John the Evangelist

Saint John the Evangelist

Miniature of Saint John from the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany (1503–8) by Jean Bourdichon
Evangelist, Apostle
Born c. AD 15
Died c. AD 100[1]
Venerated in Coptic Orthodox
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Church
Anglican Communion
Aglipayan Church
Feast 27 December (Western Christianity); 8 May and 26 September (Repose) (Eastern Orthodox Church)
Attributes Eagle, Scrolls
Major works Gospel of John
Epistles of John
Revelation (?)

John the Evangelist (Greek: Εὐαγγελιστής Ἰωάννης) is the name traditionally given to the author of the Gospel of John. Christians have traditionally identified him with John the Apostle, John of Patmos, and John the Presbyter,[2] though this has been disputed by modern scholars.[3]

Gospel of John

The word "evangelist" means "writer of a gospel", from the Greek word for gospel, ευαγγελιον (or in Latin, evangelium).

The Gospel of John refers to an otherwise unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved", who "bore witness to and wrote" the Gospel's message.[4] The author of the Gospel of John seemed interested in maintaining the internal anonymity of the author's identity, though interpreting the Gospel in the light of the Synoptic Gospels and considering that the author names (and therefore is not claiming to be) both Peter and James, it has generally been accepted that the author either was the Apostle John or was pretending to be.[5]

Christian tradition says that John the Evangelist was John the Apostle. The Apostle John was a historical figure, one of the "pillars" of the Jerusalem church after Jesus' death.[6] He was one of the original twelve apostles and is thought to be the only one to have lived into old age and not be killed for his faith. John is associated with the city of Ephesus, where he is said to have lived and been buried. Some believe that he was exiled (around 95 AD) to the Aegean island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. However, this is a matter of debate, with some attributing the authorship of Revelation to another man, called John of Patmos or to John the Presbyter.

Orthodox Roman Catholic scholarship, most Protestant churches, and the entire Eastern Orthodox Church attribute all of the Johannine literature to the same individual, the "Holy Apostle and Evangelist, John the Theologian", whom it identifies with the "Beloved Disciple" in the Gospel of John.

Authorship of the Johannine works

The authorship of the Johannine works has been debated by scholars since at least the 2nd century AD.[7] The main debate centers on who authored the writings, and which of the writings, if any, can be ascribed to a common author.

Orthodox tradition attributes all the books to John the Apostle.[2]

In the 6th century, the Decretum Gelasianum argued that Second and Third John have a separate author known as "John, a priest" (see John the Presbyter).[8] Historical criticism rejects the view that John the Apostle authored any of these works.

Many modern scholars conclude that the apostle John wrote none of these works,[9] although others, notably J.A.T. Robinson, F. F. Bruce, Leon Morris, and Martin Hengel[10] hold the apostle to be behind at least some, in particular the gospel.[11][12]

There may have been a single author for the gospel and the three epistles.[2] Some scholars conclude the author of the epistles was different from that of the gospel, although all four works probably originated from the same community.[13] The gospel and epistles traditionally and plausibly came from Ephesus, c. 90-110, although some scholars argue for an origin in Syria.[14]

In the case of Revelation, many modern scholars agree that it was written by a separate author, John of Patmos, c. 95 with some parts possibly dating to Nero's reign in the early 60s.[2][3]

Feast day

The feast day of Saint John in the Roman Catholic Church, which calls him "Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist", and in the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Calendars, which call him "John, Apostle and Evangelist", is on 27 December, the third day of Christmastide.[15] In the Tridentine Calendar he was commemorated also on each of the following days up to and including 3 January, the Octave of the 27 December feast. This Octave was abolished by Pope Pius XII in 1955.[16] The traditional liturgical color is white.

In art

John the Evangelist is usually depicted as a young man. In Christian art, John is symbolically represented by an eagle, one of the creatures envisioned by Ezekiel (1:10) and in the Revelation to John (4:7). The use of the chalice as a symbol for John is sometimes interpreted with reference to the Last Supper. Another explanation is to be found in the words of Christ to John and James: "My chalice indeed you shall drink" (Matthew 20:23). According to some authorities, this symbol was not adopted until the 13th century.

The painting Saint John the Evangelist by Domenico Zampieri was auctioned in London in December 2009, for an estimated US$16.5 million.[17][18] It sold for £9,225,250.[19] It is a painting by the Italian Baroque painter Zampieri, and it was on display in the National Gallery, London, on loan from a private collection.[20][21][22][23][24] John the Evangelist is depicted as a young man accompanied by his traditional symbol the eagle and two putti. His gaze is directed upwards towards God as he receives the inspiration for his gospel, emphasised by the strong chiaroscuro light bearing down upon him. This was typical of the artist's style, continuing in the manner of late Raphael and his own master Annibale Carracci.

The composition is said to have been inspired by classical sculpture, with some commentators pointing specifically to The Laocoon.[25] This is also evident in Domenichino's other large-scale treatments of the subject such as Madonna and Child with the Saints John the Evangelist and Petronius and the pendentive in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle. The painting also includes an example of the artist's landscape painting, an aspect of his work that was particularly influential on the likes of Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. This element of the work was originally more compressed into the right-hand section of the canvas, the architecture taking precedence. However, Domenichino reconsidered this layout and over painted an extension of the landscape onto the wall. Other alterations are also visible in the books, the hand of the right putto and the larger hill of the landscape.


