Keith Hunt - Church History #14 - Page Fourteen   Restitution of All Things

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History of the Church #14

The Apostle John


From the multi-volume work of Philip Schaff
(late 1800s)


Peter, the Jewish apostle of authority, and Paul, the Gentile
apostle of freedom, had done their work on earth before the
destruction of Jerusalem - had done it for their age and for all
ages to come; had done it, and by the influence of their writings
are doing it still, in a manner that can never be superseded.
Both were master-builders, the one in laying the foundation, the
other in rearing the superstructure, of the church of Christ,
against which the gates of Hades can never prevail.

But there remained a most important additional work to be done, a
work of union and consolidation. This was reserved for the
apostle of love, the bosom-friend of Jesus, who had become his
most perfect reflection so far as any human being can reflect the
ideal of divine-human purity and holiness. John was not a
missionary or a man of action, like Peter and Paul. He did
little, so far as we know, for the outward spread of
Christianity, but all the more for the inner life and growth of
Christianity where it was already established. He has nothing to
say about the government, the forms, and rites of the visible
church (even the name does not occur in his Gospel and first
Epistle), but all the more about the spiritual substance of the
church - the vital union of believers with Christ and the
brotherly communion of believers among themselves. He is at once
the apostle, the evangelist, and the seer, of the new
covenant. He lived to the close of the first century, that he
might erect on the foundation and superstructure of the apostolic
age the majestic dome gilded by the light of the new heaven.


He had to wait in silent meditation till the church was ripe for
his sublime teaching. This is intimated by the mysterious word of
our Lord to Peter with reference to John: "If I will that he
tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" No doubt the Lord did
come in the terrible judgment of Jerusalem. John outlived it
personally, and his type of doctrine and character will outlive
the earlier stages of church history (anticipated and typified by
Peter and Paul) till the final coming of the Lord. In that wider
sense he tarries even till now, and his writings, with their
unexplored depths and heights still wait for the proper
interpreter. The best comes last. 

(The interpretation of John as he wrote the book of Revelation
under inspiration and interpretation of Jesus the Christ, is NOW
made clear in this end time, and which I have expounded to you on
this website - Keith Hunt) 

In the vision of Elijah on Mount Horeb, the strong wind that rent
the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks, and the earthquake,
and the fire preceded the still small voice of Jehovah. The owl
of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, begins its flight at twilight.
The storm of battle prepares the way for the feast of peace. The
great warrior of the apostolic age already sounded the keynote of
love which was to harmonize the two sections of Christendom; and
John only responded to Paul when he revealed the inmost heart of
the supreme being by the profoundest of all definitions: "God is


John was a son (probably, the younger son) of Zebedee and Salome,
and a brother of the elder James, who became the proto-martyr of
the apostles. He may have been about ten years younger than
Jesus, and as, according to the unanimous testimony of antiquity,
he lived till the reign of Trajan, i.e., till after 98, he must
have attained an age of over ninety years. He was a fisherman by
trade, probably of Bethsaida in Galilee (like Peter, Andrew, and
Philip). His parents seem to have been in comfortable
circumstances. His father kept hired servants; his mother
belonged to the noble band of women who followed Jesus and
supported him with their means, who purchased spices to embalm
him, who were the last at the cross and the first at the open
tomb. John himself was acquainted with the high priest, and owned
a house in Jerusalem or Galilee, into which he received the
mother of our Lord.
He was a cousin of Jesus, according to the flesh, from his
mother, a sister of Mary. This relationship, together with the
enthusiasm of youth and the fervor of his emotional nature,
formed the basis of his intimacy with the Lord.

