The Apostle John, sometimes called John the Evangelist

By COGwriter

This article will explain both from the Bible, as well as historical claims and other writers, about the Apostle John. John was a very important apostle for many reasons, and several of those are covered in this article. (Here is a link to a related sermon titled Apostle John: The Disciple that Jesus Loved)

The Bible shows that after Jesus died, Peter and John were shown to be together throughout the New Testament (Acts 3:1-11; 4:13; 8:14; Galatians 2:9) and perhaps even to the time that Peter died (cf. 2 Peter 1:14-15 and 18 with Matthew 17:1-5). John not only assisted Peter, he probably learned how to help guide and lead the true Church from him.

Shortly after Peter apparently died, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem (in 70 A.D.), many Christians fled to Pella, while others moved to Asia Minor. The Apostles John and Philip settled in Asia Minor--some believe this could have happened in the 40s A.D., others later. 

Reportedly, no later than 67 AD, John was in Ephesus and led the churches in Asia Minor (Ruffin C.B.  The Twelve: The Lives of the Apostles After Calvary.  Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington (IN), 1997, p. 94). Although for a time he was in Patmos (Revelation 1:9), the Apostle John ended up living in the city of Ephesus. John may have outlived Peter by over 30 years.

Here is some of what The Catholic Encyclopedia records about John and his travels:

John was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. In the Gospels the two brothers are often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee" and received from Christ the honourable title of Boanerges, i.e. "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17). Originally they were fishermen and fished with their father in the Lake of Genesareth...

Apparently John in common with the other Apostles remained some twelve years in this first field of labour, until the persecution of Herod Agrippa I led to the scattering of the Apostles through the various provinces of the Roman Empire (cf. Acts 12:1-17). Notwithstanding the opinion to the contrary of many writers, it does not appear improbable that John then went for the first time to Asia Minor and exercised his Apostolic office in various provinces there...

He returned with the other disciples to Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council (about A.D. 51). St. Paul in opposing his enemies in Galatia names John explicitly along with Peter and James the Less as a "pillar of the Church", and refers to the recognition which his Apostolic preaching of a Gospel free from the law received from these three, the most prominent men of the old Mother-Church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). When Paul came again to Jerusalem after the second and after the third journey (Acts 18:22; 21:17 sq.) he seems no longer to have met John there. Some wish to draw the conclusion from this that John left Palestine between the years 52 and 55...

Both the Epistles and the Apocalypse, however, presuppose that their author John belonged to the multitude of personal eyewitnesses of the life and work of Christ (cf. especially 1 John 1:1-5; 4:14), that he had lived for a long time in Asia Minor, was thoroughly acquainted with the conditions existing in the various Christian communities there, and that he had a position of authority recognized by all Christian communities as leader of this part of the Church. Moreover, the Apocalypse tells us that its author was on the island of Patmos "for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus", when he was honoured with the heavenly Revelation contained in the Apocalypse (Revelation 1:9)...

The Christian writers of the second and third centuries testify to us as a tradition universally recognized and doubted by no one that the Apostle and Evangelist John lived in Asia Minor in the last decades of the first century (Fonck L. Transcribed by Michael Little. St. John the Evangelist. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

I cited The Catholic Encyclopedia to demonstrate that even the Church of Rome recognizes some of the truth about the Apostle John.

John's Writings Show Love

John was not only the last of the apostles to die, he was also the last writer of any of the books of the New Testament.

John is mentioned in all the other Gospel accounts, plus several of the epistles. We also specifically have five books of the Bible (The Gospel according to John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and the Apocalypse/Revelation) written by John.

Martin Luther liked John's Gospel account so much that he wrote, "The first three speak of the works of our Lord, rather than His oral teachings; that of St. John is the only sympathetic, the only true Gospel and should undoubtedly be preferred above the others. In like manner the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Paul are superior to the first three Gospels " (O'Hare PF. The Facts About Luther, 1916--1987 reprint ed., p. 203). And though Martin Luther's position on this, and some of his other matters, appear to be blasphemous and in contraction to II Timothy 3:16, it does show the value he placed on some of John's work.

John was also one especially loved by Jesu. Five times it is recorded that Jesus loved John (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Here is one of those times:

20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved...24 his is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true (John 21:20,24).

The Bible itself is about love and John's writings reflect that. Jesus loved John so much that He entrusted His mother Mary to John:

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" 27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25-27)

(More on Mary can be found in the article Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions)

John wrote what is perhaps the most famous passage in the entire New Testament, which says:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17 NKJV throughout, unless otherwise indicated).

John wrote a lot about love, with the next passages as some of the more famous ones from his Gospel account:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).

15 If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15).

24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me (John 14:24).

9 "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:9-14).

John taught that God is love, and pointed out certain contrasts to love his epistles:

3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6).

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).

10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:10-11).

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12)

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19)

20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-3).

John wrote a lot about love and the commandments, some of which is also in the article The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil .

And interestingly, although he was in charge of the church and lived in Ephesus, Jesus had him write this to the church at Ephesus:

4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent. (Revelation 2:4-5)

John reminded people about love.

John Wrote About the Antichrist

John was the only biblical writer to use the specifically used the terms antichrist or 666.

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist (II John 7).

This scripture says that antichrist is a deceiver who does 'not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh'.

Similarly John wrote:

3 And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world (I John 4:3 ).

This scripture states that the 'spirit of Antichrist' is not confessing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and that apparently some of his teachings began when John was still alive.

Was John trying to day that 'spirit of Antichrist' is not acknowledging that there was a person named Jesus? This seems highly unlikely as even atheists acknowledge there was one referred to as Jesus Christ who lived in the flesh.

Might this spirit of Antichrist have something to do with a teaching that denies that a member of the Godhead actually emptied Himself of His divinity to become human? Even though that is what happened according to Philippians 2:6-7? Please see the article Binitarian View.

John also wrote:

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:18-22).

