I, John

What the New Testament says about John

Tradition identifies John the son of Zebedee with "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and the eyewitness "who testifies to these things" in the Gospel of John.

Scholars today, however, question whether John the son of Zebedee is the author of the Gospel of John according to our modern sense of authorship. So it may be better to say that the Gospel preserves the memories of John the Son of Zebedee while receiving its final form from one or more of his disciples.

Other writings ascribed to John, such as the letters and the Book of Revelations, may also come from the Johannine school.

What later Christian tradition says about John

As early as the year 135 A.D., the Christian writer Justin who visited Ephesus says that John, the son of Zebedee, resided in that city. Indeed, recent excavations beneath the ruins of the early church of St.John at Ephesus have uncovered a grave that may be his.

None of the apostles inspired as many stories as John did. In early Christian and medieval times, stories teaching a moral lesson from his his later life and ministry abound. The following are from the Golden Legend and are immortalized in many works of medieval art.

John on Patmos?Boiling Oil and Exile

It is said that the Emperor Domitian, hearing that John had founded so many churches in Asia Minor, decided to kill him. So he ordered him brought as a prisoner to Rome and thrown into a vat of boiling oil that was set up near the Porta Latina, a gateway to the city. The apostle was unharmed by the boiling oil, and the emperor then decided to send him into a lonely exile on the Island of Patmos. There John wrote the Book of Revelations. When the emperor died, the Roman Senate revoked his decrees and John was free to return to Ephesus, where he was greeted by crowds of people with the same words that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem: "Blessed is he is comes in the name of the Lord." right: Velasquez imagines John on Patmos, transcribing a vision

A Raising of the Dead

Raising of DrusianaAs he entered the city he met a funeral procession carrying the body of a woman named Drusiana, who had cared for the orphans and needy of Ephesus. She was John's friend and had prayed for his return. The apostle ordered them to stop and opened the top of the woman's coffin. "Drusiana, my Master Jesus Christ raises you to life. Return to your home again," John said. And she returned to her home and prepared a feast for the apostle. right: a detail from Giotto's "Raising of Drusiana"

The Philosopher and the Diamonds

The next day, as John was walking in the town square, he saw a crowd listening to a famous philosopher whose name was Crato. The philospher had just commanded two young disciples who were very rich to exchange everything they had for a few valuable diamonds. Then before the crowd, he had the young men smash the diamonds into small pieces to show how meaningless riches are.

John said to the philosopher this was wrong to do. Jesus taught not to condemn riches, but to give them to the poor. "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor," he had said to the rich young man. Gathering the fragments of the diamonds, John restored them to their original form. The two young men then followed him and gave their riches to those in need.


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