The Guide to the Scriptures

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John, Son of Zebedee

One of the Twelve Apostles in the New Testament, a son of Zebedee, and a brother of James. In his early life he was a fisherman (Mark 1:17–20). He is probably the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist mentioned in John 1:40. Later he received a call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:21–22; Luke 5:1–11). He wrote the Gospel of John, three epistles, and the book of Revelation. He was one of three who were with the Lord at the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:35–42), at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–9), and in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36–46). In his own writings he refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23; 21:20) and as the “other disciple” (John 20:2–8). Jesus also called him and his brother Boanerges, “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). There are frequent references to him in the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 22:8; John 18:15; 19:26–27; 20:2–8; 21:1–2). John was later banished to Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:9).

John is mentioned frequently in latter-day revelation (1 Ne. 14:18–27; 3 Ne. 28:6; Ether 4:16; D&C 7; 27:12; 61:14; 77; 88:141). These passages confirm the biblical record of John and also provide insight into his greatness and the importance of the work the Lord has given him to do on the earth in New Testament times and in the last days. The latter-day scriptures clarify that John did not die but was allowed to remain on the earth as a ministering servant until the time of the Lord’s second coming (John 21:20–23; 3 Ne. 28:6–7; D&C 7).

The epistles of John

Although the writer of these three epistles does not mention himself by name, the language so strongly resembles that of John the Apostle that he is assumed to have written all three.

1 John 1 admonishes the Saints to gain fellowship with God. Chapter 2 emphasizes that the Saints know God by obedience and instructs them to love not the world. Chapter 3 calls all to become the children of God and to love one another. Chapter 4 explains that God is love and dwells in those who love him. Chapter 5 explains that Saints are born of God through belief in Christ.

2 John is similar to 1 John. In it John rejoices because of the faithfulness of the children of “the elect lady.”

3 John commends a person called Gaius for his faithfulness and help to those who love the truth.

The Gospel of John

In this New Testament book, John the Apostle testified that (1) Jesus is the Christ or Messiah, and (2) Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:31). The scenes from Jesus’ life that he describes are carefully selected and arranged with this object in view. The book begins with a statement of Christ’s status in the premortal existence: he was with God, he was God, and he was the creator of all things. He was born in the flesh as the Only Begotten Son of the Father. John traces the course of Jesus’ ministry, greatly emphasizing his divinity and his resurrection from the dead. He clearly affirms that Jesus is the Son of God, attested to by miracles, by witnesses, by the prophets, and by Christ’s own voice. John teaches by contrasting light and darkness, truth and error, good and evil, God and the devil. Perhaps in no other record is the holiness of Jesus and the faithlessness of the Jewish rulers so plainly declared.

John wrote mainly of Christ’s ministry in Judea, especially the last week of his mortal ministry, whereas Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote mainly of his ministry in Galilee. Several items from this Gospel have been clarified by latter-day revelation (D&C 7 and D&C 88:138–141).

For a chapter synopsis, see “Gospels.”

The book of Revelation