St. John, “The Apostle”

St. John the Apostle (Aramaic Yoħanna) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. 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–all of whom suffered martyrdom–and ultimately died of natural causes “in great old age near Ephesus”. 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.

john the apostle

Zebedee and his sons fished in the Lake of Genesareth. James and John first were disciples of Saint John the Baptist. Jesus then called Saint Andrew, Saint Peter, and these two sons of Zebedee to follow Him. James and John did so and thus rank high among the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. John and James both held prominent positions among the Apostles. Jesus referred to the pair collectively as “Boanerges” (translated “sons of thunder”)

Peter, James and John were the only witnesses of the raising of Daughter of Jairus John and his brother James wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan town, but Jesus rebuked them.

Peter, James, and John also witnessed the Transfiguration.

Jesus sent only John and Peter into the city to make the preparation for the final Passover meal (the Last Supper). At the meal itself, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” sat next to Jesus and leaned onto His chest. Tradition identifies this disciple as Saint John.

Peter, James, and John also witnessed the Agony in Gethsemane more closely than the other Apostles did. After the arrest of Jesus, Peter and the “other disciple” (according to Sacred Tradition, John) 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 myrrh bearers 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 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. With Peter he is also thrown into prison. He is also with Peter visiting the newly converted in Samaria.

John survived his contemporary apostles including James by more than half a century after James became the first Apostle to die a martyr’s death. It is traditionally believed that John lived to an extreme old age, dying naturally at Ephesus in about AD 100. John’s traditional tomb is thought to be located at Selçuk, a small town in the vicinity of Ephesus.

John as the presumed author of the Gospel is often depicted with an eagle, which symbolizes the height he rose to in the first chapter of his gospel. 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.

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.


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