He had no rabbinical training, like Paul, and in the eyes of the
Jewish scholars he was, like Peter and the other Galileean
disciples, an "unlearned and ignorant man." But he passed through
the preparatory school of John the Baptist who summed up his
prophetic mission in the testimony to Jesus as the "Lamb of God
that taketh away the sin of the world," a testimony which he
afterwards expanded in his own writings. It was this testimony
which led him to Jesus on the banks of the Jordan in that
memorable interview of which, half a century afterwards, he
remembered the very hour. He was not only one of the Twelve, but
the chosen of the chosen Three. Peter stood out more prominently
before the public as the friend of the Messiah; John was known in
the private circle as the friend of Jesus. Peter always looked at
the official character of Christ, and asked what he and the other
apostles should do; John gazed steadily at the person of Jesus,
and was intent to learn what the Master said. They differed as
the busy Martha, anxious to serve, and the pensive Mary,
contented to learn. John alone, with Peter and his brother James,
witnessed the scene of the transfiguration and of Gethsemane -
the highest exaltation and the deepest humiliation in the earthly
life of our Lord. He leaned on his breast at the last Supper and
treasured those wonderful farewell discourses in his heart for
future use. He followed him to the court of Caiaphas. He alone of
all the disciples was present at the crucifixion, and was
intrusted by the departing Saviour with the care of his mother.
This was a scene of unique delicacy and tenderness: the mater
dolorosa and the beloved disciple gazing at the cross, the dying
Son and Lord uniting them in maternal and filial love. It
furnishes the type of those heaven-born spiritual relationships,
which are deeper and stronger than those of blood and interest.  
As John was the last at the cross, so he was also, next to Mary
Magdalene, the first of the disciples who, outrunning even Peter,
looked into the open tomb on ... and he first recognized the
risen Lord when he appeared to the disciples on the shore of the
lake of Galilee.
He seems to have been the youngest of the apostles, as he long
outlived them all; he certainly was the most gifted and the most
favored. He had a religious genius of the highest order - not
indeed for planting, but for watering; not for outward action and
aggressive work, but for inward contemplation and insight into
the mystery of Christ's person and of eternal life in him. Purity
and simplicity of character, depth and ardor of affection, and a
rare faculty of spiritual perception and intuition, were his
leading traits, which became ennobled and consecrated by divine

There are no violent changes reported in John's history; he grew
silently and imperceptibly into the communion of his Lord and
conformity to his example; he was in this respect the antipode of
Paul. He heard more and saw more, but spoke less, than the other
disciples. He absorbed his deepest sayings, which escaped the
attention of others; and although he himself did not understand
them at first, he pondered them in his heart till the Holy Spirit
illuminated them. His intimacy with Mary must also have aided him
in gaining an interior view of the mind and heart of his Lord. He
appears throughout as the beloved disciple, in closest intimacy
and in fullest sympathy with the Lord.


There is an apparent contradiction between the Synoptic and the
Johannean picture of John, as there is between the Apocalypse and
the fourth Gospel; but on closer inspection it is only the two-
fold aspect of one and the same character. We have a parallel in
the Peter of the Gospels and the Peter of his Epistles: the first
youthful, impulsive, hasty, changeable, the other matured,
subdued, mellowed, refined by divine grace.

In the Gospel of Mark, John appears as a Son of Thunder
(Boanerges). This surname, given to him and to his elder
brother by our Saviour, was undoubtedly an epithet of honor and
foreshadowed his future mission, like the name Peter given to
Simon. Thunder to the Hebrews was the voice of God. It conveys
the idea of ardent temper, great strength and vehemence of
character whether for good or for evil, according to the motive
and aim. The same thunder which terrifies does also purify the
air and fructify the earth with its accompanying showers of rain.
Fiery temper under the control of reason and in the service of
truth is as great a power of construction as the same temper,
uncontrolled and misdirected, is a power of destruction.    
John's burning zeal and devotion needed only discipline and
discretion to become a benediction and inspiration to the church
in all ages.

In their early history the sons of Zebedee misunderstood the
difference between the law and the gospel, when, in an outburst
of holy indignation against a Samaritan village which refused to
receive Jesus, they were ready, like Elijah of old, to call
consurning fire from heaven. But when, some years afterwards,
John went to Samaria to confirm the new converts, he called down
upon them the fire of divine life and light, the gift of the Holy
Spirit. The same mistaken zeal for his Master was at the bottom
of his intolerance towards those who performed a good work in the
name of Christ, but outside of the apostolic circle. The desire
of the two brothers, in which their mother shared, for the
highest positions in the Messianic kingdom, likewise reveals both
their strength and their weakness, a noble ambition to be near
Christ, though it be near the fire and the sword, yet an ambition
that was not free from selfishness and pride, which deserved the
rebuke of our Lord, who held up before them the prospect of the
baptism of blood.

