There is another aspect to all of this: the death of John of Zebedee.
That a John lived a long life in Asia (until the time of Trajan) is reported by Irenaeus and others, and those testimonies are fairly well known:
Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.22.5: 5 Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify, those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord [Ἰωάννῃ τῷ τοῦ κυρίου μαθητῇ], that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan [παρέμεινεν γὰρ αὐτοῖς μέχρι τῶν Τραϊανοῦ χρόνων]. Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles [alios apostolos] also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the statement. Whom then should we rather believe? Whether such men as these, or Ptolemy, who never saw the apostles, and who never even in his dreams attained to the slightest trace of an apostle?
Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.3.4: 4 .... There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan [Ἰωάννου δὲ παραμείναντος αὐτοῖς μέχρι τῶν Τραϊανοῦ χρόνων], is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.
Acts of John 115: 115 And having sealed himself in every part, he stood and said, "You are with me, O Lord Jesus Christ," and laid himself down in the trench where he had strown his garments; and, having said unto us, "Peace be with you, brethren," he gave up his spirit rejoicing. / 115 Καὶ σφραγισάμενος ἑαυτὸν ὅλον ἑστὼς καὶ εἰρηκὼς· «Σὺ μετ' ἐμοῦ κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,» κατεκλίθη ἐν τῷ σκάμματι ἔνθα τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ὑπέστρωσεν· καὶ εἰπὼν ἡμῖν· «Εἰρήνη μεθ' ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί,» παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα χαίρων.
M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament, page 270: The less good Greek manuscripts and some versions are not content with this simple ending. The Latin says that after the prayer a great light appeared over the apostle for the space of an hour, so bright that no one could look at it. (Then he laid himself down and gave up the ghost.) We who were there rejoiced, some of us, and some mourned.... And forthwith manna issuing from the tomb was seen of all, which manna that place produceth even unto this day...." But perhaps the best conclusion is that of one Greek manuscript: "We brought a linen cloth and spread it upon him, and went into the city. And on the day following we went forth and found not his body, for it was translated by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto whom be glory...." Another says: "On the morrow we dug in the place, and him we found not, but only his sandals, and the earth moving..., and after that we remembered that which was spoken by the Lord unto Peter...." Augustine (On John xxi) reports the belief that in his time the earth over the grave was seen to move as if stirred by John's breathing.
Eusebius, History of the Church 3.31.2-3: 2 The time of John's death has also been given in a general way, but his burial place is indicated by an epistle of Polycrates (who was bishop of the parish of Ephesus), addressed to Victor, bishop of Rome. In this epistle he mentions him together with the apostle Philip and his daughters in the following words: 3 "For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the last day, at the coming of the Lord, when he shall come with glory from heaven and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and moreover John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and being a priest wore the sacerdotal plate. He also sleeps at Ephesus." So much concerning their death. / 2 Τοῦ δὲ Ἰωάννου τὰ μὲν τοῦ χρόνου ἤδη πως εἴρηται, τὸ δέ γε τοῦ σκηνώματος αὐτοῦ χωρίον ἐξ ἐπιστολῆς Πολυκράτους τῆς δ' ἐν Ἐφέσῳ παροικίας ἐπίσκοπος οὗτος ἦν ἐπιδείκνυται, ἣν Οὐίκτορι Ῥωμαίων ἐπισκόπῳ γράφων, ὁμοῦ τε αὐτοῦ καὶ Φιλίππου μνημονεύει τοῦ ἀποστόλου τῶν τε τούτου θυγατέρων ὧδέ πως· 3 «Καὶ γὰρ κατὰ τὴν Ἀσίαν μεγάλα στοιχεῖα κεκοίμηται· ἅτινα ἀναστήσεται τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου, ἐν ᾗ ἔρχεται μετὰ δόξης ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἀναζητήσει πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους, Φίλιππον τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων, ὃς κεκοίμηται ἐν Ἱεραπόλει καὶ δύο θυγατέρες αὐτοῦ γεγηρακυῖαι παρθένοι καὶ ἡ ἑτέρα αὐτοῦ θυγάτηρ ἐν ἁγίῳ πνεύματι πολιτευσαμένη ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἀναπαύεται· ἔτι δὲ καὶ Ἰωάννης, ὁ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος τοῦ κυρίου ἀναπεσών, ὃς ἐγενήθη ἱερεὺς τὸ πέταλον πεφορεκὼς καὶ μάρτυς καὶ διδάσκαλος, οὗτος ἐν Ἐφέσῳ κεκοίμηται.» Ταῦτα καὶ περὶ τῆς τῶνδε τελευτῆς.
