John the Beloved Apostle, Character Study

By: Brian Trenhaile, MTh, March 19, 2007

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION 

I.       Scriptures

         Main Scripture 

         Other Passages about His Life

II.  His Life         

         His Childhood, Parents, Family and Education        

         Good Character Traits        

         Bad Character Traits        

         His Main Encounter with God – The Transfiguration         

         His Chief Companions         

         His Influence on Others         

         Significant Mistakes Made         

         Repentance, Acknowledgement & Confession of Sin         

         Chief Contributions Made in God’s Service         

         Family Life         

         Historical Information

 CONCLUSION

BIBLIOGRAPHY 


Apostle John Character Study 

Introduction

John is one of the most interesting and intense characters in the Bible.  Besides the “Apostle John” he is also called “John the Beloved,” “John the Evangelist” and “John the Elder.”  He is the person who was closest to Jesus during His earthly ministry.   John along with Peter and James formed Jesus inner circle.  He was also one of original twelve apostles.  John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote a significant portion of the New Testament.  These literary works form the last five books written for the New Testament.  Furthermore, John was one of the Christianity’s founding fathers, as well a prominent leader of the churches in Jerusalem and Ephesus.

I.  Scriptures

A brief scripture synopsis involving John the Apostle follows:

Main Scripture

One scripture verse that describes John well is: “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)”

Other Passages about His Life

There are several Johns in the New Testament.  John was a very common name during his days.  “The Greek name Ioannes is derived from the Hebrew Yohanan, which means literally, “Jehovah is gracious” (Jensen, 461).” Among the Johns mentioned John the Baptist and John Mark are the most prominent figures.  Then there was Peter’s father who was named John and there was a John who was related to the high priest (Jensen, 461).  The following verses apply only to the Apostle John: Mt 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; Mk 1:19, 29; 3:17; 5:37; 9:2, 38; 10:35, 41; 13:3; 14:33; Lk 5:10; 6:14; 8:51; 9:28, 49, 54; Lk 22:8; Jn 1:35, 40; Acts 1:13; 3:1, 3, 4, 11; 4:1, 13, 19; 8:14; 12:2; Gal 2:9; Rev 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8.

II. His Life

 There is a quite a bit of information available about John.  He was a very prominent figure in the life of Jesus and in the New Testament church. 

His Childhood, Parents, Family and Education

It is well established that John was a Palestinian Jew.  But not much is known about John’s childhood.  But it is known that all Jewish boys at the time were well indoctrinated in the scriptures.  He however did not have formal rabbinical training.  Prior to meeting Jesus (Jensen, 177, 462) he was further equipped to be a disciple by John the Baptist (Mk 1:20; Jn 1:35).

John probably grew up in Bethsaida, a fishing town at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee.  This is the hometown of Philip, Andrew and Peter (Jn 1:44).

John, his brother and his father were all fishermen.  His father’s name was Zebedee (Matt 4:21, Mk 1:19; Jn 21:2).  His father was wealthy enough to have hired servants (Mk 1:19-20) to help mend their nets (Jensen, 177).

His mother’s name was Salome (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1; Jn 19:25), who apparently is the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus.  This makes John a first cousin to Jesus.  Salome was well off and was one of those who contributed to the support of Jesus (cf. Mk 15:40-41; Lk 8:3).  She was also present at the cross when Jesus died.  Another indication of her wealth is that she bought spices for Jesus burial (Mk 16:1).  John’s family with probably in the upper echelon of the Judean population and as such he was personally acquainted with the high priest (Jn 18:15).

John did have at least one brother who was named James (Mk 4:21).  James was also one of the twelve and a member of the inner three.  About 44 AD James was executed by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1-2). 

Good Character Traits

John is known as the “Apostle of Love.”  He really loved the church and always encouraged the brethren to love each other.  He also really thrived on being around Jesus.  He was one of the first disciples to follow Jesus, he overhead John the Baptist talking about Jesus and he went after him (cf. Jn 1:35, 40).  John was brave enough to stand at the foot of the cross; while all the other apostles were still in hiding.  John could also be trusted; Jesus gave him charge of his mother.  John was humble, in his writings (John 21:20; 23-24) he called himself the “disciple whom Jesus Loved” (Jensen, 176).

Yet John was very aggressive in dealing with heresies in the church, while at the same time remaining very loving and gentle.  John along with Peter was bold and confident in replying to the Pharisees, they said something like “Whether it is right for us to obey God or man you be the judge, we will obey God” (cf. Acts 4:19).

John was a “servant” to Jesus.  Jesus told him and Peter to go prepare the Passover meal for their band and they did (cf. Lk 22:8).

John was a man of prayer; Jesus took him up the Mount of Transfiguration (i. e. Mount Tabor) to pray (cf. Lk 9:28).  Also, on the Mount of Olives Jesus asked John to pray for him (cf. Mk 14:33).  John also went to the temple to pray (cf. Acts 3:1).  In his golden years, Eusebius reports that John was still a mighty intercessor and he was also considered a sacred priest devoted to God (Eusebius, 106, 107, 116, Roberson, 2).

John was a man who studied and knew the scriptures.  Throughout his gospel he says how Jesus fulfilled certain scriptures.  For instance, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up (John 2:17 NKJV).”  He knew the scriptures in a deep experiential way; it was much more than intellectual assent or awareness.  “Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this to them: and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had said (John 2:22 NKJV).”  In fact John was so in tune with the scriptures he was able to call Jesus the Word and the Word was God (cf. John 1:1).

Bad Character Traits

Not too much can be said about John having bad character traits.  But John did have an explosive or fiery personality.  Jesus gave he and his brother the name “Sons of Thunder” (cf. Mk 3:17, Lk 9:52-56).  One time John and his brother wanted to call fire down from heaven, Jesus ended rebuking them for this attitude (cf. Lk 9:54).

