of thunder.'
John, Peter, and James were the three selected to be with the Lord on the mount of transfiguration, and in the garden of Gethsemane. In the Acts of the Apostles John was with Peter when the lame man was healed, and they were both cast into prison. They boldly declared that they could not but speak the things they had seen and heard. John was associated with Peter in visiting the Samaritans, who had received the word preached by Philip, and through the laying on of their hands the Holy Spirit was given. Acts 8.
John was one of the apostles at Jerusalem who, when Paul went thither, gave to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that they should go to the heathen. Ga 2:9. He was afterwards banished to the Isle of Patmos, probably under the emperor Nero or Domitian; it is not known with certainty which, nor at what date. There he had the visions recorded in the Revelation. He also wrote the Gospel and the three Epistles bearing his name, which are generally judged to have been written after the other Gospels and Epistles.
John in his gospel calls himself 'the disciple whom Jesus loved;' at the last Passover he leaned upon the bosom of Jesus, and to his care did the Lord when on the cross commend His mother.
was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman on the Lake of Galilee, and of Salome, and brother of James, also an apostle. Peter and James and John come within the innermost circle of their Lord's friends; but to John belongs the distinction of being the disciple whom Jesus loved. He hardly sustains the popular notion, fostered by the received types of Christian art, of a nature gentle, yielding, feminine. The name Boanerges,
implies a vehemence, zeal, intensity, which gave to those who had it the might of sons of thunder. [JAMES] The three are with our Lord when none else are, in the chamber of death,
in the glory of the transfiguration,
when he forewarns them of the destruction of the holy city,
in the agony of Gethsemane. When the betrayal is accomplished, Peter and John follow afar off.
The personal acquaintance which exited between John and Caiaphas enables him to gain access to the council chamber, praetorium of the Roman procurator.
Thence he follows to the place of crucifixion, and the Teacher leaves to him the duty of becoming a son to the mother who is left desolate.
It is to Peter and John that Mary Magdalene first runs with the tidings of the emptied sepulchre,
they are the first to go together to see what the strange words meant, John running on most eagerly to the rock-tomb; Peter, the least restrained by awe, the first to enter in and look.
For at least eight days they continue in Jerusalem.
Later, on the Sea of Galilee, John is the first to recognize in the dim form seen in the morning twilight the presence of his risen Lord; Peter the first to plunge into the water and swim toward the shore where he stood calling to them.
The last words of John's Gospel reveal to us the deep affection which united the two friends. The history of the Acts shows the same union. They are together at the ascension on the day of Pentecost. Together they enter the temple as worshippers,
and protest against the threats of the Sanhedrin. ch
The persecution which was pushed on by Saul of Tarsus did not drive John from his post. ch.
Fifteen years after St. Paul's first visit he was still at Jerusalem, and helped to take part in the settlement of the great controversy between the Jewish and the Gentile Christians.
His subsequent history we know only by tradition. There can be no doubt that he removed from jerusalem and settled at Ephesus, though at what time is uncertain. Tradition goes on to relate that in the persecution under Domitian he is taken to Rome, and there, by his boldness, though not by death, gains the crown of martyrdom. The boiling oil into which he is thrown has no power to hurt him. He is then sent to labor in the mines, and Patmost is the place of his exile. The accession of Nerva frees him from danger, and he returns to Ephesus. Heresies continue to show themselves, but he meets them with the strongest possible protest. The very time of his death lies within the region of conjecture rather than of history, and the dates that have been assigned for it range from A.D. 89 to A.D. 120.