The Strongest Testimony Imaginable in Favor of the Divinity of Christ: Saint John's
Saint John the Evangelist
"Believe It," Says Saint John
Some scholars and historians would argue that there was no such person as Saint John the Evangelist, and that the gospels are fiction. Scholars do agree, however, that someone wrote the "epistles" (letters, in today's parlance) found in the New Testament, and that these were written within a few decades of the death of Jesus.
One writer of a gospel, some letters, and a prophesy called the Revelation or Apocalypse, has been called Saint John. The writing style of these passages is consistently energetic and confident.
The wild-eyed evangelist nicknamed by clerics the Son of Thunder was renown for being the apostle Jesus loved. John showed his faith more strongly than anyone else among the authors of New Testament manuscripts.
In addition to writing the last of the four gospels and the Revelation (a surrealistic passage also known as the Apocalypse) Saint John wrote three short letters as part of his evangelical mission to convert all the people he could to Christianity.
The remarkable thing about the New Testament is that only John had a definite message to tell in such uncertain terms that he could make some of the most cynical skeptics have no doubts. His testimony was that he'd seen with his own eyes the miracles of Jesus and knew for a fact that He was the Son of God sent down from heaven to save mankind.
John's singular approach to telling the story of Jesus is remarkable in that he stands alone on a pinnacle of high-pitched enthusiasm among the many gospel and epistle writers. Why, if the other apostles and disciples also saw these miracles, were they so relatively reserved and intellectual compared to John?
If someone saw his closest friend tortured and killed, then come back to life three days later, shock and happiness would be overwhelming. That's what happened to John according to his own words. He seems to be shouting from the rooftops.
By the time he wrote his three letters, John had moved on from Jerusalem to what was known as Asia Minor (we call it Turkey). Most likely he was in Ephesus, the capital city of the area two thousand years ago.
In his first letter, which appeared to be addressed to the world at large like an affidavit intended for posterity, Saint John starts with an impressive tone of excitement. He had seen and been with Jesus during many of the most important events and wanted everyone to know the good news--that Jesus can forgive our sins.
Christianity, said John, was nothing new to the world because people had known God from the beginning. John seemed to be writing in a general sense, but because he and almost all of the early Christian preachers were Jewish, he probably had in mind the Lord God of Israel who spoke directly to Moses, when John wrote that people had known God from the beginning.
John's tolerance for non-Christians was low. Anyone who denied that Jesus was divine, John believed, would be an anti-christ who also would deny God the Father.
Here marks the beginning of a point of contention between some Jews today and the majority of the world consisting of Christians and Muslims, who believe in the divinity of Jesus. The stand-off has persisted for centuries up to the present time. Sadly, enough understanding to prevent conflict has been missing so far. Anyone who would become a bigot over this point would seem pedantic. But history gives disgraceful examples of corrupt Crusades, Inquisitions, torture, the World War II Holocast, and perpetual Arab-Israeli conflict.
Saint John sincerely believed that those people who had a basic faith in God from the beginning naturally would believe in Jesus, the Son of God, whose promise was eternal life. If only John were alive today, he would have difficulty explaining the current mood of religious intolerance and disrespect for individual diversities, despite the opposite attitude being advocated by the most prominent clergy all around the world.
Brotherly love was a big topic with John. He emphasized that people who had faith in Jesus would exhibit this fraternal love toward each other. It was uncertain whether John meant it only in the sense of Christians loving each other (which would be a little like the Old Testament principle of Hebrews sticking together and avoiding close relations with outsiders) or whether John meant a general kind of love (which would be more consistent with Jesus’ teaching that we must love even our enemies as well as our friends).
We are “children of God,” wrote John, echoing the often repeated phrase in the five books of Moses (the first five books of the Bible describing the beginning of the world and Israel from Adam and Eve to the conquest and occupation of the Promised Land by the "children of" Israel).
People “of God” love their brothers, said John. He added that an anti-christ who didn’t believe in Jesus was not “of God.” Today someone saying this could be accused of being antisemitic by implication. Yet John himself and Jesus too were devout Jews.