Notice that the Apostle John taught that there would be basically two groups: a group that followed his practices and teachings and another that would claim to but would not. Essentially, there are still two groups today (for details about others who taught about the two groups in early church history, please see Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries?).

More on "antichrist" can be found in the article Doctrines of Antichrist.

Here is John's mention in the Bible of the number six hundred sixty six:

18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666 (Revelation 13:18).

But who or what is that? (An article of possible interest may be SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666).

It is interesting to note that the Roman Catholic Church does believe that there are references in John's writings to Rome, and that they are negative. Specifically, John warned about Babylon throughout the Book of Revelation, called the Book of the Apocalypse in Roman Catholic writings. Here is some of what John wrote (Catholic Rheims translation):

4. And the woman was clothed round about with purple and scarlet, and gilded with gold, and precious stone, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of the abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
5. And in her forehead a name written, "Mystery": Babylon the great, mother of the fornications and the abominations of the earth.
6. And I saw the woman drunken of the blood of the Saints, and of the blood of the martyrs of JESUS. And I marveled when I had seen her, with great admiration.
7. And the Angel said to me, Why doest thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and the ten horns.
8. The beast which thou sawest, was, and is not, and shall come up out of the bottomless depth, and go into destruction: and the inhabitants on the earth (whose names are not written in the book of life from the making of the world) shall marvel, seeing the beast that was, and is not.
9. And here is understanding, that hath wisdom. The seven heads: are seven hills, upon which the woman sitteth, and they are seven kings (Apocalypse 17:4-9).

Of course, Rome is the most famous city of seven hills in the entire earth. And John is writing that this woman has some influence over worldly kings.

Catholic scholars teach:

Nor must we look for order in the Apocalypse; but we must follow the meaning of those things which are prophesied. Therefore in the trumpets and phials is signified either the desolation of the plagues that are sent upon the earth, or the madness of Antichrist himself, or the cutting off of the peoples, or the diversity of the plagues, or the hope in the kingdom of the saints, or the ruin of states, or the great overthrow of Babylon, that is, the Roman state (Victorinus. Commentary on the Apocalypse, Chapter 7, Verse 8. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The author of the Commentaries upon the Apocalypse set forth in St. Ambrose name, writeth thus: This...sometime signifieth Rome, specially which at that time when the Apostle wrote this, did persecute the Church of God. But otherwise it signifieth the whole city of the Devil, that is, the universal corps of the reprobate. Tertullian also taketh it for Rome, thus, Babylon (saith he) in St. John is a figure of the city of Rome, being so great, so proud of the Empire, and the destroyer of the saints. Which is plainly spoken of that city, when it was heathen, the head of the terrene dominion of the world, the persecutor of the Apostles and their successors, the seat of Nero, Domitian, and the like, Christ's special enemies, the sink of idolatry, and false worship of the Pagan gods (Annotations on Chapter 17 of the Apocalypse. The Original And True Rheims New Testament Of Anno Domini 1582. Prepared and Edited by Dr. William G. von Peters. Ph.D. 2004, copyright assigned to VSC Corp. Page 583).

The Roman Catholics suggest that by mentioning Babylon, that John is only referring to the Roman state or those that are reprobate (Victorinus is consider a "Church Father" by Roman Catholics). However, it appears clear that even the Catholics admit that John is referring to a reprobate church (he used the analogy of a woman) as Babylon. A reprobate church would seem to be one that incorporates non-biblical practices (such as certain traditions) as superior to biblical ones.

But irrespective of these passages, John (the last living original apostle) never writes anything positive about Rome or the church there.

As John got older, he noticed that various ones who claimed to have been taught by the apostles were not continuing in the ways they had learned from apostles such as him. Here is some of what he wrote about that,

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us (1 John 2:18-19).

4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (1 John 4:4-6).

Notice that John specifically wrote that those that did not follow what he was teaching those who were with them, that they are not of God! John knew the difference between truth and error. John recorded the following statement from Jesus:

17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (John 17:17)

John knew that the word of God was truth and defended it his whole life.

John's most famous disciple was probably Polycarp of Smyrna. Notice a relatively recently found and translated ancient document (c. third century) that supports this:

Polycarp...He was… {an} old man, being one hundred and f[our] of age.  He continued to walk [i]n the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the a[p]ostle.(Weidman, Frederick W.  Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions.  University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, pp. 43,44).

So, John is shown to have taught Polycarp. Notice that John passed the canons to Polycarp, this would seem to mean (at that time in history) the books of the Bible and/or the way of real Christianity.

Polycarp or his associate Papias (Holmes, p. 560) is credited for being Irenaeus' source for items such as that the term 666 may mean Roman man. (Irenaeus himself says he did the calculation based on what those who knew John said). Irenaeus wrote:

Lateinos (Lateinos) has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom" (Irenaeus. Against Heresies. Book V, Chapter XXX, verse 3).

It should be noted that there is no record that either Polycarp or Papias wrote positive things about Rome.

Some Have Questioned John as a Writer, But History Supports His Identity

The Apostle John wrote what is known as the fourth gospel as well as three letters and the Book of Revelation.  Some realize this, though some do not wish to believe this:

Recently The Huffington Post and other publications have explored two new books relating to the person of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of John. Both books dismiss the possibility that the Apostle John actually wrote the Fourth Gospel or that Jesus of Nazareth is accurately portrayed in its contents. These are not innovative assertions. Both new books follow old lines of scholarship and skepticism that reject the divine claims of Christ, the historicity of his miracles, and the active theism that permeates the New Testament record. But many others scholars -- the ones less often interviewed in the media -- hold a valid countering view: Both internally and externally there is strong evidence the Apostle John was behind the writing of the Fourth Gospel and that he composed his account with the accuracy of an eyewitness and the pen of a brilliant thinker

Though the first two centuries of Christianity were years of persecution and dispersion, wreaking havoc on record keeping, we have clear indications the early Christians were confident of the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel. For example, John had a disciple named Polycarp (AD 69-155), a young man who heard the apostle's sermons in Ephesus, absorbed his teaching and became a bishop and martyr in nearby Smyrna. Polycarp had a follower named Irenaeus (AD 130-200), who became Bishop of Lyons and who wrote: "John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on him, himself also published the Gospel in Ephesus, when he was living in Asia." Thus we have a direct chain of early evidence and personal testimony linking John to Polycarp to Irenaeus and avowing John's authorship of the Fourth Gospel.