All this is quite consistent with the writings of John. He
appears there by no means as a soft and sentimental, but as a
positive and decided character. He had no doubt a sweet and
lovely disposition, but at the same time a delicate sensibility,
ardent feelings, and strong convictions. These traits are by no
means incompatible. He knew no compromise, no division of
loyalty. A holy fire burned within him, though he was moved in
the deep rather than on the surface. 

In the Apocalypse, the thunder rolls loud and mighty against the
enemies of Christ and his kingdom, while on the other hand there
are in the same book episodes of rest and anthems of peace and
joy, and a description of the heavenly Jerusalem, which could
have proceeded only from the beloved disciple. In the Gospel and
the Epistles of John, we feel the same power, only subdued and
restrained. He reports the severest as well as the sweetest
discourses of the Saviour, according as he speaks to the enemies
of the truth, or in the circle of the disciples. No other
evangelist gives us such a profound inside-view of the antagonism
between Christ and the Jewish hierarchy, and of the growing
intensity of that hatred which culminated in the bloody counsel;
no apostle draws a sharper line of demarcation between light and
darkness, truth and falsehood, Christ and Antichrist, than John. 
His Gospel and Epistles move in these irreconcilable antagonisms.
He knows no compromise between God and Baal. With what holy
horror does he speak of the traitor, and the rising rage of the
Pharisees against their Messiah! How severely does he, in the
words of the Lord, attack the unbelieving Jews with their
murderous designs, as children of the devil and, in his Epistles,
he terms every one who dishonors his Christian profession a liar;
every one who hates his brother a murderer; every one who
wilfully sins a child of the devil; and he earnestly warns
against teachers who deny the mystery of the incarnation, as
antichrists, and he forbids even to salute them. The measure of
his love of Christ was the measure of his hatred of Antichrist.  
For hatred is inverted love. Love and hatred are one and the same
passion, only revealed in opposite directions. The same sun gives
light and heat to the living, and hastens the decay of the dead.
Christian art has so far well understood the double aspect of
John by representing him with a face of womanly purity and
tenderness, but not weakness, and giving him for his symbol a
bold eagle soaring with outspread wings above the clouds.


A proper appreciation of John's character as thus set forth
removes the chief difficulty of ascribing the Apocalypse and the
fourth Gospel to one and the same writer. The temper is the same
in both: a noble, enthusiastic nature, capable of intense
emotions of love and hatred, but with the difference between
vigorous manhood and ripe old age, between the roar of battle and
the repose of peace. The theology is the same, including the most
characteristic features of Christology and soteriology.

By no other apostle is Christ called the Logos. The Gospel is
"the Apocalypse spiritualized," or idealized. Even the difference
of style, which is startling at first sight, disappears on closer
inspection. The Greek of the Apocalypse is the most Hebraizing of
all the books of the New Testament, as may be expected from its
close affinity with Hebrew prophecy to which the classical Greek
furnished no parallel, while the Greek of the fourth Gospel is
pure, and free from irregularities; yet after all John the
Evangelist also shows the greatest familiarity with, and the
deepest insight into, the Hebrew religion, and preserves its
purest and noblest elements; and his style has all the childlike
simplicity and sententious brevity of the Old Testament; it is
only a Greek body inspired by a Hebrew soul.

In accounting for the difference between the Apocalypse and the
other writings of John, we must also take into consideration the
necessary difference between prophetic composition under direct
inspiration, and historical and didactic composition, and the
intervening time of about twenty years; the Apocalypse being
written before the destruction of Jerusalem, (No not so, most
scholars today will agree the book of Revelation was written 90
to 95 A.D. and was the LAST book that John wrote - Keith Hunt)
the fourth Gospel towards the close of the first century, in
extreme old age, when his youth was renewed like the eagle's, as
in the case of some of the greatest poets, Homer, Sophocles,
Milton, and Goethe. (The fourth Gospel of John was written well
before the close of the first century A.D. - Keith Hunt)



I quote some excellent remarks on the character of John from my
friend, Dr. Godet (Corn. I. 35, English translation by Crombie
and Cusin): 

