Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Did The Apostle John Die As A Martyr?

It's common to refer to John as the only apostle who didn't die as a martyr. He probably was a martyr, though. See here. His martyrdom is affirmed by Matthew, Mark, and Papias, and it's referred to indirectly by The Martyrdom Of Polycarp and the second-century heretic Heracleon. Concerning Heracleon, see here.

I've written a series of posts on the death of the apostles.


  1. It's actually possible he hasn't died yet at all.

    Could the second Witness be John?
    I've argued before for the second witness being Enoch. And I still feel strongly convinced by all those arguments. But I've become aware of a compelling argument being made that the other Witness is John, the Beloved Disciple to whom the Revelation was given, himself.

    At the end of Revelation 10 John is told. "Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." Maybe this just means him preaching the message of Revelation to the world after he finished it. But early Church tradition doesn't record such an epic ministry, though Irenaeus says he lived into the reign of Trajan. The compelling thing is, it's the very next chapter that discuses the Two Witnesses.

    Of all the verses Preterists misuse to make it sound like the NT says Jesus' Second Coming must happen in the lifetime of his ministry. Matthew 16:28 (and it's parallels in the other synoptics) is the strongest.
    "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."
    I have for awhile favored the argument of Chuck Missler and others that this refers to the Transfiguration in the next chapter. Which was a glimpse of the Kingdom. But I've read recently that the Greek word Tis translated "Some" here can also me "a certain one".

    At the end of John's Gospel. Jesus says concerning the Beloved Disciple who is the book's author.
    "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me."
    We are told that many interpreted this to mean he wouldn't die. But then we are told that was incorrect, "yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"

    The correction is often taken as assuring us it doesn't give John any unusual lifespan, but that this was simply fulfilled in a way by him having the vision that is The Book of Revelation. But the correction was only about thinking John wouldn't die, The Two Witnesses will die.

    Thematically I think it would fit well with my argument for The False Prophet being Judas Iscariot. Having a disciple on each side relevant to the End Times.

    How does this effect Rapture timing disputes? Any argument that the Two Witnesses ministry can't be during the Church Age would be destroyed by this, since John is absolutely part of The Church. It would give more credence to an argument that the Rapture of the Witnesses is part of the Rapture of The Church if one of them is one of the 12. And the statement from John 21 would require their death to be very near when the Rapture happens.

    Thing is, there are still arguments I made for Enoch that I feel are pretty difficult to refute. And this would require that the early traditions about John's death are false, which they could be, but I'm forced to wonder why they would pop up?

    1. Jared,

      You're offering highly speculative readings of Revelation 10, Matthew 16, and John 21, all of which can reasonably be interpreted differently than you suggest even if we accept your dubious translations. Since Revelation 11 refers to the death of the witnesses before Jesus' second coming, how can you go on to cite John 21 concerning living until the second coming? The second coming apparently isn't the same as the rapture in your eschatological system. Your comment about the death of the witnesses of Revelation 11 being "very near" the time of the rapture falls short of what Jesus says in John 21. Concerning the interpretation of Revelation 10:11 that you describe, you write that "early Church tradition doesn't record such an epic ministry". But there's more evidence in early tradition for John's having had such a role than there is for his having not died. If you're going to argue that John didn't die, you're not in a position to appeal to "early Church tradition". You've offered no counterargument to the evidence I've cited for John's martyrdom in the late first or early second century. Then there are all of the patristic comments we have about how the apostolic age has ended, about the circumstances surrounding John's death aside from whether he died as a martyr, etc. To conclude that John is still alive, you'd have to set aside a much larger and much weightier amount of evidence in favor of a much smaller number of sources whose comments are more ambiguous.