We additionally have the writings of Theophilus of Antioch, who died in AD 181. Quoting word-for-word from John 1:1, Theophilus said: "And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing men, one of whom, John, says, 'In the beginning was the Word.'"

Then there's the Muratorian Fragment, an early list of New Testament books giving short accounts of the origin and contents of the canonical books. According to this document, the author of the Fourth Gospel was the apostle John.

Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215), an educator in Egypt, made a similar assertion: "But that John, last of all, conscious that the outward facts had been set forth in the [first three] Gospels, was urged on by his disciples, and divinely moved by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel." In other words, after the other three Gospels appeared, John was urged by friends to write an account explaining the theological and spiritual aspects of the person of Christ.

Moreover we have the record of Eusebius of Caesarea (AD 260-340), the "Father of Church History," who had access to early documents some of which are now lost to us, and who lived in Palestine where the Gospel events took place. He wrote that after the outbreak of persecution in Jerusalem the apostles were scattered across the world, and John went to modern-day Turkey and lived in the city of Ephesus. According to Eusebius, there was no debate about the authorship of the Fourth Gospel. Eusebius said: "Now let me indicate the undisputed writings of this apostle (John). His Gospel, read by all the churches under heaven, must be recognized first of all." According to Eusebuis, John lived in Ephesus, read the synoptic Gospels, welcomed them and affirmed their accuracy; but wanting to make some additional points, he composed his account.

Even in Roman times amid growing pains and persecution, we have testimony from Europe (Lyons), the Middle East (Caesarea), Africa (Alexandria), and Asia (Antioch), all attesting to the authorship of the Fourth Gospel. Biblical scholar William Hendrickson said: "Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, and Theophilus show us that in the last quarter of the second century the Fourth Gospel was known and read throughout Christendom: in Africa, Asia Minor, Italy, Gaul, and Syria, and that it was ascribed to the well-known John."

We also have an interesting discovery now exhibited at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, called the Ryland Fragment. It was excavated about a hundred years ago, just as scholars were convinced the Fourth Gospel couldn't have been written in the first century, its philosophy and theology being so developed. This small scrap of papyrus was found in Egypt and dated to the time of Hadrian, perhaps about AD 125. It contained lines from John 18, which demonstrates the Gospel of John was in wide circulation with copies being read in Egypt on papyri within a few years of John's death. Since John is widely accepted as the last of the four Gospels, this discovery supports the conclusion all four Gospels were first century documents that spread across the Roman world within a generation.

If any other ancient text were affirmed by this kind of evidence, its authorship would be virtually unquestioned. What if these early witnesses had better understanding of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel than today's well-meaning writers whose agendas are sometimes influenced by anti-supernatural presuppositions? I have no hesitation accepting the view that the Apostle John wrote this book, and in fact, I can't imagine anyone else who could have done it. Admittedly, Christianity doesn't stand or fall on the precise identity of the author of the Fourth Gospel -- the author identifies himself only as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." But it does stand or fall on the identity of Jesus Christ, and on whether he was a legend, a liar, a lunatic, or the person John presents him to be -- the Lord of all.

Letting John be John and Jesus be Jesus is a solution that leaves me intellectually satisfied and spiritual enriched. As John said near the end of his Gospel: "Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

SOURCE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-j-morgan/let-john-be-john-and-let-_b_3713609.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

Here is some of what Theophilus of Antioch reported about John and his writings:

And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing [inspired] men, one of whom, John, says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," showing that at first God was alone, and the Word in Him. Then he says, "The Word was God; all things came into existence through Him; and apart from Him not one thing came into existence." The Word, then, being God, and being naturally produced from God, whenever the Father of the universe wills, He sends Him to any place; and He, coming, is both heard and seen, being sent by Him, and is found in a place (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book II, Chapter XII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The Apostle John, his writings, and his teachings were known.

John Was a Quartodeciman

Polycrates was a late 2nd century Christian leader from Ephesus. When Roman Bishop Victor wanted all the churches in Asia Minor to change the observance of Passover from its original date of the 14th of Abid to a Sunday, Polycrates wrote the Roman leader stating:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus" (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25).

From Polycrates' account we learn that John died in Ephesus, and that he and those who followed with would not deviate from scripture, understood that they needed to obey God rather than men, and refused to observe a Sunday Passover (which Roman Bishop Victor insisted on).

It should be understood that the Church of Rome has long recognized that the Apostle John had practices that differed from it. Catholic priest and scholar Bagatti admits this regarding John:

Since St. John spent the first years of his apostolate in Palestine, together with James, it is obvious that he had taken the custom of celebrating Easter on the 14th of Nisan from the mother Church (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, p. 80).

