Who was Saint John the Evangelist?
December 27th is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, frequently referred to as “the Beloved Disciple” in the Gospels. He was one of the first disciples called by Christ and is considered the author of the Gospel of John, at least the first of the Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. He was also the only apostle not to die a martyr's death even though the emperor Domitian tried very hard to make it twelve for twelve.
John was the son of Zebedee and Salome and made his living fishing in the Lake of Genesareth with his brother James “the greater”. He and other disciples, including Peter and Andrew, had originally been followers of John the Baptist but immediately followed Christ when called (John 1:35-42) . In between his travels throughout Jordan and Galilee with Jesus, John and some of the other apostles maintained their fishing business as can be seen from the accounts of Jesus calming the storm while on a fishing trip with the apostles.
St. John receives prominent placement throughout the Gospels as one of the three apostles at the transfiguration, one of the apostles sent to prepare a place for the Last Supper, one of the three apostles present in the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ was arrested, the first to arrive at Christ's tomb following the Resurrection and the apostle to whom Jesus entrusted His mother from the Cross. He was also the apostle who first recognized Christ standing on the lake shore following the Resurrection.
After the Ascension St. John traveled to Samaria and was thrown in prison with St. Peter (Acts 4:3). He also traveled to Ephesus and is credited with founding the church there, and Ephesus is considered the location of his death when he was about 100 years old. Based on visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to be located in Ephesus. She is thought to have traveled there with St. John sometime during the persecutions of Herod Agrippa I and spent the remainder of her life there.
Tradition holds that Emperor Dometian had him beaten, poisoned and thrown in a pot of boiling oil but that he emerged unscathed. The emperor then banished him to the island of Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation.
Some of the events mentioned in the Gospels featuring St. John are also key to apologists for the truth of the Catholic Faith. For example, Jesus' last words to Mary at the foot of the Cross, “Woman, behold your son,” (John 19:25-27 ) are considered a strong case that Jesus was an only child. Also, John was the first apostle to reach the tomb following the Resurrection but he let Peter enter the tomb first pointing to a hierarchy among the apostles with Peter as the head apostle (John 20:2-10).
In art St. John the Evangelist is frequently pictured with an Eagle or represented as an Eagle in images with the other Gospel writers. He is also pictured with a chalice from which a serpent is rising in reference to the attempted poisoning by Dometian. Upon being given the cup of wine he blessed it and the poison rose out of the cup in the form of a serpent.