"How are we to explain two features of character apparently so
opposite? There exist profound receptive natures which are
accustomed to shut up their impressions within themselves, and
this all the more that these impressions are keen and thrilling. 
But if it happens that these persons once cease to be masters of
themselves, their long-restrained emotions then burst forth in
sudden explosions, which fill the persons around them with
amazement. Does not the character of John belong to this order?
And when Jesus gave to him and his brother the surname of
Boanerges, sons of thunder (Mark 3: 17), could he have described
them better? I cannot think that, by that surname, Jesus
intended, as all the old writers have believed, to signalize the
eloquence which distinguished them. Neither can I allow that he
desired by that surname to perpetuate the recollection of their
anger in one of the cases indicated. We are led by what precedes
to a more natural explanation, and one more worthy of Jesus
himself. As electricity is stored up by degrees in the cloud
until it bursts forth suddenly in the lightning and thunderbolt,
so in those two loving and passionate natures impressions
silently accumulated till the moment when the heart overflowed,
and they took an unexpected and violent flight. We love to
represent St. John to ourselves as of a gentle rather than of an
energetic nature, tender even to weakness. Do not his writings
insist before and above all else upon love? Were not the last
sermons of the old man 'Love one another?' That is true; but we
forget other features of a different kind, during the first and
last periods of his life, which reveal something decisive, sharp,
absolute, even violent in his disposition. If we take all the
facts stated into consideration, we shall recognize in him one of
those sensitive, ardent souls, worshippers of an ideal, who
attach themselves at first sight, and without reservation, to
that being who seems to them to realize that of which they have
dreamt, and whose devotion easily becomes exclusive and
intolerant. They feel themselves repelled by everything which is
not in sympathy with their enthusiasm. They no longer understand
a division of heart which they themselves know not bow to
practice. All for all! such is their motto. Where that all
is not, there is in their eyes nothing. Such affections do not
subsist without including an alloy of impure egoism. A divine
work is needed, in order that the true devotion, which
constitutes the basis of such, may shine forth at the last in all
its sublimity. Such was, if we are not deceived, the inmost
history of John."   (Comp. the third French ed. of Godet's Com.,
I. p.50).

Dr. WESTCOTT (in his Com., p. xxxiii.): "John knew that to be
with Christ was life, to reject Christ was death; and he did not
shrink from expressing the thought in the spirit of the old
dispensation. He learned from the Lord, as time went on, a more
faithful patience, but he did not unlearn the burning devotion
which consumed him. To the last, words of awful warning, like the
thunderings about the throne, reveal the presence of that secret
fire. Every page of the Apocalypse is inspired with the cry of
the souls beneath the altar, 'How long' (Rev. 6:10); and nowhere
is error as to the person of Christ denounced more sternly than
in his Epistles (2 John 10; 1 John 4: 1 fl:)."


Dean STANLEY (Sermons and Essays on the Apost. Age, p.249 sq., 3d
ed.): "Above all, John spoke of the union of the soul with God,
but it was by no mere process of oriental contemplation, or
mystic absorption; it was by that word which now for the first
time took its proper place in the order of the world - by LOVE.
It has been reserved for St. Paul to proclaim that the deepest
principle in the heart of man was Faith; it was reserved for St.
John to proclaim that the essential attribute of God is LOVE.    
It had been taught by the Old Testament that 'the beginning of
wisdom was the fear of God;' it remained to be taught by the last
apostle of the New Testament that 'the end of wisdom was the love
of God.' It had been taught of old time by Jew and by heathen, by
Greek philosophy and Eastern religion, that the Divinity was well
pleased with the sacrifices, the speculations, the tortures of
man; it was to St. John that it was left to teach in all its
fulness that the one sign of God's children is 'the love of the
brethren.' And as it is LOVE that pervades our whole conception
of his teaching, so also it pervades our whole conception of his
character. We see him - it surely is no unwarranted fancy - we
see him declining with the declining century; every sense and
faculty waging feebler, but that one divinest faculty of all
burning more and more brightly; we see it breathing through every
look and gesture; the one animating principle of the atmosphere
in which he lives and moves; earth and heaven, the past, the
present, and the future alike echoing to him that dying strain of
his latest words, 'We love Him because He loved us.' And when at
last he disappears from our view in the last pages of the sacred
volume, ecclesiastical tradition still lingers in the close: and
in that touching story, not the less impressive because so
familiar to us, we see the aged apostle borne in the arms of his
disciples into the Ephesian assembly, and there repeating over
and over again the same saying, 'Little children, love one
another;' till, when asked why he said this and nothing else, he
replied in those well known words, fit indeed to be the farewell
speech of the Beloved Disciple, 'Because this is our Lord's
command, and if you fulfil this, nothing else is needed.'"