Thus, it was the original practice of “the mother Church” to keep Passover (often wrongly translated as “Easter” in English) on the 14th. Some Catholics have apparently, however, used human reason and false tradition to ignore John’s practice. Notice what the medieval historian and Catholic Priest Bede (also known as “the Venerable Bede”) recorded from a Catholic Abbot named Wilfrid who was trying to justify near the beginning of the eighth century why it was acceptable to not follow the Apostle John’s practices regarding Passover:

Far be it from me to charge John with foolishness: he literally observed the decrees of the Mosaic law when the Church was still Jewish in many respects, at a time when the apostles were unable to bring a sudden end to that law which God ordained…They feared, of course, that they might make a stumbling block for the Jewish proselytes…

So John, in accordance with the custom of the law, began the celebration of Easter Day in the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, regardless of whether it fell on the sabbath or any other day. But when Peter preached at Rome, remembering that the Lord rose from the dead and brought to the world the hope of the resurrection on the first day of the week…he always waited for the rising of the moon on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month in accordance with the customs and precepts of the law as John did, he proceeded to celebrate Easter as we are accustomed to do at this present time. But if the Lord’s day was due, he waited for it, and began the holy Easter ceremonies the night before, that is on Saturday evening; so it came about that Easter Sunday was kept only between the fifteenth day of the moon and the twenty-first. So this evangelical and apostolic tradition does not abolish the law, but fulfills it, by ordering the observance of Easter from the evening of the fourteenth day of the moon in the first month up to the twenty-first day of the moon in the same month. All the followers of St. John in Asia since his death and also the whole church throughout the world have followed this observance. That this is the true Easter and that this alone must be celebrated…(Bede (Monk). Edited by Judith McClure and Roger Collins. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Oxford University Press, NY, 1999, pp. 156-157).

Does that make any sense? Let’s look at the facts:

1. It is admitted that John and the early Church was fairly Jewish in their practices.
2. It is admitted that keeping Passover on the 14th was a practice of the Apostle John.
3. While Jesus was resurrected by Saturday evening, there is no early document (such as prior to the third century) that states that Peter changed the Passover observance (a time to proclaim “the Lord’s death” per the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26) from the 14th of Nisan to a Saturday evening observance.
4. Abbot Wilfrid is arguing that Peter began a Passover service on Saturday night which is why Easter on Sunday morning is now kept.
5. The New Testament is clear that the Apostle John, who Abbot Wilfrid admits kept Passover on the 14th, was often with the Apostle Peter after the resurrection (Acts 3:1-11; 4:13; 8:14; Galatians 2:9) and perhaps even to the time that Peter died (cf. 2 Peter 1:14-15). Does anyone actually think that John and Peter kept differing dates? The Bible indicates otherwise (cf. Luke 22:8).
6. Most who now observe Easter Sunday do so during Sunday morning, yet as a resurrection holiday—not as a commemoration of Passover.
7. All those who followed John’s practices, for at least one hundred years after his death in Asia Minor, stated that they did keep Passover on the 14th and not on a Sunday. So how could Abbot Wilfrid argue that they kept the same practice as the Romans who chose Sunday?
8. Abbot Wilfrid admits that John followed the Bible in his own practice, but that somehow Peter allegedly made up a tradition that he did not learn from Jesus or the Bible (there is no verse in the Bible that states Passover should be observed on a Sunday), but that he came to on his own—and for which there is NO early historical proof.
9. So while the Roman church does not observe the biblical practice of observing the days of unleavened bread, it apparently believes that the dates in Exodus 12:18 and Leviticus 23:5-6 regarding them need to be used to determine the date of Passover (that is where he would have needed to get the dates of the 15th and 21st from as they are the “days of unleavened bread associated with the Passover), but that the actual date (the 14th) of Passover should not be used unless it is on a Sunday.

Hence, John and the faithful in Ephesus did what the Bible taught. But Catholics claim there is a later tradition from an unknown time that Peter supposedly reasoned that if Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, that the anniversary of His death should be observed on a Saturday night instead.

This is illogical, as well as inaccurate. The Continuing Church of God has kept the practices and teachings of the Apostle John. Unlike those associated with Rome, we have not protested against his teachings.

Nor do I believe that John kept the correct date of Passover out of fear of the Jews. Nor is there any evidence that Peter had a different practice than John (especially since they are shown to be together throughout the New Testament).

There is nothing in the Bible or the historic accounts to indicate that this was the case (furthermore, it is more likely that Sunday was adopted out of fear of the Romans). The Catholics should simply admit that although John kept Passover on the biblically correct date, they changed the date because of compromise and anti-Jewish sentiments. (More on Passover is included in the article Passover and the Early Church.)

Interestingly, in the second century, the Catholic saint Irenaeus wrote:

…the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4, p. 416).

And one of those biblically observed traditions was the observance of Passover on the 14th for over a century by those of Ephesus and Smyrna (Trajan reigned from 98-117, see also Timelines of Early Church History; it is generally felt that John did not live too many years into the reign of Trajan).

Thus, even an early Catholic saint admitted in writing that those in Ephesus during his time (late 2nd century) were true to what they had learned from the apostles—and that included Passover. Since the Bible warns that those who do not follow the practices of John are antichrists, those wishing to be faithful should give heed to follow the examples in the Bible and of John and observe Passover when he did. They should not accept later traditions when they conflict with the Bible.

Understand that the Bible shows, an apostle is the highest spiritual position in the church,

28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28). 

Thus, it does not seem biblically reasonable that a local elder in Rome ruled the true Church at a higher level than a prominent apostle ordained by Jesus and noted to be a pillar by Paul.

Notice that in first John, John made it clear that he taught what he learned from the beginning:

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life-- 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ... 3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1:1-3;2:3-4).

Thus, the Bible is clear that John taught the truth of Christianity from the beginning.  And he taught it so that others could have the same fellowship with the Father and the Son.  Thus, the Bible shows that faithful would follow John (not the practices of the successors of Linus or Cletus) in order to be true Christians. John kept Passover on the 14th and those who claim to have apostolic succession with the practices of Jesus and the apostles would need to keep Passover on the 14th.

