Saint John Apostle

from Living Spaces

John was one of two sons of Zebedee and tradition give the mother’s name as Salome. From the Gospel we learn that John with his father and brother were fishermen in Lake Galilee. He with his brother James and Peter belonged to the inner circle of disciples around Jesus. There is, of course, no record of his year or place of birth.John, with Peter and his brother, were privileged witnesses of certain events in the Gospel story.
They were with Jesus when he restored the daughter of Jairus to life (Matt 5:37; Luke 9:51) and also at the Transfiguration (Matt 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28) and the Agony in the Garden (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33). It was John who went with Peter into the city to make the preparation for the final Passover meal (the Last Supper) (Luke 22:8). It is possible that John was the “other disciple” who “kept following Jesus closely” (in more ways than one) as Jesus was brought into the high priest’s house (John 18:15). But it may refer to the “Beloved Disciple”.
John and his brother were called ‘Boanerges’ or ‘Sons of Thunder’ (Mark 3:17) by Jesus because of their fiery temperament, revealed when they suggested Jesus should call down fire from heaven on some Samaritans who would not provide hospitality to Jesus and his disciples as they were passing through the territory (Luke 9:54).

John and James also aroused the ire of their fellow apostles by asking Jesus privately to grant them the privilege to sit on Jesus’ right and left in his Kingdom, in other words, having the places of greatest honour. And, when asked would they be able to go through an experience similar to that Jesus was about to face in his Passion, they boldly said they could. Jesus told them they were right but it would only happen after they had fully absorbed the way and thinking of Jesus. As for instance, when he told them that true greatness was not in having places of honour but rather in outdoing everyone in loving service to others.
The name John is traditionally linked with New Testament writing. Three different authors with the name John have been identified.
There is the author of the Gospel according to John and the First Letter of John, commonly referred to as John the Evangelist and also identified with John the Apostle. The authorship of books in ancient times was quite loose and the name attached to a book may not indicate that that person actually wrote it, although he may have inspired it in some way. However, the same person does seem to have authored these two books.
The Second and Third Letter of John have the same author, who calls himself the Presbyter or Elder and is sometimes identified with a person known as John the Presbyter.
The author of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse (a Greek word for ‘revelation’) calls himself John but the book’s whole way of thinking, style and content make it very unlikely he was the one who wrote the gospel. He says that, because of his Christian faith, he had been exiled to the island of Patmos but he does not claim to be John the Apostle, although some early writers so identified him.
The gospel according to John clearly emphasises the divine nature of Jesus, as both Light and Life and the Word of God incarnated into the human family. This gospel also puts love (agape, ‘) as the vital bond between Father and Son and between Christ and disciples and the bond between disciples. Traditionally John the Apostle wrote his gospel towards the end of his life, at the end of the first century.

Another tradition identifies John the Apostle with the Beloved Disciple in the gospel of John. This is questionable. The Beloved Disciple seems rather to represent the perfect or model disciple, one who has none of the defects and faults of the Twelve, all who reveal clear weaknesses, including John.
After the Resurrection John was prominent in the early Church. Not only would he have been among the early witnesses of the Risen Lord but also would have been involved in the early preaching. Chapter 3 of the Acts of the Apostles speaks of Peter and John going into the Temple to pray at 9 o’clock in the morning. At the Temple gate they saw a crippled beggar who was put there every day. When he begged money from the two Apostles, they both fixed their gaze on the man and asked him to look at them. Then Peter said to him, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, walk!” Then Peter pulled the man to his feet. He went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping about, and praising God. As the crowds gathered in wonder, this gave Peter the opportunity to preach to them about Jesus Christ. While they were still addressing the crowd, the Temple guard and some
Sadducees came and arrested the two Apostles and put them in jail for the night. The following day they were brought before the Sanhedrin and again Peter took the opportunity to speak about Christ and why they believed in him. Eventually, divided among themselves, their judges sent them away with a warning never to speak about Jesus again.
The last appearance of John the Apostle in the New Testament is in chapter 8 of the Acts. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had “accepted the word of God”, Peter and John were sent to evangelise them. The people there had “only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus” but the Spirit had not yet come down on them. The two Apostles then laid their hands on the people and they received the Spirit. “After giving their testimony and proclaiming the word of the Lord, [Peter and John] went back to Jerusalem bringing the good news to many villages of Samaria on the way” (Acts 8:25).
It is not certain how long John, with the other Apostles, would have stayed in Jerusalem. However, 12 years later, during the persecution of Herod Agrippa I, they would have scattered to other parts of the Empire. John may have gone to Asia Minor. It seems there was already a Christian community in Ephesus before Paul first went there and John has always been linked with that city. He would probably have returned to Jerusalem for the Council held in the year 51.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul refers to John, together with Peter and James, as “the acknowledged pillars”, in other words, the most prominent figures in the Jerusalem community (Galatians 2:9)
There is a long-standing tradition that John the Apostle settled in Ephesus. Various legends are told of him there by people like Clement of Alexandria. It was said he feared that the baths at which the heretic Cerinthus was bathing would collapse because he was in them. Or his repeated exhortation to his followers to love one another to the point of tedium. He emphasised it because “it is the word of the Lord and, if you keep it, that is enough”. Something similar to Augustine’s later saying: “Love and do what you like.”
An old tradition holds that John was banished by the Roman authorities to the Greek island of Patmos. According to Tertullian John was banished (presumably to Patmos) after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering nothing from it. It is said that the entire coliseum was converted to Christianity upon witnessing this miracle. (The vestments for John’s feast are white, indicating he is not regarded as a martyr.)
Artistic representations of John reflect other legends. He is shown holding a cup with a viper in it, calling to mind a challenge from the high priest of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus to drink a poisoned cup. In his role as evangelist his emblem is an eagle.
John is the patron of theologians, writers, and all who work at the production of books.
The dedication of the church of St John before the Latin Gate on 6 May commemorates his escape from being put into a cauldron of boiling oil under the Emperor Domitian.


