Grow in faith as you learn about the Apostles 

The twelve faithful Apostles proclaimed the Gospel, spreading Christianity through the known world. Because of their missionary work – and the witness of their martyrdoms – Christianity grew far beyond the Holy Land.

This eBook gives brief biographies, as well as quotes regarding these great saints. We pray that you grow in faith as you learn about these courageous, faithful men. 

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Why is the Apostle John called the “beloved disciple”?

In the Gospel of John, the author refers to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2). This has been understood to be a biographical note of John himself, still alive in the 90s A.D., having been only a teenager when he followed Jesus. Jesus loves all of His disciples, of course, but John’s youth and eagerness no doubt endeared him especially. 

St. John would accompany Jesus from the beginning of His ministry and throughout His sufferings. This included being present with Mary under the Cross during the Crucifixion. There, the Lord declared His confidence in St. John with His dying words, committing His own Mother to John’s care, and John to her care. The Church sees in this commission not merely a worldly obligation, but a supernatural one, the entrustment of all beloved disciples of every age to His Mother, and she to them. In the image of Mother and son, as in St. Paul’s image of the Mystical Body, the whole Church is summed up.

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (John 19:26-27).

“When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”  – John 19:26-27

What events did Saint John witness as one of Jesus’ disciples?

In addition to being present for Jesus’ public ministry, St. John was in the group of three Apostles, along with Peter and James the Greater (John’s brother), whom the Lord called apart specially on several occasions. These included the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration, and the Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His Crucifixion.

What happened to St. John, the last disciple of Jesus?

After the Lord’s Ascension, in addition to caring for the Mother of the Lord until her death and Assumption, John founded many churches in Asia Minor, Greece and along the Black Sea. Ancient authors relate how at an advanced age, the Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.) had him arrested, brought to Rome and cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. After he emerged unharmed, he was then banished to the island of Patmos. When Domitian himself died, St. John returned to Ephesus, where he lived until his death about the year 100. Thus, St. John is alone among the Apostles for not dying a martyr. 

Where is the Island of Patmos?

Patmos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It is where the Apostle John was banished by the Emperor Domitian, and where he had the mystical experiences recounted in the Apocalypse, also known as the Book of Revelation.

What did John the Apostle write?

Tradition ascribes to St. John the writing of the fourth Gospel, three epistles, and the Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation. John’s Gospel is especially notable for representing the mature theological work of an apostle who had had a lifetime of reflection on the mystery of Christ. 

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"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  – John 1:1-5

How do we know St. John wrote the Gospel of John?

St. Irenaeus identified John the Apostle as the author of the fourth Gospel. This is important because Irenaeus’ teacher was St. Polycarp, a disciple of St. John. The internal evidence of the Gospel itself makes it clear that both an eyewitness and a participant wrote of the events―given their specific details and their personal connection to John. An example is the Crucifixion, where John was the only apostle present, and at which Mary was entrusted to him.

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How is John's Gospel different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

The Catholic Encyclopedia says,

In a far higher degree than in the Synoptics, the whole narrative of the Fourth Gospel centres round the Person of the Redeemer. From his very opening sentences John turns his gaze to the inmost recesses of eternity, to the Divine Word in the bosom of the Father. He never tires of portraying the dignity and glory of the Eternal Word Who vouchsafed to take up His abode among men that, while receiving the revelation of His Divine Majesty, we might also participate in the fullness of His grace and truth. As evidence of the Divinity of the Saviour the author chronicles some of the great wonders by which Christ revealed His glory, but he is far more intent on leading us to a deeper understanding of Christ's Divinity and majesty by a consideration of His words, discourses, and teaching, and to impress upon our minds the far more glorious marvels of His Divine Love.

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Why did the Evangelists write the Gospels?

While the communication of the “good news” is primarily oral, by way of apostolic teaching (Mt. 28:18-20), it was natural that the written method of preserving salvation history employed by the Jewish people would also be used by the Church. The Church, for example, utilized the Jewish Scriptures translated into Greek (the Septuagint of Alexandria) for purposes of evangelization, connected the promises of Old Covenant with their fulfilment in the New. Among the Evangelists, St. Luke provides an explanation of his specific purpose, while alluding to others having written their accounts, as well.

Luke 1:1-4 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.

For St. John’s part, he concludes his Gospel with the following statement of his motive, more theological than historical.

John 20:30-31 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

Is John the Apostle the same person as John the Baptist?

John the Apostle and John the Baptist are two different people. John the Apostle was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. John the Baptist, on the other hand, was the son of Zachariah and Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth, and thus a cousin of Jesus in some degree. The Baptist committed his adult life to preparing the way for Christ and proclaiming that “the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.” St. John, on the other hand, spent his life announcing the “good news” that the kingdom had arrived in Christ. 

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Is John Mark the same as John the Apostle?

While they share the same first name, they are different people. John Mark, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys. Traditionally, he is believed to be Mark the Evangelist, the writer of the Gospel of Mark based on the recollections of St. Peter, and founder of the Church in Alexandria, Egypt. 

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What is the difference between a disciple and an Apostle?

The word “disciple” is from the Latin word discipulus and means one who is a student of another. This is also expressed by the fact that those who came to learn from the Lord about the Kingdom of God called Him Rabbi (Jn. 1:49), Master (Lk. 5:5) and Teacher (Mk. 4:38), even those who tried to trick Him (cf. Mt. 22:24).

Not all disciples, however, are “apostles,” from the Greek word apostolos, meaning messenger. While an apostle, in a general sense, is anyone who takes what is learned and spreads the message to others, in Scripture it refers only to the “Twelve.” These Apostles were specifically commissioned by Christ to go out and spread the Good News (Mt. 28:18-20) to the ends of the earth. Their ministry continues to this day, through the bishops appointed to pastor Christ’s flock until He comes again. 

How long after Jesus’ death were the Gospels written?

Scholars disagree about the dating of the Gospels. The traditional sources generally attribute an Aramaic original of Matthew’s Gospel to as early as the late 30s A.D. and as late as the 60s; Mark somewhere in the 50s or 60s; Luke after that, borrowing from his predecessors, and John toward the end of the century, 80s or 90s. 

Modern scholarship, however, basing itself on Mark’s brevity and the common content of the synoptics poses a two-source theory, Mark and a non-canonical collection of sayings. What is important in addressing such matters, however, is that the attribution of name, date, or of the relationship among the Gospels, is not what conveys authority to them, rather the judgment of the Church that they are of apostolic origin and convey the revelation of Jesus Christ – a decision which came about in the late 4th century and has remained unchanged since.