Apostolic Labors of John.


In the first stadium of Apostolic Christianity John figures as
one of the three pillars of the church of the circumcision,
together with Peter and James the brother of the Lord; while Paul
and Barnabas represented the Gentile church. This seem to imply
that at that time he had not yet risen to the full apprehension
of the universalism and freedom of the gospel. But he was the
most liberal of the three, standing between James and Peter on
the one hand, and Paul on the other, and looking already towards
a reconciliation of Jewish and Gentile Christianity. The
Judaizers never appealed to him as they did to James, or to
Peter. There is no trace of a Johannean party, as there is of a
Cephas party and a party of James. He stood above strife and
In the earlier chapters of the Acts he appears, next to Peter, as
the chief apostle of the new religion; (NO! There were no "chief"
apostles as such - different functions yes - but Jesus made it
clear on His last Passover night, that he who thought himself
chiefest should be servant to all. Schaff is putting his own
words into your mind that are not backed up by the NT Scriptures
- Keith Hunt) he heals with him the cripple at the gate of the
temple; he was brought with him before the Sanhedrin to bear
witness to Christ; he is sent with him by the apostles from
Jerusalem to Samaria to confirm the Christian converts by
imparting to them the Holy Spirit; he returned with him to
Jerusalem. But Peter is always named first and takes the lead in
word and act; (But being named first does not prove "chief" over
the rest - Jesus' teaching on the matter takes first place over
any name being placed before other names - such name placing has
deceived many into false teachings never intended by what name
comes before other names - Keith Hunt)...
John follows in mysterious silence and makes the impression of a
reserved force which will manifest itself at some future time.   
He must have been present at the conference of the apostles in
Jerusalem, A.D. 50, but he made no speech and took no active part
in the great discussion about circumcision and the terms of
church membership. All this is in entire keeping with the
character of modest and silent prominence given to him in the

After the year 50 he seems to have left Jerusalem. The Acts no
more mention him nor Peter. When Paul made his fifth and last
visit to the holy city (A.D. 58) he met James, but none of the


The later and most important labors of John are contained in his
writings, which we shall fully consider in another chapter. They
exhibit to us a history that is almost exclusively inward and
spiritual, but of immeasurable reach and import. They make no
allusion to the time and place of residence and composition.     
But the Apocalypse implies that he stood at the head of the
churches of Asia Minor. This is confirmed by the unanimous
testimony of antiquity, which is above all reasonable doubt, and
assigns Ephesus to him as the residence of his latter years. He
died there in extreme old age during the reign of Trajan, which
began in 98. His grave also was shown there in the second
We do not know when he removed to Asia Minor, but he cannot have
done so before the year 63. For in his valedictory address to the
Ephesian elders, and in his Epistles to the Ephesians and
Colossians and the second to Timothy, Paul makes no allusion to
John, and speaks with the authority of a superintendent of the
churches of Asia Minor. It was probably the martyrdom of Peter
and Paul that induced John to take charge of the orphan churches,
exposed to serious dangers and trials.

Ephesus, the capital of proconsular Asia, was a centre of Grecian
culture, commerce, and religion; famous of old for the songs of
Homer, Anacreon, and Mimnermus, the philosophy of Thales,
Anaximenes, and Anaximander, the worship and wonderful temple of
Diana. There Paul had labored three years (54--57) and
established an influential church, a beacon-light in the
surrounding darkness of heathenism. From there he could best
commune with the numerous churches he had planted in the
provinces. There he experienced peculiar joys and trials, and
foresaw great dangers of heresies that should spring up from
within. All the forces of orthodox and heretical Christianity
were collected there. Jerusalem was approaching its downfall;
Rome was not yet a second Jerusalem. Ephesus, by the labors of
Paul and of John, became the chief theatre of church history in
the second half of the first and during the greater part of the
second century.

Polycarp, the patriarchal martyr, and Irenaeus, the leading
theologian in the conflict with Gnosticism, best represent the
spirit of John and bear testimony to his influence. He alone
could complete the work of Paul and Peter, and give the church
that compact unity which she needed for her self-preservation
against persecution from without and heresy and corruption from

If it were not for the writings of John the last thirty years of
the first century would be almost an entire blank. They resemble
that mysterious period of forty days between the resurrection and
the ascension, when the Lord hovered, as it were, between heaven
and earth, barely touching the earth beneath, and appearing to
the disciples like a spirit from the other world. But the
theology of the second and third centuries evidently presupposes
the writings of John, and starts from his Christology rather than
from Paul's anthropology and soteriology, which were almost
buried out of sight until Augustin, in Africa, revived them.


