John, the Apostle

See also John the Apostle




In the rest of the NT there are only a few scattered references to John. After the ascension of Jesus he remained in Jerusalem with the other apostles, praying and waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In Acts he appears with Peter in two important scenes. Soon after Pentecost they healed a man who had been lame from his birth, and while explaining the miracle to the astonished crowd gathered around them, they were arrested. The next day they were brought before the Sanhedrin. After being warned not to preach about Jesus any more, they were released (Acts.4.1-Acts.4.22). Later, after the gospel had been preached to the people of Samaria by Philip, Peter and John were sent by the apostles to Samaria; and they prayed and laid hands on the new converts that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts.8.14-Acts.8.15). John’s name is once mentioned in Paul’s letters—in Gal.2.9, where Paul says that on his second visit to Jerusalem after his conversion he met and consulted with James (undoubtedly the Lord’s brother), Peter, and John, who were pillars of the church and who gave him the right hand of fellowship. The only other mention of John in the NT is in Rev.1.1, Rev.1.4, Rev.1.9, where the authorship of the book is ascribed to him.

Five books of the NT are attributed to him—the Fourth Gospel, three letters, and Revelation. The only one in which his name actually appears is the last. According to tradition, he spent his last years in Ephesus. Very likely the seven churches of Asia enjoyed his ministry. The Book of Revelation was written on the island of Patmos, where he was exiled “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev.1.9). Tradition says that he wrote the Gospel of John in Asia at the request of Christian friends and that he agreed to do so only after the church had fasted and prayed about the matter for three days. He apparently died in Ephesus about the end of the century.

It is evident from all we know of John that he was one of the greatest of the apostles. He is described as the disciple whom Jesus loved, no doubt because of his understanding of and love for his Lord. The defects of character with which he began his career as an apostle—an undue vehemence, intolerance, and selfish ambition—were in the course of time brought under control, until he became especially known for his gentleness and kindly love.

Bibliography: C. F. Nolloth, The Fourth Evangelist, 1925; J. Marsh, Saint John, 1968; S. S. Smalley, John: Evangelist and Interpreter, 1978.——SB