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John The Elder

Probably a mythical figure, invented by Eusebius of Caesarea to account for the authorship of the Apocalypse. Those who could not accept the book as the work of John the Apostle, particularly because of its millenarianism, and yet hesitated to regard it as pseudonymous, looked around for another John who could have been its author. Dionysius of Alexandria (d. c.264) appealed to the existence of two tombs at Ephesus, both purporting to be the burial place of “John,” as evidence that such a second John existed. Eusebius followed Dionysius, mistakenly discovered the other John in the tradition of Papias, called him “John the Presbyter,” and ascribed the Revelation to him. But Papias was no doubt referring to John the Apostle in two different contexts, among the disciples (also called apostles and elders who had died, and those who were still alive). Although the “Presbyter” has been claimed as the author of all or part of the Johannine corpus, there is no need to postulate his existence in order to account for its particular character.

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