John was banished to the solitary, rocky, and barren island of
Patmos (now Patmo or Palmosa), in the Aegean sea, southwest of
Ephesus. This rests on the testimony of the Apocalypse, 1:9, as
usually understood: "I John, your brother and partaker with you
in the tribulation and kingdom and patience in Jesus, was in the
isle that is called Patmos, for (on account of) the word of God
and the testimony of Jesus." There he received, while "in the
spirit, on the Lord's day," those wonderful revelations
concerning the struggles and victories of Christianity.
The fact of his banishment to Patmos is confirmed by the
unanimous testimony of antiquity. It is perpetuated in the
traditions of the island, which has no other significance. "John
- that is the thought of Patmos; the island belongs to him; it
is his sanctuary. Its stones preach of him, and in every heart he

The time of the exile is uncertain, and depends upon the disputed
question of the date of the Apocalypse. External evidence points
to the reign of Domitian, A.D. 95; internal evidence to the reign
of Nero, or soon after his death, A.D. 68. (The first is
recognized today by most scholars - Keith Hunt).

The prevailing - we may say the only distinct tradition,
beginning with so respectable a witness as Irenaeus about 170,
assigns the exile to the end of the reign of Domitian, who ruled
from 81 to 96. He was the second Roman emperor who persecuted
Christianity, and banishment was one of his favorite modes of
punishment. Both facts give support to this tradition. After a
promising beginning he became as cruel and bloodthirsty as Nero,
and surpassed him in hypocrisy and blasphemous self-deification.
He began his letters: "Our Lord and God commands," and required
his subjects to address him so. He ordered gold and silver
statues of himself to be placed in the holiest place of the
temples. When he seemed most friendly, he was most dangerous.    
He spared neither senators nor consuls when they fell under his
dark suspicion, or stood in the way of his ambition. He searched
for the descendants of David and the kinsmen of Jesus, fearing
their aspirations, but found that they were poor and innocent
persons. Many Christians suffered martyrdom under his reign, on
the charge of atheism - among them his own cousin, Flavius
Clemens, of consular dignity, who was put to death, and his wife
Domitilla, who was banished to the island of Pandateria, near
Naples. In favor of the traditional date may also be urged an
intrinsic propriety that the book which closes the canon, and
treats of the last things till the final consummation, should
have been written last.

Nevertheless, the internal evidence of the Apocalypse itself, and
a comparison with the fourth Gospel, favor an earlier date,
before the destruction of Jerusalem, and during the interregnum
which followed the death of Nero (68), when the beast, that is
the Roman empire, was wounded, but was soon to be revived (by the
accession of Vespasian). If there is some foundation for the
early tradition of the intended oil-martyrdom of John at Rome, or
at Ephesus, it would naturally point to the Neronian persecution,
in which Christians were covered with inflammable material and
burned as torches. The unmistakable allusions to imperial
persecutions apply much better to Nero than to Domitian. The
difference between the Hebrew coloring and fiery vigor of the
Apocalypse and the pure Greek and calm repose of the fourth
Gospel, to which we have already alluded, are more easily
explained if the former was written some twenty years earlier.   
This view has some slight support in ancient tradition, and has
been adopted by the majority of modern critical historians and
We hold, then, as the most probable view, that John was exiled to
Patmos under Nero, wrote the Apocalypse soon after Nero's death,
A.D. 68 or 69, returned to Ephesus, completed his Gospel and
Epistles several (perhaps twenty) years later, and fell asleep in
peace during the year of Trajan, after A.D. 98.

(That view by Schaff and others of his time, is mainly rejected
today by most scholars, who place the writing of the book
Revelation in the last 10 years of the first century A.D. - Keith

The faithful record of the historical Christ in the whole fulness
of his divine-human person, as the embodiment and source of life
eternal to all believers, with the accompanying epistle of
practical application, was the last message of the Beloved
Disciple at the threshold of the second century, at the golden
sunset of the apostolic age. The recollections of his youth,
ripened by long experience, transfigured by the Holy Spirit, and
radiant with heavenly light oś truth and holiness, are the most
precious legacy of the last of the apostles to all future
generations of the church.

