John THE APOSTLE, brother of James the “Greater” (Matt. 4:21; 10:2; Mark 1:19; 3:17; 10:35). He was one, probably the younger, of the sons of Zebedee (Matt. 4:21) and Salome (Matt. 27:56; compare Mark 15:40), and was born at Bethsaida. His father was apparently a man of some wealth (compare Mark 1:20; Luke 5:3; John 19:27).
He doubtlessly received the same Hebrew education as did other Jewish youths. When he grew up, he became a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. When John the Baptist began his ministry in the wilderness of Judea, John, with many others, gathered round him, and was deeply influenced by his teaching. There he heard the announcement, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and forthwith, on the invitation of Jesus, became a disciple and ranked among his followers (John 1:36,37) for a time.
He and his brother then returned to their former avocation, for how long is uncertain.
Jesus again called them (Matt. 4:21; Luke 5:1-11), and now they left all and permanently attached themselves to the company of his disciples. He became one of the innermost circle (Mark 5:37; Matt. 17:1; 26:37; Mark 13:3). He was the disciple “whom Jesus loved.”
In zeal and intensity of character he was a “Boanerges” (Mark 3:17). This spirit once and again broke out (Matt. 20:20-24; Mark 10:35-41; Luke 9:49, 54).
At the betrayal of Jesus, he and Peter follow Christ afar off, while the others hastily flee (John 18:15). At the trial he boldly follows Christ into the council chamber, and from there to the praetorium (18:16,19, 28) and to the place of crucifixion (19:26,27). To him and Peter, Mary first conveys tidings of the resurrection (20:2), and they are the first to go and see what her strange words mean.
After the resurrection he and Peter again return to the Sea of Galilee, where the Lord reveals himself to them (21:1,7).
We find Peter and John frequently together after this (Acts 3:1; 4:13).
John apparently remained in Jerusalem as the leader of the church there (Acts 15:6; Gal. 2:9). His subsequent history is unrecorded. He was not there, however, at the time of Paul’s last visit (Acts 21:15-40). He appears to have retired to Ephesus, but at what time is unknown.
The seven churches of Asia were the objects of his special care (Rev. 1:11).
He suffered under persecution, and was banished to Patmos (1:9). When he was eventually released, he apparently returned to Ephesus, where he died, probably about A.D. 98, having outlived all or nearly all his friends and companions, even those older than him. Some scholars, differ, believing that this John and the John of Ephesus, were not the same person.
There are many interesting traditions concerning John during his residence at Ephesus, but these cannot be confirmed as historical truth.