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.


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Saint Luke Evangelist

from Living Spaces

Practically all we know of Luke (and it is not very much) comes from the New Testament. We do not know the place or date of his birth. In Paul’s Letter to Philemon (v.24) Paul refers to “Luke, my fellow worker”. In the Letter to the Colossians (4:14) he speaks of Luke “our dear physician”, so it is taken that he was a medical practitioner of some kind. In the Second Letter to Timothy (4:11) Paul says, “I have no one here with me but Luke”. He seems to have been a close companion of Paul on some of his missionary journeys and on his final journey to Rome. This is based on the belief that the Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke and that in the Acts a number of passages use the word “we”, suggesting the writer was a companion of Paul (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 27:1-28:16).

As well as being the author of the Acts, Luke also taken to be the author of the gospel bearing his name. The two works are linked by his referring at the beginning of Acts to “the former treatise which I wrote” (Acts 1:1). Both books are dedicated to someone namedTheophilus and no scholar seriously doubts that the same person wrote both works, even though neither work contains the name of its author.
A number of assertions about Luke are based on a document believed to date (in part) from the 2nd century:
Luke, a native of Antioch, by profession a physician. He had become a disciple of the apostles and later followed Paul until his [Paul’s] martyrdom. Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit he died at the age of 84 years.
However, there is no way that these statements can be historically verified. There are legends that Luke was with Jesus as one of the 72 disciples or that he was one of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on Easter Sunday, a story which, incidentally, only appears in Luke’s gospel. Based on the quality of the writings attributed to him, Luke is thought to have been well educated. The Letter of Paul to the Colossians (4:11) seems to include Luke among the non-circumcised companions of Paul and hence that he was a Gentile. In which case, Luke would seem to be the only non-Jewish author of New Testament books.
Luke’s gospel has many special characteristics which perhaps tell us something about the kind of person he was. Unique to him is the account of the circumstances leading to the conception and birth of Jesus (Luke 1-2); some of the most touching parables in the Gospel, such as that of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; the words of Jesus during his Passion to the women of Jerusalem and the so-called ‘Good Thief’. While presenting an all-or-nothing following of Jesus with an emphasis on radical simplicity of life, there is at the same time great emphasis on the compassionate nature of Jesus. He shows Jesus praying before every important phase of his public life and there is an openness to the Gentiles to whom the gospel is especially directed.
Women figure more prominently in Luke’s gospel than in any of the others – the mother of Jesus, her cousin Elizabeth, the sisters Mary and Martha, the widow of Nain, and the striking story of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee. In the Acts of the Apostles Luke is revealed as a very accurate observer, skilfully linking the sacred events with secular history. Many of his details have been confirmed by archaeology.
His writings have received high endorsements from secular scholars:
“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trusworthy…[he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” (Sir William Ramsay, archaeologist)
“Luke is a consummate historian, to be ranked in his own right with the great writers of the Greeks.” (E.M. Blaiklock, Professor of Classics at Auckland University)
“In all, Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands without a [factual or historical] error.” (Dr. Norman L. Geisler).
However, it should also be strongly emphasised that Luke did not write as a historian but as an evangelist, proclaiming the message of Jesus as the Word of God to the world. Some early Church documents say that Luke died in Thebes, the capital of Boeotia. There is a tradition that he was a painter and one well-known icon of the Virgin Mary has been attributed to him but with little claim to historical accuracy. It is understandable why Luke should be made the patron of artists and doctors. When represented with the other three evangelists his symbol is an ox, perhaps referring to the sacrifice in the Temple mentioned at the beginning of his gospel in the scene of Zechariah and the angel announcing the birth of John the Baptist. The earliest pictures of him show him writing his gospel but in later art works he is represented as painting the Virgin Mary. Both Constantinople (Istanbul) and Padua in Italy claim to have his relics.

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