If people believe in the Son of God, they will have eternal life—this was Saint John’s good-news message to the world. No wonder there was cheer and enthusiasm in his words. He believed what he was saying.
Saint John's second letter was a short one addressed to a Christian family he knew. He told a certain lady and her children not to receive anyone into their home except those who believed in Jesus. In this letter, John repeated his claim that he was not preaching any new commandment but only the same one people had from the beginning—that they “love one another.”
It is still unclear how far "one another" extended in John's advice. The gospels tell of Jesus' befriending prostitutes and people considered criminals, such as tax collectors (who were like mafia). There are parts of the gospel indicating that Jesus intended his messages from God to be heard primarily by the Jewish people. These various concepts might be reconciled by the premise that Jews were "chosen" by God to spread religion to the entire world.
John was not trying to reconcile philosophies, however. His goal must have been strengthening Christianity. He had to be strict in order to create a cohesive bond. Therefore he went so far as to suggest that outsiders had to be shunned if they questioned Jesus’ divinity.
The early biblical stories of the Hebrews also were full of warnings against close relations with outsiders, intermarriage being punishable even by death. The story of Samson and his deceitful foreign lover Delilah, proved the point.
Even to this day in the Land of the Free, with all our American rights to individual choice of religion, and the many laws encouraging tolerance of diversities, many people would be embarrassed to dare to step into someone else's house of worship just to have a look at what their church services were like. Uninvited visitors wouldn't feel welcome because birds of a feather flock together. This was the case in 1000 BC, the year 2012 AD, and apparently all the other years in between, including the first century AD when John lived.
In his third and final short letter, John praised a person named Gaius for godliness but criticized someone called Diotrephes for showing malice toward Christians.
Effect of Saint John
While Saint Paul and other disciples might have used gentle persuasion, Saint John was more single-minded in his approach and very stern in his demand that people must accept Christianity. He was a leader, not a debater.
He was truly an evangelist and, as such, would have been difficult for some people to accept. If people already had a religion with which they were comfortable, they probably would not want to be told they were missing the boat by not becoming Christians.
But in his years with Jesus, John had seen things happen which he could not forget. He took it upon himself to devote his life to telling as much of the world as possible about Jesus. The Roman Empire eventually adopted Christianity, which was spread to the Americas and all around the world. A small seed grew into a giant unifying force.
Even if the doubters are correct that the story of Saint John is only fiction, someone must have ignited the Christian religious movement. If history can not tell us for sure, we settle for the name Saint John to describe one person or those persons who were partly responsible for convincing hundreds of generations over thousands of years.
We can wonder if it was purely accidental that Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the most influential force in known human history. Also, it seems mysterious that so many early Christians would be tortured and killed for preaching about things that were only fictitious.
What is Evangelism?
People who preach and try to convert others to their ways of thinking and believing are called "evangelists." People who listen reluctantly and are offended by remarks implying insults to their established ways of believing refer to evangelists by other names, sometimes profane. If someone insults not only you but your mother and grandmother for the way they think and believe about religion, is this going to convert anyone? Surely, Saint John the Evangelist was smart enough to know this, but went ahead with his preaching anyway. Maybe he really had been an eyewitness to the miracles of Jesus.
Sometimes, evangelists are known as missionaries when they travel in search of converts to the message they preach. In the Gospels, Jesus is said to have told his disciples to spread the word of his coming and his miracles. Thus, He authorized evangelism.
Modernly, not only preaching but also dramas and music have been used to spread the word of religion to the masses.
Through evangelism, Christianity was spread to the Roman Empire and to the empires of European countries having their basis in the Roman Empire. Mohammed adopted the Christian faith into his new religion of Islam.
Faith is contagious. Saint John and others who are and were evangelists know this. By proclaiming their own faith, they seek to recruit others to join them in their beliefs.
But anyone can be an evangelist. Some are Christian, the most famous ones. But an atheist or a member of another religion also can be an evangelist for his or her own organization and beliefs.