John's Prominence

And here is some of how The Catholic Encyclopedia recognizes about John's prominence,

John had a prominent position in the Apostolic body. Peter, James, and he were the only witnesses of the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37), of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), and of the Agony in Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37). Only he and Peter were sent into the city to make the preparation for the Last Supper (Luke 22:8). At the Supper itself his place was next to Christ on Whose breast he leaned (John 13:23, 25). According to the general interpretation John was also that "other disciple" who with Peter followed Christ after the arrest into the palace of the high-priest (John 18:15). John alone remained near his beloved Master at the foot of the Cross on Calvary with the Mother of Jesus and the pious women, and took the desolate Mother into his care as the last legacy of Christ (John 19:25-27). After the Resurrection John with Peter was the first of the disciples to hasten to the grave and he was the first to believe that Christ had truly risen (John 20:2-10). When later Christ appeared at the Lake of Genesareth John was also the first of the seven disciples present who recognized his Master standing on the shore (John 21:7). The Fourth Evangelist has shown us most clearly how close the relationship was in which he always stood to his Lord and Master by the title with which he is accustomed to indicate himself without giving his name: "the disciple whom Jesus loved". After Christ's Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, John took, together with Peter, a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the Church. We see him in the company of Peter at the healing of the lame man in the Temple (Acts 3:1 sqq.). With Peter he is also thrown into prison (Acts 4:3). Again, we find him with the prince of the Apostles visiting the newly converted in Samaria (Acts 8:14).

...the Apostle and Evangelist John lived in Asia Minor in the last decades of the first century and from Ephesus had guided the Churches of that province...

After Domitian's death the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan, and at Ephesus he died about A.D. 100 at a great age. (Fonck L. Transcribed by Michael Little. St. John the Evangelist. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But there is no scriptural reason to think that John only considered that the churches in Asia Minor were under his leadership. Actually, in one of his other letters, John also wrote "To the elect lady and her children" (2 John 1)--which appears to be a reference to the entire Church (see also Revelation 12:17). Hence he felt he had a leadership position related to the entire Church, not just those in Asia Minor.

This also appears to be confirmed from this quotation that Eusebius records:

Take and read the account which rims as follows: "Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale, but a narrative concerning John the apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory. For when, after the tyrant's death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring territories of the Gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry some one of those that were pointed out by the Spirit..." (Eusebius. Church History, Book III, Chapter 23. Translated by the Rev. Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Similarly the Orthodox Church has acknowledged:

John also was sent with Peter to Samaria, where they prayed that the converts might receive the Holy Spirit. In Jerusalem, he was present at the Council of the Apostles. John was "one of the two" with Andrew who first had an audience with the Lord, He was the one "whom Jesus loved"…Jesus from His cross entrusted His mother to John…He was the one who ran with Peter to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection, and who recognized the Risen Lord at the Sea of Tiberius, where our Lord spoke to him the words that he would not die (John 21:7). According to tradition, he went to Asia Minor and settled in Ephesus. Later he was exiled to Patmos, an island" (Matrantonis, George. The Twelve Apostles. Copyright: © 1990-1996 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7065.asp 07/05/05).

Therefore, it is no surprise since John outlived Peter and all the other original apostles that any church leadership succession would have transferred to him.

Notice that even the Catholics admit that John guided the churches in Ephesus. It would seem illogical that since many of the Catholics claim to have had four 'bishops of Rome' (after Peter) (Lopes A. Translation by Charles Nopar. The Popes. Pontifical Administration, Rome, 1997) before John died, that John, an original apostle, would be subservient to them. This is especially true since none of those 'bishops of Rome' claim to have held the position of apostle--a bishop is essentially an elder who is a pastor or overseer (compare Acts 20 vss. 17 and 28). Even the noted Catholic scholar F.A. Sullivan writes, “…in Luke’s day, local church leaders could be called either elders or overseers, without a clear distinction between the terms” (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 65) (overseers in this passage is the translation from the Greek term episkopoi which also means bishop).

Furthermore, according to Catholic sources, there were no bishops in Rome prior to the second century (and Peter died in the first century):

We must conclude that the New Testament provides no basis for the notion that before the apostles died, they ordained one man for each of the churches they founded..."Was there a Bishop of Rome in the First Century?"...the available evidence indicates that the church in Rome was led by a college of presbyters, rather than by a single bishop, for at least several decades of the second century (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 80,221-222).

As the Bible shows, an apostle is the highest spiritual position in the church, "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles" (1 Corinthians 12:28). Thus it does not seem biblically reasonable that an elder (not even if there were a bishop ranked one) in Rome ruled the true Church at a higher level than a prominent apostle ordained by Jesus.

Early writings had a variety of positive titles and statements about Apostle John (e.g. Polycrate's Letter; Harris Fragments; Irenaeus Fragments 2,3; Irenaeus Against Heresies, V, 18:2).

Catholics may be surprised that the Roman and Orthodox Catholis saint (who they also call a "doctor of the church"), John Chrysostom clearly stated that the Apostle John, who Jesus called a son of thunder (Mark 3:17) and the one who learned upon Jesus (John 21:20), had the keys of heaven himself:

For the son of thunder, the beloved of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the keys of heaven, who drank the cup of Christ, and was baptized with His baptism, who lay upon his Master's bosom with much confidence, this man comes forward to us now; not as an actor of a play, not hiding his head with a mask, (for he has another sort of words to speak,) nor mounting a platform, nor striking the stage with his foot, nor dressed out with apparel of gold, but he enters wearing a robe of inconceivable beauty. (John Chrysostom. Homily 1 on the Gospel of John, Preface, 2. Translated by Charles Marriott. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240101.htm>.)

Although John Chrysostom is not wrong to teach that John was one who received 'the keys,' his teaching differs from the most common view in the Church of Rome that Peter alone had the keys (see Was Peter the Rock Who Alone Received the Keys of the Kingdom?).

The Apostle John was a recognized apostle, disciple, writer, leader, and faithful teacher.

Ephesus

Ephesus was biblically important. John lived in Ephesus and despite him being apparently the last of the original apostles to die, not all accepted his leadership and form of church governance. Here is something he apparently wrote from Ephesus:

9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God (3 John 9-11)

(For more on church governance, please see The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government.)

