The Death Of The Apostle John
(a) Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, II, 22, 5; III, 3, 4. (MSG, 7:785,
Irenaeus was bishop of Lyons soon after 177. He was born in Asia
Minor about 120, and was a disciple of Polycarp (ob. circa 155)
and of other elders who had seen John, the disciple of the Lord.
II, 22, 5. Those in Asia associated with John, the disciple of the Lord,
ohn delivered it [a tradition regarding the length of
Christ's ministry] to them. For he remained among them until the time of
Trajan [98-117 A. D.].
III, 3, 4. But the church in Ephesus also, which was founded by Paul, and
where John remained until the time of Trajan, is a faithful witness of the
(b) Jerome, Comm. ad Galat. (MSL, 26:462.)
The following extract from Jerome's commentary on Galatians is of
such late date as to be of doubtful value as an authority. There
is, however, nothing improbable in it, and it is in harmony with
other traditions. It is to be taken as a tradition which at any
rate represents the opinion of the fourth century regarding the
Apostle John. Cf. Jerome, De Viris Inlustribus, ch. 9 (PNF,
ser. II, vol. III, 364).
When the holy Evangelist John had lived to extreme old age in Ephesus, he
could be carried only with difficulty by the hands of the disciples, and
as he was not able to pronounce more words, he was accustomed to say at
every assembly, "Little children, love one another." At length the
disciples and brethren who were present became tired of hearing always the
same thing and said: "Master, why do you always say this?" Thereupon John
gave an answer worthy of himself: "Because this is the commandment of the
Lord, and if it is observed then is it enough."
(c) Eusebius, Hist. Ec., III, 31. (MSG, 20:279.)
Polycrates was bishop of Ephesus and a contemporary of Victor of
Rome (189-199 A. D.). His date cannot be fixed more precisely. The
reference to the "high priest's mitre" is obscure; see J. B.
Lightfoot, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, p. 345. A
longer extract from this epistle of Polycrates will be found under
the Easter Controversy (§ 38).
The time of John's death has been given in a general way,(1) but his
burial-place is indicated by an epistle of Polycrates (who was bishop of
the parish of Ephesus) addressed to Victor of Rome, mentioning him,
together with the Apostle Philip and his daughters, in the following
words: "For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise
again at the last day, at the coming of the Lord, when he shall come with
glory from heaven and seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one
of the twelve Apostles, who sleeps at 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 high
priest's mitre, also sleeps at Ephesus."