read more

A Bishiop

For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you,
on condition that a man be blameless,
married only once, with believing children
who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious.
For a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless, not arrogant,
not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive,
not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness,
temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled,
holding fast to the true message as taught
so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine
and to refute opponents

 

– Titus 1


read more

St Matthew: Apostle

Saint Matthew

Tools: Email; Print; Font-size

St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Feast)
Matthew, who is called Levi by Mark and Luke, was a tax collector, a Jew working for the Roman colonising power. It is not surprising that Jews who did this work – especially as the Romans did not collect tax from their own citizens – were objects of contempt.
As recorded in today’s Gospel reading, he left his business to become a disciple of Jesus, and indeed one of the Twelve Apostles.
Matthew is spoken of five times in the New Testament; first in Matthew 9:9, when called by Jesus to follow Him, and then four times in the list of the Apostles, where he is mentioned in the seventh (Luke 6:15, and Mark 3:18), and again in the eighth place (Matthew 10:3, and Acts 1:13). As the account in the three Synoptics is identical, it is presumed that Matthew and Levi refer to the same person, although this is disputed. Levi could have been his original Jewish name. This is indicated by Matthew’s gospel referring to the tax collector as someone “named Matthew”. It was quite common for Jews to have two names. He is not mentioned in John’s gospel.
From very early times Matthew has been traditionally regarded as the author of one of the four gospels, to which both Irenaeus and Papias, early Christian writers, give witnesses. This gospel was written in late in the 1st century and, based on similarity of material, is presumed to be
dependent on Mark which is believed to have been the first gospel to be written. It is a very Jewish work and is clearly directed to Jewish converts. The original is thought to have been written in Aramaic or Hebrew although we now only have the Greek version.
Matthew’s gospel (in contrast with Mark) concentrates a good deal on the teaching of Jesus and for that reason was used widely in the Church for catechetical teaching.
Each of the four evangelists is represented by a symbol taken from the Old Testament. Matthew is represented as a man. This is because the genealogy he places at the beginning of his gospel speaks of the human ancestry of Jesus.
One tradition says he went to Ethiopia and preached the Gospel there, confirming his teaching with many miracles. Because of one of his greatest miracles, that of bringing back to life the king’s daughter, the king and his wife together with the whole country became Christians. When the king died, his successor Hirtacus wished to marry Iphigenia, the daughter of the former king. But she had vowed her virginity to God and would not change. Because the vow had been taken through Matthew’s influence, Hirtacus had Matthew killed. It was believed that this happened on 21 September, hence the date of his feast.
However, the Martyrology of Jerome says he died at Tarrium in Persia and others at Tarsuana, east of the Persian Gulf.
What are claimed to be his relics were brought to Salerno in Italy by Robert Guiscard from Finisterre in Brittany where it is said they had been originally brought from Ethiopia. Later, under Pope Gregory VII, they were transferred to the church dedicated to St. Matthew.
In art, Matthew is represented as either an evangelist or an apostle. As an evangelist he sits at a desk, writing his gospel with an angel guiding his hand or holding an inkwell. As an apostle he is shown with the emblem of martyrdom – a spear or sword or lance. He may also be shown holding a money-bag, representing his original profession. In the later Middle Ages he may even be shown wearing glasses, to help read his accounts!


read more