John, the son of Zebedee, was a disciple who humbly proclaimed Jesus’ love for him (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7 & 20). He was an obedient apostle and a caring surrogate son to Mary, Jesus’ mother. He penned his own gospel account, several letters to the early Church, and unveiled things to come. But when and where did he do all this??
First, John lived during Jesus’ time. Biblical scholars agree that Jesus was born in approximately 4 BCE. So, it stands to reason that John would’ve been born near this time, although we don’t know precisely when. Second, Jesus was 29 years old (about 30 (Luke 3:23)) when He called John to discipleship. John partnered with Jesus during his one-year ministry from just before Passover until the following Passover (see my article “Why so Long??” from August 12, 2020).
He then became an apostle when Jesus sent him and the other disciples to make more disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Let’s assume this was about 26-27 AD. It would also be the year when Jesus charged John with caring for Mary (John 19:26-27), was crucified, and then raised by the Father.
Apostle John then went beyond Jerusalem to spread the good news of God’s Kingdom. He started the church in Ephesus (in modern-day Western Turkey) and likely started, or was instrumental in creating, others he would later oversee: Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. John and Mary settled in Ephesus until he was exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he continued to oversee the other churches and received his revelation from Jesus.
Emperor Domitian, who hated Christianity, exiled John to Patmos (a prison colony) in 94 AD, where he stayed for two years until freed by Emperor Nerva in 96 AD. Early Church Father Eusebius, who defers to Irenaeus, confirms this. John then returned to Ephesus, where he continued to care for Mary until her passing. John lived to be just over 100 years old. We know much about his life because of Prochorus, one of the 70 disciples Jesus sent out who later became John’s scribe.
So, what about his gospel account and three letters to the early Church? He wrote the gospel between 90 – 100 AD in Ephesus before being exiled to Patmos or immediately afterward. The same holds for his three epistles, although he most likely wrote them after returning from exile. What follows is an abbreviated and approximate timeline:
- 4 BC: John’s birth
- 26 AD: Called to discipleship
- 27 AD: Charged with caring for Mary; becomes an apostle
- 94 AD: Exiled to Patmos
- 94-96 AD: Receives Jesus’ revelation
- 96 AD: Freed; Returns to Ephesus
- 90 – 100 AD: Writes, from Ephesus, his gospel and three letters to the Church
What about next week? I’ll tell you the woeful tale of “the Ghost Pepper that wasn’t!”
Blessings and peace,