Prior to this, the Apostle Paul did many important miracles in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-17). He also said "I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me" (1 Corinthians 16:8-9). This shows that not only did the Church in Ephesus keep the Feast of Pentecost, it was in Ephesus that a great door to proclaim the Gospel was opened for Paul and the church.

It is in Paul's letter to the Ephesians that the offices of church government are listed, with apostles again listed ahead of pastors,

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-15).

The early Church in Ephesus was led by Paul for at least three years (Acts 20:17,31), probably Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3), and later John. Ephesus clearly was a Gentile church (Ephesians 2:11;3:1) that kept God's Holy Days such as Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8) and Passover/Unleavened Bread (as Polycrates’ later testimony indicates). Paul, who was given to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8) and approved to do so by Peter and John (Galatians 2:7-9), played a major role in the church at Ephesus.

In the early 4th Century, Eusebius wrote, “Timothy, so it is recorded, was the first to receive the episcopate of the parish in Ephesus" (Eusebius. Church History. Book III, Chapter 4.). An episcopate means a bishopric (or pastorate), which demonstrates that in the time of Timothy, evangelist ranked ministers (2 Timothy 4:5) and not mainly apostles, were considered to be bishops (Catholic accepted writings do not normally refer to bishops as apostles). Hence, this further suggests that the Apostle John would not be subservient to any bishop of Rome as most historians believe he came to Ephesus after Timothy (though even if he came before, he still was never under Timothy's ecclesiastical authority).

Polycarp (or pseudo-Polycarp) wrote:

But John, based in Ephesus, made the beginning of the gospel from the reason of our redemption, of us who from the gentiles as it were did not know the law, which reason is evident from him that God wished his son to be incarnated for our salvation. (Polycarp, Fragments from Victor of Capua (2006), Chapter 3. Text and translation. Translated by Stephen C. Carlson. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pearse/morefathers/files/polycarp_fragments_01_text.htm viewed 06/04/11)

The above is one of a few early sources that state that John was based out of Ephesus (another, probably later was Tertullian. The Prescription Against Heretics. Chapter 36. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Around 25 years after Jerusalem was destroyed the first time, John was inspired to write

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate' (Revelation 2:1-6).

Unlike Rome (which apparently, according Catholic and other sources is condemned in Revelation), Ephesus was a church commended by Christ in the book of Revelation, and at that time was the second largest city (after Alexandria) in Asia Minor (more can be found in the article The Ephesus Church Era).

Many Catholics point to Matthew 16:18-19 as proof that the authority of the Church was given just to Peter and his successors in Rome, "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."" But of course Peter died, Jesus is the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4), and Rome was not mentioned. As these verses show, it is the true Church, and not a location, that was not to be prevailed against by death.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul makes clear that the Church was not just built on Peter but is built on the foundation of the apostles (plural) AND the prophets, with Jesus as the CHIEF cornerstone, and including all the members in the church as well,

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, In whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).

(More on this subject can be found in the article Peter and the Keys.)

By combining these passages in Matthew and Ephesians, we may be learning that just like Peter was a predominant apostle until his death that Ephesus itself would be the predominant church until, as Revelation 2:1-10 allows, Smyrna gained predominance—with the true Church of God never dying out. While the Roman and Orthodox Churches teach that the same church organization itself would continue, Revelation 2 & 3 shows a series, in an apparent overlapping succession of Churches of God, each with somewhat different strengths and weaknesses.

John wrote against idols and warned against deceiving heretics:

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:21)

24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.

25 And this is the promise that He has promised us — eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. (1 John 2:24-26)

The following non-biblical account from Irenaeus indicates that John was very seriously opposed to heretics:

There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres.  Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4)

1. John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith, and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that “knowledge” falsely so called, that he might confound them, and persuade them that there is but one God, who made all things by His Word; and not, as they allege, that the Creator was one, but the Father of the Lord another; and that the Son of the Creator was, forsooth, one, but the Christ from above another, who also continued impassible, descending upon Jesus, the Son of the Creator, and flew back again into His Pleroma; and that Monogenes was the beginning, but Logos was the true son of Monogenes; and that this creation to which we belong was not made by the primary God, but by some power lying far below Him, and shut off from communion with the things invisible and ineffable. The disciple of the Lord therefore desiring to put an end to all such doctrines, and to establish the rule of truth in the Church, that there is one Almighty God, who made all things by His Word, both visible and invisible; showing at the same time, that by the Word, through whom God made the creation, He also bestowed salvation on the men included in the creation; thus commenced His teaching in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. What was made was life in Him, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” “All things,” he says, “were made by Him;” therefore in “all things” this creation of ours is [included], for we cannot concede to these men that [the words] “all things” are spoken in reference to those within their Pleroma. For if their Pleroma do indeed contain these, this creation, as being such, is not outside, as I have demonstrated in the preceding book; but if they are outside the Pleroma, which indeed appeared impossible, it follows, in that case, that their Pleroma cannot be “all things:” therefore this vast creation is not outside [the Pleroma].

2. John, however, does himself put this matter beyond all controversy on our part, when he says, “He was in this world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own [things], and His own [people] received Him not.” But according to Marcion, and those like him, neither was the world made by Him; nor did He come to His own things, but to those of another. And, according to certain of the Gnostics, this world was made by angels, and not by the Word of God. But according to the followers of Valentinus, the world was not made by Him, but by the Demiurge. For he (Soter) caused such similitudes to be made, after the pattern of things above, as they allege; but the Demiurge accomplished the work of creation. For they say that he, the Lord and Creator of the plan of creation, by whom they hold that this world was made, was produced from the Mother; while the Gospel affirms plainly, that by the Word, which was in the beginning with God, all things were made, which Word, he says, “was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

