The Apostle John the Theologian is one of Jesus Christ’s closest disciples and Twelve Apostles. Christian tradition ascribes him the authorship of several New Testament works, such as the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John the Apostle and The Book of Revelation.
John the Theologian is frequently mentioned in the New Testament as “one of the disciples, whom Jesus loved” (John 20: 2–9; 21: 7; 21: 20). According to the New Testament, brothers James and John were fishermen and fished with their father Zebedee, whom they had left after they became the disciples of Jesus Christ.
The synoptic Gospels represent John the Theologian as one of the first and closest disciples of Christ: together with the Apostle Paul he cooked the Passover meal; he and the Apostle James witnessed the greatest miracles of Christ - the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the Transfiguration of Christ; together with them and the Apostle Andrew he talked about the demolition of the Temple. John the Theologian was leaning on Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper (John 13: 23), stood by the cross and took Jesus’ Mother to his own home (John 19: 26–27), learned from Mary Magdalene about the disappearance of Christ’s body from the tomb and hurried to the tomb (John 20: 2–3), recognized the Lord who performed the miracle of the great catch of the fish (John 21: 3-8). John the Theologian lived to the old age. His tomb is located in Ephesus.
The scene of appearance of John the Theologian to the venerable Abraham of Rostov, known in Russian art since the 17th century, is based on the hagiography of Saint Abraham of Rostov. According to this writing, the venerable, on advice from a starets, planned to go to Constantinople to pray to John the Theologian and ask him to help him in his struggle against the pagans. But hardly had Abraham left Rostov when the apostle appeared to him himself. The vision took place on the river Ishna, near the town. John the Theologian gave him a staff, with which he had once destroyed the pagan god Veles (at this place Abraham founded a monastery). This iconographic episode is encountered as part of hagiography cycles of the venerable and on individual icons, such as a 17th century temple icon from the church in the name of John the Baptist on the river Iksha (The Rostov Kremlin State Museum) and others. This icon is present on the frescoes of the Church in the name of John the Theologian in the Rostov Kremlin where both hagiography cycles – those of John the Theologian and venerable Abraham – are counterpoised constituting a single program.
The feast day of John the Theologian is celebrated on May 21st (May 8th in the old style), October 9 (September 26th in the old style) – the Death of John the Theologian, and July 13th (June 30th in the old style) – on the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles.
Zhanna G. Belik,
Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.
Olga E. Savchenko,
research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.
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