John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of a Legend

John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of a Legend

John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of a Legend

John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of a Legend

Synopsis

This examination is not a biography of the man but an investigation of the legends that grew around him. Beginning with New Testament reports of John as fisherman and extending through the most recent Johannine scholarship, Culpepper gathers stories from church fathers, the apocryphal acts of John, medieval sources, Victorian poets, and 19th- and 20th-century historians about the exploits and the death of the apostle.

Excerpt

Writing has always been for me an adventure, a journey of discovery taking me to territories I had not previously explored. The experience of writing a book on the legends about the apostle John has been especially challenging and adventurous. When Moody Smith first approached me about writing a volume on the apostle, I wondered whether there was enough material to warrant a whole book on the subject. I reassured myself that it would be only a short manuscript. My original intent was to state what we know about the apostle, and then to collect some of the early legends about him. The assignment seemed manageable enough.

As I got into the project, however, four things happened. First, the reliability of the references to John in the Gospels and in Acts became increasingly suspect. I concluded that the making of the legend about John did not start after the writing of the Gospels. On the contrary, the characterization of the apostle John in the Gospels and in Acts was already shaped by the impulse to create stories about the apostles. Second, the terminus of the project began slowly to recede. At first I thought the book could end at the close of the second century. Then, it seemed necessary to extend the study through Eusebius and include consideration of the various Acts of John. The issue of what to do with material gleaned from others who had written on John finally led me to extend the project from Papias to the present. Third, while the project was growing, the time I had to give to it was being consumed by teaching and administrative responsibilities and commitments to other projects that I had made before I realized the full scope of this one. Fourth, I finally had to realize that it would not be possible to cover all of the stories and references to the life of the apostle. Like the redactor of the Gospel of John, I came to realize that everything that could be said about the subject could not be written in one book.

In keeping with the design for this series, I have sought to make the text readable and relatively free of material in foreign languages and the discussion of technical, textual matters, while at the same time supplying references in the notes that can lead the reader to the relevant sources. The tension between the impulse to write a more technical volume and the desire to produce a readable survey of the legends about John has forced compromises . . .

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