Early Church Biographies

St. John Biography

St. John Disciple of Jesus

Also known as the beloved disciple, or “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20-24), John and his brother James, were called the sons of thunder by Christ.


Born: date unclear, Bethsaida of Galilee, Rome

Died: 100 A.D., Ephesus, Rome

John the Apostle was one of the 12 disciples of Christ. John was the younger brother of James son of Zebedee who followed our Lord. The brothers were cousins to Jesus as their mother Salome was the sister of Jesus’ mother Mary (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40). His mother was among those women who ministered to the circle of disciples. John was known as an apostle, author, and the only apostle who was not killed by martyrdom, though not from lack of trying. His story extends many years past the earthly ministry of Christ. Information about John is found in the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Based on the language in John chapter 1 it is believed that John was probably the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist. John never refers to himself directly in the book that bears his name. Peter, James and John must have had a special relationship with the Lord because of the many times the Bible talks about those three to the exclusion of the other disciples. They were with Christ on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:27-36). They (along with Andrew) were with Him for the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37). 

They were also the inner circle of prayer warriors in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37). John seem to have been even tempered man, but there is one story at the end of Luke 9 where him and his brother James asked Jesus if He wanted them to call down fire from Heaven to consume the unbelieving Samaritans. Christ referred him and his brother as the sons of thunder and to be willing to call down God’s wrath (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:51-56). John’s authoritative position in the church after the Resurrection is shown by his visit with Peter to Samaria to lay hands on the new converts there. John wrote 5 books in the New Testament. He wrote The Gospel According to John, First, Second and Third John, and he was the penman of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. John had more time to think about what questions were raised in the 50 or more years after the resurrection of Christ. He knew what doubts had been raised and how to answer the questions before we knew to ask them. The Epistles of John were written to various audiences. They were all written after John was an old man living in Ephesus. The first epistle was not addressed to anyone in particular, but was written more as a sermon. The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ was written by John probably close to the same time he wrote the epistles which bear his name. The book of the Revelation was written about the vision that John saw while banished to the Greek island of Patmos on the Aegean Sea. Tradition says that this was after John had been sentenced to death by martyrdom. His symbol as an evangelist is an eagle. Because of the inspired visions of the book of Revelation, the Byzantine churches entitled him “the Theologian”; the title appears in Byzantine manuscripts of Revelation but not in manuscripts of the Gospel

John would live a long time (John 21:19-23). The passage in Mark 10:39, with its hints of John’s martyrdom. Tertullian, the 2nd-century North African theologian, reports that John was plunged into boiling oil from which he miraculously escaped unscathed. Tradition tells us that John lived into old age dying sometime after 98 A.D. He is thought to have died in Ephesus.At the end of the 2nd century, Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, claims that John’s tomb is at Ephesus, identifies him with the beloved disciple, and adds that he “was a priest, wearing the sacerdotal plate (gold plate worn by a high priest on their miter or turban), both martyr and teacher.” That John died in Ephesus is also stated by Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon c. 180 ce, who says John wrote his Gospel and letters at Ephesus and Revelation at Patmos.