3. But, according to these men, neither was the Word made flesh, nor Christ, nor the Saviour (Soter), who was produced from [the joint contributions of] all [the Æons]. For they will have it, that the Word and Christ never came into this world; that the Saviour, too, never became incarnate, nor suffered, but that He descended like a dove upon the dispensational Jesus; and that, as soon as He had declared the unknown Father, He did again ascend into the Pleroma. Some, however, make the assertion, that this dispensational Jesus did become incarnate, and suffered, whom they represent as having passed through Mary just as water through a tube; but others allege him to be the Son of the Demiurge, upon whom the dispensational Jesus descended; while others, again, say that Jesus was born from Joseph and Mary, and that the Christ from above descended upon him, being without flesh, and impassible. But according to the opinion of no one of the heretics was the Word of God made flesh. For if anyone carefully examines the systems of them all, he will find that the Word of God is brought in by all of them as not having become incarnate (sine carne) and impassible, as is also the Christ from above. Others consider Him to have been manifested as a transfigured man; but they maintain Him to have been neither born nor to have become incarnate; whilst others [hold] that He did not assume a human form at all, but that, as a dove, He did descend upon that Jesus who was born from Mary. Therefore the Lord’s disciple, pointing them all out as false witnesses, says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses, Book III, Chapter XI. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.xii.html)

An Armenian writing from 600 A.D. states that it was followers of Cerinthus who first proposed a December 25th Christmas festival, which first spread among the Greeks. And while that is difficult to prove (and Rome itself did not adopt a December 25th Christmas until the fourth century), Cerinthus did hold to improper theological concepts and he taught allegorizing of scripture, taught that non-biblical tradition was more important than scripture, blended Gnostic teachings with the Bible, implemented improper festivals, claimed to be an apostle, and claimed that angels gave him messages. More on Cerinthus can be found in the article Cerinthus: An early heretic.

The Apostle John commended the Church at Ephesus because, "you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:2), thus indicating that the faithful there did not accept the false Cerinthus.

John Was a Leader Along With Peter

As certain passages cited have shown, John was a leader along with Peter.

The New Testament makes it clear that they were often together.

Jesus even gave both of them a mutual assignment:

8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." (Luke 22:8)

Since both Peter and John prepared Jesus' last Passover together, both would know when it was.

And it was both Peter and John that saw Jesus transfigured:

28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. (Luke 9:28-29)

Jesus frequently trained the two of them, by themselves, or with only one other apostle:

37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John (Mark 5:36-37).

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (Matt 26:36-37).

Note: James and John were the two sons of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21). Also note that the "James" that Paul referred to in Galatians 2:9 was a different James. But it was the same "John" in all of the verses listed here.

Notice that John was a leader, often with Peter, and sometimes with Paul:

1 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms...Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon's, greatly amazed (Acts 3:1-3,11).

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name." 18 And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:13-21).

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-15).

13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).

9 James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars (Galatians 2:9).

Thus, the idea that John would takeover as the primary leader of the Church after the death of Peter (and all the other apostles for that matter) is not only logical, but consistent with what the New Testament shows about him (the New Testament never shows that Peter spent time with, or even necessarily knew, Linus).

John, who spent much time with Peter, worked with Peter, and outlived Peter, is clearly the logical apostolic successor to Peter. John also wrote the last several books of the New Testament and was the logical one who actually canonized the New Testament (The New Testament Canon - From the Bible Itself).

Why Did Christians in Rome Respond to the Corinthians?

When he was fairly old, John reportedly was taken to Rome from Ephesus, then suddenly exiled to Patmos, by Emperor Domitian, and, “after the tyrant's death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus” (Eusebius. Church History. Book III, Chapter 23.). It has been reported that this happened because the Emperor's efforts to kill John in oil did not work. Here is one account of the oil incident:

But since for the gospel he is continually prepared for death, he testified about himself to die daily under this meaning. It is also read that the blessed John had been plunged in a vat of boiling oil in the name of Christ. (Polycarp, Fragments from Victor of Capua (2006). Text and translation. Translated by Stephen C. Carlson. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pearse/morefathers/files/polycarp_fragments_01_text.htm viewed 06/04/11)

Rome...Where Paul wins his crown in a death like John's where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile! (Tertullian. Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 36. Translated by Peter Holmes. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)

Whether or not John actually was plunged into oil, about this time, a schism occurred in Corinth and someone apparently decided to contact the Christians in Rome for assistance (possibly because John may have been in Rome then). The response that came was delayed “[b]ecause of the sudden and repeated misfortunes and reverses which have happened to us” (The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians commonly known as First Clement. Verse 1. Holmes MW, ed. As translated in The Apostolic Fathers Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 3rd printing 2004, pp. 28-29 ) (perhaps including John’s exile). If this letter was sent to Rome because John and others were there, it simply shows that some in Corinth were trying to contact the leadership of the Church. Also, it seems logical that those in the Church at Rome may have decided that since John was being exiled, they should simply respond with their opinion.

Although many Catholics suggest the response sent (which they call 1 Clement) is definitive proof that the Bishop of Rome was the ruling Church, the letter actually refers to its contents only as “our advice” (Ibid, Verse 58..2, pp. 94-95) , does not list any author, and does not otherwise prove anything about Roman authority (other Catholic scholars realize that since Clement is not listed as the author that this was not definitive proof of the authority of any Roman bishop, see What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History?).

Perhaps, it should be noted that Ignatius, while in Smyrna, sent a letter “via the Ephesians” to the Church in Rome (Ignatius. Letter to the Romans. Verse 10. In Holmes. pp. 176-177) as well as other letters to several other churches; so based on Corinthian letter logic, Catholics should have more reason to accept Asia Minor as the ruling Church instead of Rome. But even more so, because Ignatius specifically acknowledged that the Church in Ephesus had been predestined for greatness by God, as he wrote, “to the church at Ephesus in Asia, blessed with greatness through the fullness of God the Father, predestinated before the ages for lasting and unchangeable glory forever” (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians. Verse 0. In Holmes. pp. 136-137).