Eusebius, History of the Church 5.24.1-8: 1 But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him: 2 "We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. 3 He fell asleep at Ephesus. 4 And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. 5 Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? 6 All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. 7 I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said, 'We ought to obey God rather than man' (= Acts 5.29)." 8 He then writes of all the bishops who were present with him and thought as he did. His words are as follows: "I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus." / 1 Τῶν δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς Ἀσίας ἐπισκόπων τὸ πάλαι πρότερον αὐτοῖς παραδοθὲν διαφυλάττειν ἔθος χρῆναι διισχυριζομένων ἡγεῖτο Πολυκράτης· ὃς καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν ᾗ πρὸς Βίκτορα καὶ τὴν Ῥωμαίων ἐκκλησίαν διετυπώσατο γραφῇ τὴν εἰς αὐτὸν ἐλθοῦσαν παράδοσιν ἐκτίθεται διὰ τούτων· 2 «Ἡμεῖς οὖν ἀρᾳδιούργητον ἄγομεν τὴν ἡμέραν, μήτε προστιθέντες μήτε ἀφαιρούμενοι. Καὶ γὰρ κατὰ τὴν Ἀσίαν μεγάλα στοιχεῖα κεκοίμηται· ἅτινα ἀναστήσεται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου, ἐν ᾗ ἔρχεται μετὰ δόξης ἐξ οὐρανῶν καὶ ἀναζητήσει πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους, Φίλιππον τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων, ὃς κεκοίμηται ἐν Ἱεραπόλει καὶ δύο θυγατέρες αὐτοῦ γεγηρακυῖαι παρθένοι καὶ ἡ ἑτέρα αὐτοῦ θυγάτηρ ἐν ἁγίῳ πνεύματι πολιτευσαμένη ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἀναπαύεται· 3 ἔτι δὲ καὶ Ἰωάννης ὁ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος τοῦ κυρίου ἀναπεσών, ὃς ἐγενήθη ἱερεὺς τὸ πέταλον πεφορεκὼς καὶ μάρτυς καὶ διδάσκαλος· οὗτος ἐν Ἐφέσῳ κεκοίμηται, 4 ἔτι δὲ καὶ Πολύκαρπος ἐν Σμύρνῃ, καὶ ἐπίσκοπος καὶ μάρτυς· καὶ Θρασέας, καὶ ἐπίσκοπος καὶ μάρτυς ἀπὸ Εὐμενείας, ὃς ἐν Σμύρνῃ κεκοίμηται. 5 Τί δὲ δεῖ λέγειν Σάγαριν ἐπίσκοπον καὶ μάρτυρα, ὃς ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ κεκοίμηται, ἔτι δὲ καὶ Παπίριον τὸν μακάριον καὶ Μελίτωνα τὸν εὐνοῦχον, τὸν ἐν ἁγίῳ πνεύματι πάντα πολιτευσάμενον, ὃς κεῖται ἐν Σάρδεσιν περιμένων τὴν ἀπὸ τῶν οὐρανῶν ἐπισκοπὴν ἐν ᾗ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστήσεται; 6 Οὗτοι πάντες ἐτήρησαν τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς τεσσαρεσκαιδεκάτης τοῦ πάσχα κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, μηδὲν παρεκβαίνοντες, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὸν κανόνα τῆς πίστεως ἀκολουθοῦντες· «Ἔτι δὲ κἀγὼ ὁ μικρότερος πάντων ὑμῶν Πολυκράτης, κατὰ παράδοσιν τῶν συγγενῶν μου, οἷς καὶ παρηκολούθησά τισιν αὐτῶν. Ἑπτὰ μὲν ἦσαν συγγενεῖς μου ἐπίσκοποι, ἐγὼ δὲ ὄγδοος· καὶ πάντοτε τὴν ἡμέραν ἤγαγον οἱ συγγενεῖς μου ὅταν ὁ λαὸς ἤρνυεν τὴν ζύμην. 