John the Evangelist and Apostle

Saint John the Apostle (a.k.a.: Saint John the Evangelist, Saint John the Theologian, John the Divine, John of Patmos, and the Beloved Disciple, literally “the disciple Jesus loved”; A.D. 6 – c. 100)

Saint John the Apostle & the Evangelist

John was one of the four fisherman chosen and invested (ordained, see Mark 3:14) by Jesus to become a disciple (along with Simon Peter, Simon’s brother Andrew, and John’s brother James “the greater”; see Mark 1:16-20) and he was also one of the twelve apostles who were chosen and invested (ordained) by Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee. John and James were most likely born in Bethsaida (the same home town as the apostles Simon Peter, Andrew and Phillip), and initially worked as a fisherman or partner in Peter’s fishing business. Saint John outlived the all the other apostles and he was the only apostle who did not die a martyr’s death.

Papyrus 52 a fragment of the Gospel of John and it is the oldest surviving manuscript of the new testament (c. A.D. 100).

John is generally understood to be the author of 5 of the books 27 books of the New Testament: the Gospel of John (c. A.D. 80), the Epistles of 1st John, 2nd John & 3rd John (c. A.D. 90), and the Book of Revelations (c. A.D. 94, the authorship of which has been disputed in modern times, but was never disputed until the last 2 centuries).

He is one of the four evangelists (with Matthew, Mark, and Luke); Note: the term “evangelist” is from the Latin word evangelium which means: a writer of the gospel. Early Christian illustrations of the four evangelists depict them as “the four living creatures” which are around the throne of God in Heaven (see Ezekiel 1:2-10 and Revelations 4:7-9). John is symbolized as an eagle (with Matthew, who is shown as a winged man or angel, Mark, who is shown as a winged lion, and Luke who is shown as a winged ox or bull).

He is the first of the three men that the Orthodox church considers the “preeminent theologians” (along with Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, see A.D.378 and Saint Symeon the New Theologian, 949 to 1022 ).

John was at the foot of the cross with the Virgin Mary when Christ was crucified. In John 19:26-27 John becomes Mary’s guardian, and he looked after her well being for her for the rest of her life. According to Church tradition, John went to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary, (the mother of Christ) and, after the Dormition and Assumption of Mary (see A.D. 41), he wrote the three epistles which bare his name while he was serving as the bishop of the church in Ephesus.

According to Tertullian of Carthage (in The Prescription of Heretics), around A.D. 90, John was banished by Roman authorities (presumably to the Greek island of Patmos, in the Aegean Sea) 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 Titus Flavius Domitian (lived: A.D. 51 – 96) who ruled Rome from A.D. 81 until 96, and who was known for his persecution of Christians. John wrote the Book of Revelation while he was in exile on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea (off the south eastern corner of modern day Turkey). In A.D. 96, at the death of Domitian, John’s exile was reversed and he returned from Patmos to Ephesus.

When John was aged, he discipled Polycarp of Smyrna who later became the Bishop of Smyrna. This was important because Polycarp was able to carry John’s message to future generations. Polycarp, in turn, taught Irenæus of Lugdunum, passing on to him stories about what John was really like. In Against the Heretics, Irenæus relates how Polycarp told a story of:

“John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus [the heretic] 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.

Ruins of the Basilica of Saint John,
constructed by Justinian I in the 6th century. It stands over the believed burial site of John the Apostle.

It is traditionally believed that John was the youngest of the apostles and that he survived all of them. He is said to have lived to an old age, dying at Ephesus sometime after A.D. 98. In orthodox icons John is often depicted dictating the Book of Revelation to his disciple and scribe Prochorus.