|The Apostle John by El Greco|
Among the ruins of Ephesus in modern-day Turkey is a house of Mary and a well-attested tomb of St. John. What would this Galilean Jew be doing in Asia Minor with the Lord’s mother? In John 19:26 Jesus places John in charge of caring for his mother and following the resurrection we read that John was one of the pillars of the Jerusalem church. By 70 AD, Ephesus had become a huge center of Christianity and many Jerusalem Christians fled there, as did John with Mary, before the fall of the city to the Romans. Many historians point out that there is not a shred of evidence that Mary ever lived in Ephesus and that if she did she would have been in her early to mid 90’s by this time. The house of Mary was found in the 19th century based on the writings of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a German nun who claimed to have a vision of its location. Emmerich had never been to Turkey or Ephesus, but apparently the foundation was found by others who read the book. Not surprisingly the Catholic Church neither endorses or denies the authenticity of this site. They just say it is a shrine that commemorates the Mother of the Lord and leave those conclusions to the hearts and minds of the visitors. There is also a tradition that John went to Rome to assist the Apostle Peter and was also captured during the Neronian persecution and was boiled in oil. The story further states that he miraculously escaped injury and fled back to Ephesus. The 5th Century Church Father Jerome shares an anecdote in his writing that when John was quite aged, he would be brought to Church every week carried on the shoulders of the young men in the body. He would teach the same thing every week “Love one another”. Some of the younger men complained saying “why do you teach us the same thing every week?” “Because if you would do it, it would be enough,” he said. All the ancient historians of the Church agree that John died of natural causes around 100 years of age. Not widely known is that the church that once protected the grave of John (it has been destroyed by earthquakes, Muslim invasions, and the passing of time) was largely constructed from materials taken from the Temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the ancient world, that had fallen into disrepair and disuse because of the Christianization of Ephesus. The only known remains of the Apostle John are his Gospel, Epistles, and the Book of Revelation.