This Apostle was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the elder. First a fisherman by trade, he became an Apostle and the beloved Disciple of Christ. Only he of all the Disciples followed Him even to the Cross, and was entrusted with the care of our Saviour’s Mother, as it were another son to her, and a brother of Christ the Teacher. After this, he preached throughout Asia Minor, especially in Ephesus. When the second persecution against the Christians began in the year 96 during the reign of Domitian, he was taken in bonds to Rome, and there was cast into a vat filled to the brim with boiling oil. Coming forth therefrom unharmed, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Returning again to Ephesus after the death of the tyrant, he wrote his Gospel (after the other Evangelists had already written theirs) and his three Catholic Epistles. In all, he lived ninety-five years and fell asleep in the Lord during the reign of Trajan in the year 100. He was called Theologian because he loftily expounded in his Gospel the theology of the inexpressible and eternal birth of the Son and Word of God the Father. It is for this cause that an eagle-a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Irenaeus says-is depicted in his icon, for this was one of the four symbolic living creatures that the Prophet Ezekiel saw (Ezek. 1:10).
It should be noted, that according to Holy Tradition, the reason we have no physical remains and an empty tomb of the Apostle John is because when the disciples returned to his tomb, it was found empty. It is assumed that his body was raised by the Lord, just like the Theotokos. This is what we call “Metastasis” or “Translation”, and it is what we celebrate on September 26th.
The Latter Years of the Apostle John
(According to the Synaxarion)
The last years of his life, the holy Apostle John spent in strict asceticism. He ate only bread and water, did not cut his hair, and dressed in simple linen garments. Because of his old age, he did not have the strength to preach the word of God even in the environs of Ephesus. At that time he taught only the bishops of the Church and inspired them to teach the people the Gospel unceasingly, and especially to keep in mind and to preach the first and principal commandment of the Gospel: the commandment of love.
When the holy apostle became very weak, the blessed Jerome relates, his disciples carried him to the church, but he was no longer able to give long sermons. He then reduced his teaching to the unceasing repetition of “Little children, love one another.” One day when his disciples asked him why he repeated this to them incessantly, John replied with the following words: “This is the Lord’s commandment; and if ye keep it, it is enough.”
According to St. Jerome, the Apostle John reposed in the third year of the reign of Trajan, that is 101 AD. This is sixty-eight years after the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. This is confirmed by Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, and other Holy Fathers of the Church. It is believed he was about 6-8 years younger than the Lord, which made him 93 or 95 years of age upon his repose.