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Bible Dictionaries

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary

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1. THE BAPTIST, the forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ, was the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and was born about six months before Christ, as Reland and Robinson suppose at Juttah, Joshua 21:16 Luke 1:29 , a town some five miles south of Hebron, but according to tradition at a place about four miles west of Jerusalem. Several Old Testament predictions found their fulfillment in him. See Isaiah 40:3 Matthew 3:3 Malachi 3:1 4:5 Matthew 11:14 . His birth, name, and office were also foretold by the angel Gabriel to his father Zacharias while ministering at the temple altar. Several other supernatural incidents attended the visit of Mary to Elisabeth, and the birth and naming of John, Luke 1:1-80 . He passed his early life among the crags of Eastern Judea, and when not far from thirty years of age, appeared as a prophet of the Lord. Being also a priest by birth, and an austere Nazarite in appearance and mode of life, he was like a reproduction of Elijah of old. Crowds flocked from all quarters to hear the word of God from his lips boldly denouncing their sins, and to receive the baptism of repentance preparatory to the full revelation of grace in Christ. Among others, the Savior at length came, and was baptized as an example of obedience to all divine enjoinments. John was at once satisfied that Jesus was the Messiah, but "knew him not" by any divine intimation till he saw the appointed sign, the descending Spirit. He then stood forth as the representative of "all the law and the prophets," pointing the world to Christ as an atoning Savior, and thus introduced Him to His public ministry: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," John 1:29 Galatians 3:24 .

John enjoyed at this time a high degree of popular veneration, Luke 3:15; the Sanhedrin sent a deputation to question him, John 1:19-28 , king Herod "did many things, and heard him gladly." But he laid all he had at the Savior's feet, John 1:27 3:33 . We read several times of his "disciples," Matthew 9:14 Luke 5:33 John 3:23-15 4:1; and meet with subsequent traces of the wide extent of his influence, Acts 18:25 19:3 . We know not why he continued for a time his separate ministry, instead of attending Christ. He persevered, however, in his faithful labors for reformation; and these, in the second year afterwards, led to his imprisonment by Herod Antipas. See Matthew 11:3 . He may have been moved to send this message by some lingering Jewish views as to a temporal Messiah, who would right all their national wrongs, or by some temporary unbelieving haste to have Christ publicly announce his Messiahship. It was on this occasion that Christ calls him greater than any other prophet; because, of all the prophets of the Messiah, he alone saw Him entering on his work whom all "desired to see;" yet he was less than the "least in the kingdom of God," inasmuch as he died without seeing that kingdom established in the death and resurrection of his Lord. But his earthly work was soon done. Herod, according to Josephus, feared his great influence over the people, and Herodias dreaded his bold fidelity to her husband. The dancing of her daughter Salome, and the vow of the besotted king, furnished a pretext. John was beheaded in prison; his disciples buried his remains with honor, and "went and told Jesus," Matthew 14:3-12

2. THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST, son of Zebedee and Salome, was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee. Zebedee and his sons were fishermen, and appear to have been in easy circumstances, Mark 1:20 15:40 John 18:15 19:27 . In John's character there was an admirable mixture of gentleness and force. The picture the Bible gives of him has a peculiar charm, so much peace, humility, charity, and brotherly love glow in it. His affectionate, meditative, spiritual character had also the elements of vigor and decision, Luke 9:54 . Though amiable, he was firm and fearless. He was present at the scene of the Savior's crucifixion, which he describes as an eyewitness, John 19:35 . He was early at the tomb of the Redeemer, and after his ascension, boldly proclaimed the gospel at Jerusalem, Acts 4:13 , though imprisoned, scourged, and threatened with death. He was remarkable for devotion to Christ; and it was this, perhaps, as much as ambition, that led him to request a place at His right hand, Matthew 20:20-24 . He is supposed to have been the youngest of the apostles. He had been a disciple of John the Baptist; but on being directed to Christ, at once attached himself to him. For a time he returned to his employment by the sea of Galilee, but was soon called to leave all and attend the Savior, Luke 5:5-10 . Christ had a particular friendship for this lovely and zealous disciple, John 13:23 19:26 20:2 21:7 . At the last supper, he reclined next to the Savior, and to his care the dying Redeemer committed his mother. Together with Peter and James he witnessed the transfiguration, and the agony in the garden. See JAMES .

After the ascension of our Lord, John continued to reside at Jerusalem, where he was one of the chief pillars of the church, Galatians 2:9 . About A. D. 65, it is thought, he removed to Ephesus, and labored to diffuse the gospel in Asia Minor, where for many years after the death of Paul his great personal and apostolic influence was widely exerted. About A. D. 95, he was banished, probably by Domitian, to the isle of Patmos, where he had the visions described in the Apocalypse. He afterwards returned to Ephesus, where he lived to a very great age, so that he could scarcely go to the assembly of the church without being carried by his disciples. Being now unable to make long discourses, his custom was to say in all assemblies, "Little children, love one another;" and when they wondered at his frequent repetition of this concise exhortation, his answer was, "This is what the Lord commands you; and this, if you do it, is sufficient." Chrysostom, Clement, and Eusebius relate that on his return from Patmos he found that a young man of promise under his charge had been misled, and had joined a band of robbers; and that the aged apostle sought him out in his mountain haunts, and by the blessing of God on his fearless and faithful love, reclaimed his soul from death. He died at Ephesus, in the third year of Trajan, A. D. 100, being then, according to Epiphanius, ninetyfour years of age. He was buried near that city, and several of the fathers mention his sepulchre as being there.

Besides the invaluable gospel and the Apocalypse, which bear his name, we have three EPISTLES of JOHN. The first is a catholic or general letter, designed apparently to go with his gospel, and refute certain Gnostic errors as to the person of Christ; but also and chiefly to build up the church universal in truth and grace, and especially in holy love. The second epistle is addressed "to the elect lady," or the excellent Kuria, who was probably some Christian woman eminent for piety and usefulness. The third is directed to Gaius, the Latin Caius, whom John praises for his fidelity and hospitality, and exhorts to persevere in every good work. The Revelation and epistles of John, it is generally believed, were written about 96-98 A. D. They are the latest books of the New Testament cannon, which, as the last surviving apostle, he must have greatly aided in settling.

3. Surnamed MARK. See MARK.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'John'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​ats/​j/john.html. 1859.
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