7 Ἐγὼ οὖν, ἀδελφοί, ἑξήκοντα πέντε ἔτη ἔχων ἐν κυρίῳ καὶ συμβεβληκὼς τοῖς ἀπὸ τῆς οἰκουμένης ἀδελφοῖς καὶ πᾶσαν ἁγίαν γραφὴν διεληλυθώς, οὐ πτύρομαι ἐπὶ τοῖς καταπλησσομένοις· οἱ γὰρ ἐμοῦ μείζονες εἰρήκασι « Πειθαρχεῖν δεῖ θεῷ μᾶλλον ἢ ἀνθρώποις.» 8 Τούτοις ἐπιφέρει περὶ τῶν γράφοντι συμπαρόντων αὐτῷ καὶ ὁμοδοξούντων ἐπισκόπων ταῦτα λέγων· «Ἐδυνάμην δὲ τῶν ἐπισκόπων τῶν συμπαρόντων μνημονεῦσαι, οὓς ὑμεῖς ἠξιώσατε μετακληθῆναι ὑπ´ ἐμοῦ καὶ μετεκαλεσάμην· ὧν τὰ ὀνόματα ἐὰν γράφω, πολλὰ πλήθη εἰσίν· οἳ δὲ εἰδότες τὸν μικρόν μου ἄνθρωπον συνηυδόκησαν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ, εἰδότες ὅτι εἰκῇ πολιὰς οὐκ ἤνεγκα, ἀλλ´ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ πάντοτε πεπολίτευμαι.»
There is also the suggestion (mentioned by MacDonald) that James and John were called the Sons of Thunder precisely because James died young (as represented by the mortal Castor, son of Zeus) while the other lived a very long life (as represented by the immortal Pollux, son of Zeus).
But what about the other important passage in the gospel of Mark?
Mark 10.35-40: 35 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, come up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” / 35 Καὶ προσπορεύονται αὐτῷ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης οἱ υἱοὶ Ζεβεδαίου λέγοντες αὐτῷ· διδάσκαλε, θέλομεν ἵνα ὃ ἐὰν αἰτήσωμέν σε ποιήσῃς ἡμῖν. 36 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τί θέλετέ [με] ποιήσω ὑμῖν; 37 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· δὸς ἡμῖν ἵνα εἷς σου ἐκ δεξιῶν καὶ εἷς ἐξ ἀριστερῶν καθίσωμεν ἐν τῇ δόξῃ σου. 38 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε. δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω ἢ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι; 39 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· δυνάμεθα. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω πίεσθε καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθήσεσθε, 40 τὸ δὲ καθίσαι ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἢ ἐξ εὐωνύμων οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν δοῦναι, ἀλλ᾽ οἷς ἡτοίμασται.
Did Mark report John's martyrdom while John was still alive? I tend to doubt it. Rather, Mark "knew" that both of the sons of Zebedee had died as martyrs. Other sources agree that John died a martyr.
First, there is possibly one (negative) argument to be made from silence. Heracleon, as quoted by Clement of Alexandria in Miscellanies
4.9, writes that "Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Levis, and many others" (Ματθαῖος, Φίλιππος, Θωμᾶς, Λευῒς καὶ ἄλλοι πολλοί) have made "the confession through the voice" (τὴν διὰ τῆς φωνῆς ὁμολογίαν) — that is, they died in ordinary ways rather than as martyrs. That as prominent a disciple as John of Zebedee is not listed in this context may
indicate knowledge of his martyrdom.