See also


  1. Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem (2007) [c. 600], "The Life of the Evangelist John", The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John, House Springs, Missouri, United States: Chrysostom Press, pp. 2–3, ISBN 1-889814-09-1
  2. 1 2 3 4 Stephen L Harris, Understanding the Bible, (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985), 355
  3. 1 2 Ehrman, Bart D. (2004). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford. p. 468. ISBN 0-19-515462-2.
  4. Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). Chapter 2. Christian sources about Jesus.
  5. Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition)
  6. Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "John" p. 302-310
  7. F. L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 45
  8. Since the 18th century, the Decretum Gelasianum has been associated with the Council of Rome (382), though historians dispute the connection.
  9. "Although ancient traditions attributed to the Apostle John the Fourth Gospel, the Book of Revelation, and the three Epistles of John, modern scholars believe that he wrote none of them." Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985) p. 355
  10. Hengel, Martin. Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, |page=40 |ISBN 978-1-56338-300-7. Trinity Press International; 1st edition, 2000. p. 40
  11. Morris, Leon (1995) The Gospel According to John Volume 4 of The new international commentary on the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 978-0-8028-2504-9, pp. 4–5, 24, 35–7. "Continental scholars have ... abandoned the idea that this gospel was written by the apostle John, whereas in Great Britain and America scholarship has been much more open to the idea." Abandonment is due to changing opinion rather "than to any new evidence." "Werner, Colson, and I have been joined, among others, by I. Howard Marshall and J.A.T. Robinson in seeing the evidence as pointing to John the son of Zebedee as the author of this Gospel." The view that John's history is substandard "is becoming increasingly hard to sustain. Many recent writers have shown that there is good reason for regarding this or that story in John as authentic. ... It is difficult to ... regard John as having little concern for history. The fact is John is concerned with historical information. ... John apparently records this kind of information because he believes it to be accurate. ... He has some reliable information and has recorded it carefully. ... The evidence is that where he can be tested John proves to be remarkably accurate."
    • Bruce 1981 pp. 52–4, 58. "The evidence ... favor[s] the apostolicity of the gospel. ... John knew the other gospels and ... supplements them. ... The synoptic narrative becomes more intelligible if we follow John." John's style is different so Jesus' "abiding truth might be presented to men and women who were quite unfamiliar with the original setting. ... He does not yield to any temptation to restate Christianity. ... It is the story of events that happened in history. ... John does not divorce the story from its Palestinian context."
    • Dodd p. 444. "Revelation is distinctly, and nowhere more clearly than in the Fourth Gospel, a historical revelation. It follows that it is important for the evangelist that what he narrates happened."
    • Temple, William. "Readings in St. John's Gospel". MacMillan and Co, 1952. "The synoptists give us something more like the perfect photograph; St. John gives us the more perfect portrait".
    • Edwards, R. A. "The Gospel According to St. John" 1954, p 9. One reason he accepts John's authorship is because "the alternative solutions seem far too complicated to be possible in a world where living men met and talked".
    • Hunter, A. M. "Interpreting the New Testament" P 86. "After all the conjectures have been heard, the likeliest view is that which identifies the Beloved Disciple with the Apostle John.
  12. Dr. Craig Blomberg, cited in Lee Strobel The Case for Christ, 1998, Chapter 2.
    • Marshall, Howard. "The Illustrated Bible Dictionary", ed J. D. Douglas et al. Leicester 1980. II, p 804
    • Robinson, J. A. T. "The Priority of John" P 122
    • Cf. Marsh, "John seems to have believed that theology was not something which could be used to read a meaning into events but rather something that was to be discovered in them. His story is what it is because his theology is what it is; but his theology is what it is because the story happened so" (p 580–581).
  13. Ehrman, pp. 178–9.
  14. Brown, Raymond E. (1997). Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Anchor Bible. p. 334. ISBN 0-385-24767-2.
  15. Frandsen, Mary E. (4 April 2006). Crossing Confessional Boundaries : The Patronage of Italian Sacred Music in Seventeenth-Century Dresden. Oxford University Press. p. 161. ISBN 9780195346367. On the Feast of St. John the Evangelist (the third day of Christmas) in 1665, for example, peranda presented two concertos in the morning service, his O Jesu mi dulcissime and Verbum caro factum est, and presented his Jesus dulcis, Jesu pie and Atendite fideles at Vespers.
  16. General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII
  17. Glyndebourne family to sell Old Master for £10 million, London Evening Standard, 9 September 2009
  18. "St John the Evangelist – Drawings, Prints and Painting from Hermitage Museum". Retrieved 2010-02-28.
  19. "Incompatible Browser". Facebook. Retrieved 2010-02-28.
  20. Glyndebourne family to sell Old Master for £10 million, London Evening Standard, 9 Sept 2009
  21. 'Saved' Domenichino painting loaned to National Gallery, Guardian, 18 May 2010
  22. "Baroque painting by master Domenichino saved for nation". BBC News.
  23. Kevin Rawlinson and Léonie Tancred (23 October 2011). "Private collector's £9.2m saves masterpiece from export". The Independent.
  24. Ignacio Villarreal. "Domenichino Masterpiece to Be Offered at Christie's Auction of Old Masters and 19th Century Art".
  25. Christie?s. "Domenico Zampieri, Il Domenichino (Bologna 1581–1641 Naples)".

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