John (Apostle)

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Albrecht Dürer - Apostle John (excerpt from The Four Apostles , 1526)

The apostle John ( Greek Ἰωάννης υἱὸς [or ] τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου Ioannes hyios [or ho ] tou Zebedaion , Latin John Zebedaei , ie John the son of Zebedee) was a disciple of Jesus Christ and becomes in the New Testament a disciple of Jesus Christ Tradition identified with the “favorite disciple” of Jesus from the Gospel of John . He is traditionally considered the author of the fourth gospel . Because of the lofty theology of his gospel, he is traditionally called John the Theologian .

Johannes (right) - Detail from the mural The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (1494–1497)

Biblical basics

John under the cross (winged altar in the Pöggstall parish church , around 1500)

The apostle

According to the common testimony of the four canonical Gospels , John was one of the twelve apostles whom Jesus had chosen and, together with Simon Peter and James the Elder, belonged to the narrowest circle of disciples, who, according to the testimony of the Acts of the Apostles and of the Apostle Paul, also in the young church continued to play a special role.

John is presented in the Gospels as the son of Zebedee and the brother of James the Elder . John and James are said to have been fishermen on Lake Gennesaret by profession ( Mk 1,19–21  EU ). They received the Aramaic surname Boanerges from Jesus , which the Gospel of Mark translates as the Sons of Thunder ( Mk 3,17  EU ). According to Christian tradition, the name of the mother of the Zebedee sons is said to have been Salome . This goes back to an interpretation of Mt 27.56  EU , where instead of the "Salome" mentioned in Mk 15.40  EU , it speaks of the "mother of the sons of Zebedee".

The earliest mention of John is in the epistle to the Galatians , written around 50 , in which Paul refers to the reputation that John enjoys as one of the three "pillars" of the young church or the Jerusalem community after James and Cephas (Peter): Ἰάκωβος καὶ Κηφᾶς καὶ Ἰωάννης, οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοι εἶναι. Iakobos kai Kephas kai Ioannes, hoi dokountes styloi einai. ( Gal 2.9  EU ).

The "favorite disciple"

In the Gospel of John, a disciple who is not named is always used with the phrase “he whom Jesus loved” ( Joh 13.23  EU ; Joh 19.26  EU ; Joh 21.20  EU ). This is why this disciple has been given the name of favorite disciple in the Christian tradition . According to the closing words of the Gospel ( Jn 21:24  EU ), this is the evangelist . The gospel - like the rest of the New Testament literature - does not, however, clearly identify this person with one of the apostles. Therefore an identity of the evangelist with the apostle is disputed.

Church tradition and historical research

Christ on the cross with Mary and the favorite disciple. Painting by Albrecht Altdorfer (1515)

In historical-critical exegesis , the apostle John and the evangelist of the Gospel of John are usually identified as two different people who also differ from the author of the Revelation of John .

In contrast, the early church tradition recognizes one and the same person who, according to Rev 1, 9–11  EU, stayed on the island of Patmos and who only died as a bishop in Asia Minor at a very old age.

Justin Martyr , in dialogue with the Jew Tryphon, referred to an apostle John, whom he identified with the author of the Revelation to John: “Furthermore, one who was with us, was called John and was one of the apostles of Christ, prophesied in a revelation that who believe in our Christ will spend a thousand years in Jerusalem ... ”Since the dialogue with Tryphon is located in Ephesus, Justin's phrase“ with us ”is interpreted to mean that John lived in Ephesus .

There is no indication of a martyr's death, as it is narrated in the legends of all other saints from the circle of the twelve . Irenaeus of Lyon , who came from Asia Minor and lived in the late 2nd century, speaks of the Apostle John in many places. According to Irenaeus, the apostle is also the author of the Gospel of John, which was written in Ephesus. John lived there until the reign of Trajan  - he officiated 98–117 AD. According to a statement by the church historian Eusebius of Caesarea from the 3rd / 4th centuries. In the 17th century he is said to have been buried in Ephesus at the side of the apostle Philip. For the apostle John as the author of the Gospel of John, allusions were drawn from Joh 19.35  EU and Joh 21.24  EU . The fact that John is mentioned by name several times in all of the other three Gospels, but never in John's Gospel, is an indication of this. Historical-critical exegesis, on the other hand, assumes a longer genesis of the gospel, which excludes the apostle as the sole author of the canonized version of the gospel.

Symbols and iconography

Jesus and John at the Last Supper by Valentin de Boulogne (1626)

Because of the high theology of his gospel, the symbol of John as the evangelist is the eagle . In the fine arts, John is usually depicted as the only disciple from the circle of the apostles without a beard , because he must have been very young during the ministry of Jesus, if according to the traditional view he only died under Emperor Trajan . In iconography, his attribute is usually the chalice with a snake (see table Iconographic Saint Attributes ). His martyrdom is shown less often , in which he (like Vitus ) is doused with boiling oil while sitting in a cauldron. The name of the Roman church of San Giovanni in Oleo goes back to this tradition . There are corresponding artistic representations by Albrecht Dürer in the cycle “ The Apocalypse ” and by Hans Fries “St. Johannes in the oil boiler ”.

Remembrance day

  • In Catholic , Anglican and many Protestant churches, Remembrance Day is celebrated on December 27th. The day of remembrance in many German Protestant regional churches is officially “ Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist ”. The Gospel of the day on this day is John 21 : 20–24  EU , the liturgical festival color is white. From the Middle Ages to the early 19th century, the Apostle John was also commemorated on May 6th. The feast of May 6th, mentioned for the first time around 780, was initially only an annual commemoration of the consecration of a St. John's Church in front of the Porta Latina in Rome, and was later related to St.
  • In the Orthodox Church, where John is nicknamed "the theologian" (who speaks of God), his feast days are celebrated on October 8th and May 15th.

Appointments and patronage


See also

Web links

Commons : John (Apostle)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The Synaxarion - The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. In 2 volumes. Based on the 6-volume edition of the Holy Monastery of Simonos Petra. First volume. September to February. Monastery of St. John the Forerunner, Chania (Crete) 2006, ISBN 960-88698-0-3 , pp. 123–127.
  2. Nikolaj Velimirović : The prologue of Ohrid. Verlag Johannes A. Wolf, Apelern 2009, ISBN 978-3-937912-04-2 , p. 630.
  3. Justin the Martyr: Dialogue with Triphone 81,3,4. Compare Revelation 20:46.
  4. ^ Irenaeus of Lyons: Adv. Haer. ; III, i, 1
  5. ^ Irenaeus of Lyons: Adv. Haer. ; II, xxii, 5
  6. Eusebius of Caesarea: Church history III, 31.2-6
  7. The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church (Leipzig) ( Memento from August 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive )