Who is John?
the apostle and evangelist, was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and probably a cousin of Jesus (if Salome was a sister of Mary), as may be inferred from John 19:25, "his mother's sister." Comp. with Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40; Luke 23:49. He was probably born at Bethsaida. Matt 4:18, Matt 4:21. His parents were in comfortable circumstances, for his father had hired servants, Mark 1:20, and a partnership in business. Luke 5:10. His mother was one of the women who gave of their substance for the support of Jesus, Luke 8:3, and came with spices to embalm his body. Mark 16:1. The apostle himself was acquainted with the high priest and his court, John 18:15, and had property in Jerusalem. John 19:27. He with James, his brother, carried on the business of fishing with their father. But the fame of the new prophet, John the Baptist, reached Galilee, and with his friends, Peter, Andrew, and Philip, he eagerly advocated the claims of the Baptist, and became one of his followers. In this school he was prepared for a far higher service. He who faithfully obeyed the Forerunner was brought soon to the Lord. Doubtless John was one of the "two disciples" who heard the Baptist declare of Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God!" John 1:36. He followed Jesus unto his abode, saw the marvellous works he performed, and from that hour was a convert to the new faith. But not as yet was he called. He resumed his trade for a time, until Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, caught a glimpse of his old acquaintances, Peter and Andrew, James and John, and by the same command, "Follow me," counted them among the twelve apostles who form the first layer of God's spiritual building. Eph 2:20. Unto John was the tender and expressive epithet given, "The disciple whom Jesus loved." This was intimated in his very name, "Jehovah is gracious." Comp. the German Gottlieb. Did we know nothing more of him than this, we should know enough to stamp him as the worthiest of sinful mortals; he who was the chosen friend of the sinless One must have possessed rare qualities of heart and mind. He was, along with James and Peter, the spectator of all the more private events of the Saviour's life. He saw the glories of the transfiguration, rejoiced in the restoration of Jairus's daughter, wondered at the resurrection of Lazarus, leaned on the Saviour's breast at the Last Supper, and was nearest to him in the garden. He alone of the apostles attended the crucifixion. It was, then, fitting that to him, at the cross, should be committed the care of the widowed mother of Jesus. John 19:26 With Peter he hastens to the sepulchre on Easter morning, is among the disciples when Jesus appears, and at our last glimpse of him in the Gospels he stands near to Peter, and the words are borne to us, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" John 21:22. After the ascension Peter, James, and John are the pillar apostles. Gal 2:1-9. They work miracles, are the sources of counsel, and the heads of the infant Church. In the year 50, Paul meets them, and how cordial a greeting would the ardent lover of Jesus receive from John, whose mind was stored with those precious memories he was destined to write down for the edification and enjoyment of all future time! But when Paul for the last time visited Jerusalem, in 68, John was not there - so do we interpret Luke's silence. Acts 21:18 - having entered upon those wider labors which made him so much beloved. He made Ephesus the centre of his operations, and had, after Paul's martyrdom, according to unanimous tradition, the supervision in general of the churches of Asia Minor. This oversight began in the year 64. Under Nero, a.d. 54-68, in the year 68, he was banished to Patmos, a solitary, barren, rocky island in the AEgean Sea. There he had the visions recorded in Revelation. Rev 1:9. The usual view assigns the Revelation to the close of Domitian's reign, a.d. 95, and his return to Ephesus to the reign of Nerva, a.d. 96; but strong internal evidence favors a date prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, a.d. 70. One of the beautiful stories which are told of the aged apostle John is that when he was too old to preach, he was accustomed to say to the congregation the characteristic words, "Little children, love one another;" and when asked why he always repeated this sentence only, he replied, "Because it is the commandment of the Lord, and enough is done if this one command be obeyed." Another story relates to an earlier period. It is said that once, on entering the bath at Ephesus, he perceived in it the heretic Cerinthus, the early Gnostic, whereupon John cried out, "Let us flee, that the roof do not fall upon us under which lingers Cerinthus, that enemy of the truth." These stories serve well to reveal the permanency of those traits of character which come out in the Gospels. Down to the close John was "the son of thunder," intense in his feeling and vehement in his affection, and the "beloved disciple," of open mind and tender heart, of profound thought and burning zeal. When we compare him with the other apostles we learn his marked individuality. John is the "good" man, while James is the righteous man. John is the pensive, quiet, thoughtful man, while Peter is the active, practical man. "Both these disciples loved the Lord with all the heart, but, as Grotius finely remarks, Peter was more a friend of 'Christ,' John of 'Jesus' - that is, the one revered and loved the Saviour chiefly in his official Messianic character, the other was attached most of all to his person, and was therefore personally still nearer to him, being, so to speak, his bosom-friend. John and Paul have depth of knowledge in common. They are the two disciples who have left us the most complete systems of doctrine. But while Paul is the representative of genuine scholasticism in the best sense of the term, being an exceedingly acute thinker and an accomplished dialectician, John is a representative of all true mysticism, learning from intuition and contemplation. Not inaptly has Peter been styled the apostle of hope, Paul the apostle of faith, and John the apostle of love. The first is the representative of Catholicism, the second of Protestantism, the third of the ideal Church in which this great antagonism shall resolve itself into perfect harmony." - Shaff: Apost. Ch., pp. 410,411. Full of days and of honors, highly privileged and richly endowed, about the close of the century "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was summoned by the Master to resume their loving companionship.
John is identical with JOHA'NAN (whom Jehovah loves; comp. the German Gottlieb). Other John's mentioned in the Bible are: 1. One of the high priest's kindred. Acts 4:6. 2. The Hebrew name of Mark the evangelist. Acts 12:25; Josh 13:5; Acts 15:37. 3. John the Baptist, more properly "the Baptizer." Matt 3:1.