Traditions Respecting John

The memory of John sank deep into the heart of the church, and
not a few incidents more or less characteristic and probable have
been preserved by the early fathers.

Clement of Alexandria, towards the close of the second century,
represents John as a faithful and devoted pastor when, in his old
age, on a tour of visitation, he lovingly pursued one of his
former converts who had become a robber, and reclaimed him to the

Irenaeus bears testimony to his character as "the Son of Thunder"
when he relates, as from the lips of Polycarp, that, on meeting
in a public bath at Ephesus the Gnostic heretic Cerinthus, who
denied the incarnation of our Lord, John refused to remain under
the same roof, lest it might fall down. This reminds one of the
incident recorded in Luke 9:49, and the apostle's severe warning
in 2 John 10 and 11. The story exemplifies the possibility of
uniting the deepest love of truth with the sternest denunciation
of error and moral evil.

Jerome pictures him as the disciple of love, who in his extreme
old age was carried to the meeting-place on the arms of his
disciples, and repeated again and again the exhortation,
"Little children, love one another," adding: "This is the Lord's
command, and if this alone be done, it is enough." This, of all
the traditions of John, is the most credible and the most useful.

In the Greek church John bears the epithet "the theologian"
(Greek is given), for teaching most clearly the divinity of
Christ (Greek is given). He is also called "the virgin" (Greek is
given), for his chastity and supposed celibacy. 
Augustin says that the singular chastity of John from his early
youth was supposed by some to be the ground of his intimacy with
The story of John and the huntsman, related by Cassian, a
monk of the fifth century, represents him as gently playing with
a partridge in his hand, and saying to a huntsman, who was
surprised at it: "Let not this brief and slight relaxation of my
mind offend thee, without which the spirit would flag from
over-exertion and not be able to respond to the call of duty when
need required." Childlike simplicity and playfulness are often
combined with true greatness of mind.

(And that is often so very true. David was a man of outdoor
pleasure. As a youth a man of the outdoor nature of the Lord, a
shepherd, but skilled with the sling-shot, a brave youth that
would fight the bear or lion to preserve his flock. A man of
music and the stringed instrument. A poet and under the
inspiration of God, a writers of Pslams - Keith Hunt)

Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, at the close of the second
century, relates (according to Eusebius) that John introduced in
Asia Minor the Jewish practice of observing Easter on the 14th of
Nisan, irrespective of Sunday. This fact entered largely into the
paschal controversies of the second century, and into the modern
controversy about the genuineness of the Gospel of John.

(Oh indeed John knew the CORRECT wat to observe the memorial of
Christ's death, and gave that correct teaching to Polycarp who
also gave it to Polycrates - Keith Hunt)

The same Polycrates of Ephesus describes John as wearing the
plate, or diadem of the Jewish high-priest (Ex. 28:36,37; 39:30,
31). It is probably a figurative expression of priestly holiness
which John attaches to all true believers (comp. Rev. 2:17), but
in which he excelled as the patriarch.

From a misunderstanding of the enigmatical word of Jesus, John
21:22, arose the legend that John was only asleep in his grave,
gently moving the mound as he breathed, and awaiting the final
advent of the Lord. According to another form of the legend he
died, but was immediately raised and translated to heaven, like
Elijah, to return with him, as the herald of the second advent of

(This is silly teachings from those who did not know the
Scriptures, and the truth about death, and the resurrection or
the words of Christ who said in John 3 that NO MAN had ascended
to heaven but He that came down from heaven. Jesus coming from
heaven knew very well that Eligah, Moses, and any other human,
were NOT in heaven  - Keith Hunt)


John was the man inspired to write about the great apostacy that
was towards the end of the first century A.D. sweeping the Church
of God - namely that the Ten Commandments of God were "done away"
or that grace made the observing of the Ten Commandments a less
priority, not as important, as under the Old Covenant. It was
John who was inspired in no uncertain way to interpret for us
what the LOVE of God IS .... the keeping of the Ten Commandments
and doing all things that are pleasing to God.
Right to the very end and last book of the New Testament to be
written - the book of Revelation - John was inspired to relate
the saints of God would be the ones observing the Ten

Keith Hunt

To be continued

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