As for other (positive) arguments, there are the martyrologies:
Syrian Martyrology of Edessa (the names of our Lords the Confessors and Victors, and their days on which they gained [their] crowns), December 26-28:
26, according to the reckoning of the Greeks. The first confessor at Jerusalem, Stephen the Apostle, the chief of the confessors. 27, John and Jacob (James), the Apostles, at Jerusalem. 28, in the city of Rome, Paul the Apostle, and Simon Cephas (Peter), the chief of the Apostles of our Lord. [Link
Vincent Henry Stanton, The Gospels as Historical Documents, page 115:
In the Armenian Calendar the entry for Dec. 28 (the festivals of the Sons of Zebedee and of Peter and Paul have here been inverted) is "The festival of the holy sons of thunder, James and John."
Hieronymian Calendar, December 27 (apud Vincent Henry Stanton, page 115): Adsumptio S. Johannis Evangelistae apud Ephesum et ordinatio episcopatus S. Jacobi fratris Domini qui ab apostolis primus ex Judaeis Hierosolymis episcopus est ordinatus.
/ Assumption of Saint John the Evangelist at Ephesus and the ordination of the episcopate of Saint James/Jacob the brother of the Lord who was the first bishop ordained from among the apostles from the Jews of Jerusalem.
Robert Eisler, The Enigma of the Fourth Gospel, page 62:
The famous Missal of Bobbio reflecting the pre-Carolingian ritual of the Church of Paris — where Syrians had occupied not only the bishop's seat, but all the most influential ecclesiastical offices under the Merovingian kings — offers, after the mass for Christmas Day (No. 6), as No. 7 the mass for St. Stephen, as No. 8 the mass in memory of the massacre of the Innocent Children, and as No. 9 Missa Jacobi el Johannis
. The gospel lessons for the day are Matt. xx. 20-23: accessit mater filiorum Zebedaei
... containing Jesus' prophecy of the martyrdom of the two brothers, followed by Acts xii. 1-3: Misit Herodes rex manus ut affligeret quosdam de ecclesia
... the account of how this prophecy was fulfilled in the case of St. James.
Martyrology of Carmona, December 27 & June 24 (apud Eisler, page 61): VI K(alendas Io)annis apostole XII. .... VIII Kal(endas) Julias S(an)c(ti) Joanni(s) B(aptistae).
Carthaginian Calendar, December 27: VI. Kal. Jan. sancti Johannis Baptistae, et Jacobi Apostoli, quem Herodes occidit.
/ December 27, of Saint John the Baptist and James/Jacob the Apostle, whom Herod murdered. [Link
. That John the Baptist is a mistake for John of Zebedee in the Carthaginian Calendar is supported by the presence of John the Baptist's usual feast day elsewhere on this same calendar.]
Carthaginian Calendar, June 24: VIII. Kal. Jul. sancti Johannis Baptistae....
/ June 24, of Saint John the Baptist....
