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5. EARLY DEATH OF THE APOSTLE JOHN (IN PALESTINE).

Where then, if it was not he but John the Elder who led the Church of Asia Minor in Ephesus, did John the Apostle live, and why are we not told another word about his fate since the meeting in Jerusalem we have mentioned (Gal. ii. 1-10)? As regards this also Papias gives us information, but this time in another sentence of his book which became known to scholars only a few years ago: “John, the man of God, and his brother James were killed by Jews.” We are also told this about James in the Acts of the Apostles (xii. 2); he was executed at Jerusalem in the year 44 by Herod Agrippa I. Of the John who was head of the Church in Ephesus we know the contrary: there is no other record but this, that he died a natural death at a great age. But there is really no contradiction here, if we realise that this was a different John from John the Apostle. Besides, in Ephesus, where the Jews were closely watched by a foreign power, they would hardly have dared to lay hands on the bishop of the Christian community. It would be quite different if the Apostle John, whom, as we learn from the story of Papias, they killed, lived in Pales tine. And as a matter of fact at the meeting with Paul (about 52) mentioned above, he, as well as Peter and James (the brother of Jesus), declared this intention: they wished to go as missionaries to the Jews (Gal. ii. 9).

Only, we must beware of misunderstanding the words of Papias as if he meant that John and his brother James 178were killed at the same time. If that were so, it would certainly be impossible to understand why only the death of James is reported in the Acts of the Apostles. But besides this, the idea that they died together does not suit the words of Papias. No one has ever said that John the Baptist was killed by Jews; every one says, by Herod Antipas (Mk. vi. 17-29). Similarly, if Papias had meant to say that the two brothers had perished at the same time and on the same pretext he would have said: they were killed by Herod Agrippa 1. When he says, instead of this, “by Jews,” it is most natural to suppose that John at least perished in such a way that no such notable person as a prince could be referred to as the author of his death. The sooner we can suppose the death of John to have taken place after the year 52, the easier it is to understand, on the one hand, why we do not hear more of his work, and, on the other, how the John in Ephesus, alongside of him, could become so prominent that in the end he was confused with him.

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