John Was a Pillar

As previously quoted, Paul once noted that it was "James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars" (Galatians 2:9) of the Church in Jerusalem (Cephas is the Aramaic word for Peter). Once James and Peter were killed, this only left one pillar, the Apostle John. Is it logical that John would be the leader to succeed Peter?

It is Ephesus, and not Rome, that the Bible gives pre-eminence for the start of a major Gentile church. It is logical that these offices would be listed for the church at Ephesus as it would become the predominant church during the apostolic era. Also note that this governance structure was intentionally designed to prevent the church from being tricked doctrinally and other ways. It was also in Asia Minor (Caesarea), and not Italy, that the Holy Spirit was first poured out on the Gentiles (Acts 10:47). It was specifically the Gentiles of the Church of Ephesus that Paul states were added to the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets and Christ (Ephesians 2:20). Even the Catholic Irenaeus noted, “the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles” (Eusebius. Church History. Book III, Chapter 4).

But Ephesus was not to remain predominant, and may have ceased being so about 135 A.D.—this is about same time of the second destruction of Jerusalem and possibly when Polycarp sent out his letter to the Philippians.

Now John greatly outlived Peter and is believed to have lived as late as 95-100 A.D. John had a disciple named Polycarp who became the bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp was probably 25-30 years old when John died. Polycarp himself lived until his was martyred around 156 A.D.

Tertullian around 200 A.D. declared:

Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this (Tertullian. Liber de praescriptione haereticorum. Circa 200 A.D. as cited in Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Notice that Tertullian (who must have known some of the differences between the two groups) felt that only two groups could claim ties to the apostles. But according to admissions from more modern Catholic scholars, only Asia Minor had demonstrable true apostolic succession (for more details, please see What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History?).

The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches that "the See of Ephesus, {was} founded by St. John the Apostle" (Gerland, Ernst. The Byzantine Empire. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 2 Feb. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03096a.htm>). Because the "See of Ephesus" was founded by the Apostle John, it should be clear that the church he founded was not "Protestant," but an original Church of God (which also was called 'the Church of God" is Smyrna by Ignatius, see Ignatius' Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Verses 0-1.1. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation). Because the Continuing Church of God traces its leadership history from Peter through John, then Polycarp and other Church of God leaders, we are NOT Protestant, but a continuation of the original apostolic Christian Church of God.

Although often discounted now, originally, Ephesus was recognized as important. Notice what the theologian and historian John M. Neale explained in 1850:

The See of Ephesus has always been esteemed one of the first in the Church… This dignity arose, not so much from the fact that Ephesus was the residence of the Proconsul of Asia, as because the Church there was planted by S. Paul, and regarded S. John as its second founder. That S. Timothy was its first Bishop, ecclesiastical tradition is constant in asserting: on his suffering Martyrdom, S. John is related to have consecrated a namesake of his own as second Prelate. From that time the See of Ephesus possessed Patriarchal authority over the whole Dicecese of Asia: till, as we have related, it became subject to Constantinople, not without many struggles… (Neale JM.  A history of the Holy Eastern Church.  Masters, 1850.  Original from the Bavarian State Library, Digitized Oct 8, 2008, p. 36)

Notice that Ephesus was the real true church with “apostolic succession” and that it took struggles for Constantinople to claim to be above it.

It has been written that John's direct successor was Polycarp, "Polycarp, the successor of St . John in the see of Ephesus" (Wall JC. The first Christians of Britain. Talbot & Co., 1927. Original from the University of California, Digitized Sep 25, 2007, p. 34)--but Polycarp did not seem to be prominent over much of true Christendom until Jerusalem was taken over in 135 A.D.

Irenaeus records this about Polycarp:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).

That area had prominent faithful leaders until some time into the third century.

Seven Churches of Revelation

The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse), which records seven churches. Some feel that the messages to the churches represent seven consecutive eras of the true Church, essentially as a description of things that are and a prophecy of things to come.

Jesus told John who the seven churches were:

11 "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea" (Revelation 1:11).

The Philadelphia remnant of the true Church of God believes that portions of the Book of Revelation teach the history of the the true church as those of seven succeeding churches.

The church that came after Ephesus was Smyrna. And the leader in Smyrna was Polycarp, the disciple of John. Does it not make sense that the last Apostle and leader of the church in Ephesus would pass the overall leadership of the church (there could have been a time of transition with others like Ignatius involved until Smyrna became prominent) to his disciple, the faithful leader of the church who lived in Smyrna? (An article of related interest might be The Smyrna Church Era).

Concluding Thoughts

John taught love, which is the theme of the Bible. John was the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20).

Biblical, Catholic and other sources acknowledge that John was an apostle who was a major leader in the church. He was a leader in Jerusalem, traveled in a leadership position, and spent time with leading apostles such as Peter and Paul.

John went to Ephesus of Asia Minor and wrote various books of the Bible from there. John was still writing books of the Bible when some claim there had already been 3-4 bishops of Rome (there allegedly were 4 bishops of Rome after Peter died before John is believed to have died). Furthermore since there were no bishops of Rome until the second century (the listed ones seem to have been merely local elders), it is illogical that Apostolic succession would occur in Rome instead of in Asia Minor. For centuries, even the Roman Church admitted that there had been apostolic succession from John in Asia Minor (which some have called the "See of Ephesus"). And the records of history show that this was basically true until sometime into the third century.

John wrote the last several books of the New Testament and was the logical one who actually canonized the New Testament (The New Testament Canon - From the Bible Itself).

John was the longest living of the original Apostles. He was the one that Jesus especially loved. Since an apostle is a higher rank than a presbyter/elder, it makes no sense that while John was alive that the leadership of the true church was in Rome and not under him.

John's disciple Polycarp, was the leader of the church in Smyrna. A church that is considered to have been a faithful one by Catholic and other sources. We in the Continuing Church of God trace our succession through him through John after Peter.

Here is a link to a related sermon titled Apostle John: The Disciple that Jesus Loved. Here is a link to a free book on Christian history titled Continuing History of the Church of God.

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