John was also over zealous to protect Jesus interest.  But Jesus told him that it was alright if someone, not in their team, was casting out demons in His name (cf. Mk 9:38, Lk 9:49).

Further John and his brother also offended the other apostles because they and their mother asked Jesus if they could sit at His right and left hand in glory (cf. Mk 10:35-41). 

His Main Encounter with God – The Transfiguration

Jesus took John, Peter and James up Mount Tabor.  Up on the mountain he was transfigured and the brightness of His glory was made visible.  The Father also spoke from heaven saying “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.”

Another prominent encounter is at the foot of the cross.  He was right there at the momentous occasion when Jesus procured salvation for all mankind.  Then there is the time John and Peter ran and inspected the empty tomb.  Then there are those awesome times when Jesus appeared to John and the others in His resurrected body.  Another main encounter is when Jesus appeared to him on the Isle of Patmos.

His Chief Companions

He had many prominent chief companions.  The greatest of which was Jesus.  Then there was his brother James, who was a pillar in the early church.  He spent a lot of time with his close companion Peter (Acts 4:1, 22; 8:14-15).  They went on missions together, prayed together, saw miracles together and even opposed the Sanhedrin together.  Other than John and James getting in trouble together, these companions were for the most part great influences on each other.  He also spent time around John the Baptist, who was another godly influence on his life.

His Influence on Others

John had a powerful positive influence on the early church in Jerusalem and Ephesus.  He also had a powerful influence in Samaria and upon Christians in the surrounding areas of Jerusalem, Galilee and Ephesus.  Through his writings he is also a mighty influence on the entire church right from its early development up to the present.  With the other elders of Jerusalem, John endorsed the Apostle Paul by acknowledging God’s grace was upon him (Gal 2:9).

Significant Mistakes Made

Initially he had some bad character traits (intolerance, vindictiveness, undue vehemence, and selfish ambition) these may have caused him to make some significant mistakes (cf. Jensen, 464).  However none are recorded for posterity.  Jesus did tame his ardor and purified it of unrestrained violence so John became the apostle of love (cf. Jensen, 465).

Repentance, Acknowledgement & Confession of Sin

Some of the faults that he repented of are recorded in the preceding section.  Apparently he knew about sin from personal experience.  He was pretty adamant in dealing with this subject.  For instance John said “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I Jn 1:8, 9).” 

Chief Contributions Made in God’s Service

John made several important contributions while in God’s service.  First he was a chief companion of Jesus and then later Peter.  He was an apostle, mighty luminary and pillar of the early church (Gal 2:9) especially around the cities of Jerusalem and Ephesus.  He wrote a significant amount of the New Testament.  He wrote the Gospel of John, the epistles of I, II and III John, and the prophetic Book of Revelation.  “The churches in Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodecia, and Thyatira, were founded by him (Fox, 2).”

Family Life

There is not much known about his personal life.  But it is known that he remained single for all his life.  He did take Jesus mother into his household after the crucifixion.  The church was really his family.    

Historical Information

Jensen gives a more detailed chronology of the events on John’s life in pages 462-465 of his book.  Pearlman also gives some details about his later years on pages 94-96 of his work.  Eusebius mentions John on pages iv, 101-102, 104-107, 116-117 in his history of the early church.  Also see the works of Robertson for a few more details about John’s life. Only some highlights are briefly touched upon in this section. 

John was about five years younger than Jesus (Jensen, 461).  He started working in the ministry at about 25 and lived till about a 100 (Jensen, 177).  About 85 AD John wrote the Gospel of John.  Ten years later, he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil for preaching the gospel.  By a miracle he remained unharmed (Fox, 2).  Then the emperor Domitian sentenced John to exile (cf. Jensen, 178, Eusebius 105, Robertson, 1).  While exiled on the Isle of Patmos (Rev 1:1, 4, 9) he wrote the Book of Revelation (Jensen, 177).  John returned from exile, he governed the churches in Asia (Eusebius 105, Robertson, 1).  John strengthened existing churches, appointed some to ministry as directed by the Holy Spirit and even started some churches in Asia Minor during this time.  He lived into the reign of the emperor Trajan (Eusebius, 105).  John was buried in Ephesus (Eusebius, 116).

Conclusion

Walking in relationship with God is the primary and most profitable lesson to be learned from John’s life.  In other words, John’s life shows that it is not about religion; rather it is all about relationship.  His great accomplishments are the direct result of his close fellowship with the God the Father, the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“Keyword Search for John.”  Online NASB Version.  2007. Gospel Communications International.  4 pg. 19 March 2007.  < http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword&gt;.

Pamphilus, Eusebius. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus.  Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Baker Book House, 1984.

Jensen, Irving. Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament (LCU textbook).  Chicago, Illinois:  Moody Press, 1981.

Pearlman, Meyer. Through the Bible Book by Book – Part IV New Testament Epistles and Revalation (Berean Textbook).  Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1935.

Barclay, William.  The Letters of John and Jude – The Daily Bible Study Series, Revised Edition.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, 1976.

Robertson, J. C. Sketches of Church History, Chapter 1: The Age of the Apostles. Crosswalk.  2 pp. 19 March 2007.  < http://bible.crosswalk.com/History/AD/&gt;.

Fox, John. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Chapter 1. Crosswalk.  3 pp. 19 March 2007.  < http://bible.crosswalk.com/History/AD/&gt;.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptural quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

 

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One Response to John the Beloved Apostle, Character Study

  1. Pingback: Added Article on John the Beloved | Scripture Jewels

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