Eusebius, History of the Church 2.9.1-4:
1 "Now about that time" — it is clear that he means the time of Claudius — "Herod the King stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword" (= Acts 12.1-2). 2 And concerning this James, Clement, in the seventh book of his Hypotyposes, relates a story which is worthy of mention, telling it as he received it from those who had lived before him. He says that the one who led James to the judgment seat, when he saw him bearing his testimony, was moved, and confessed that he was himself also a Christian. 3 They were both therefore, he says, led away together; and on the way he begged James to forgive him. And he, after considering a little, said, "Peace be with you," and kissed him. And thus they were both beheaded at the same time. 4 And then, as the divine Scripture says (= Acts 12.3-17), Herod, upon the death of James, seeing that the deed pleased the Jews, attacked Peter also and committed him to prison, and would have slain him if he had not, by the divine appearance of an angel who came to him by night, been wonderfully released from his bonds, and thus liberated for the service of the Gospel. Such was the providence of God in respect to Peter. / 1 «Κατ´ ἐκεῖνον δὲ τὸν καιρόν,» δῆλον δ´ ὅτι τὸν ἐπὶ Κλαυδίου, «ἐπέβαλεν Ἡρῴδης ὁ βασιλεὺς τὰς χεῖρας κακῶσαί τινας τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, ἀνεῖλεν δὲ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν Ἰωάννου μαχαίρᾳ.» <2> περὶ τούτου δ´ ὁ Κλήμης τοῦ Ἰακώβου καὶ ἱστορίαν μνήμης ἀξίαν ἐν τῇ τῶν Ὑποτυπώσεων ἑβδόμῃ παρατίθεται ὡς ἂν ἐκ παραδόσεως τῶν πρὸ αὐτοῦ, φάσκων ὅτι δὴ ὁ εἰσαγαγὼν αὐτὸν εἰς δικαστήριον, μαρτυρήσαντα αὐτὸν ἰδὼν κινηθείς, ὡμολόγησεν εἶναι καὶ αὐτὸς ἑαυτὸν Χριστιανόν. <3> «Συναπήχθησαν οὖν ἄμφω,» φησίν, «καὶ κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἠξίωσεν ἀφεθῆναι αὐτῷ ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἰακώβου· ὁ δὲ ὀλίγον σκεψάμενος, εἰρήνη σοι, εἶπεν καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν. Καὶ οὕτως ἀμφό τεροι ὁμοῦ ἐκαρατομήθησαν.» <4> τότε δῆτα, ὥς φησιν ἡ θεία γραφή, ἰδὼν Ἡρῴδης ἐπὶ τῇ τοῦ Ἰακώβου ἀναιρέσει πρὸς ἡδονῆς γεγονὸς τὸ πραχθὲν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, ἐπιτίθεται καὶ Πέτρῳ, δεσμοῖς τε αὐτὸν παραδούς, ὅσον οὔπω καὶ τὸν κατ´ αὐτοῦ φόνον ἐνήργησεν ἄν, εἰ μὴ διὰ θείας ἐπιφανείας, ἐπιστάντος αὐτῷ νύκτωρ ἀγγέλου, παραδό ξως τῶν εἱργμῶν ἀπαλλαγείς, ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ κηρύγματος ἀφεῖται διακονίαν. Καὶ τὰ μὲν κατὰ Πέτρον οὕτως εἶχεν οἰκονομίας. [Could this legend have originally been a way to explain the presence of another man (= John!) killed alongside James?]
And is it possible that the beheading of John the baptist by Herod Antipas may actually be a garbled transmission of the death of John of Zebedee by beheading (along with and like his brother James) by Herod Agrippa? John the baptist's entire death in Matthew 14.1-12 = Mark 6.14-29 (= Luke 9.7-9) seems to me to be based on the beheading of Vashti
in Jewish midrash.
As for the two tombs in Ephesus, they may have both been for the same John:
Alan Culpepper, John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of a Legend, pages 148-149: The presence of two tombs of John in Ephesus has been explained in various ways. .... Robert Eisler conjectures that the second tomb of John, referred to by Dionysius of Alexandria, was the original tomb of the Ephesian John before his remains were transferred to the catacombs under the Square Church. The moving of the saint's remains, Eisler suggests [on pages 125-126 of The Enigma of the Fourth Gospel], may have spurred the development of the legend which reports that "on the morning after [John's inhumation], all came with prayers to lift his body so that it should be put to rest in the big church. But when we opened the grave we found nothing." September 26 was celebrated as the date of the martyrdom of John and others in a world-renowned religious feast at Justinian's Basilica of St. John until its destruction by the Seljuk Turks in A.D. 1090. Eisler supposes, therefore, that the remains of all these martyrs may have been collected in the catacombs beneath the square church. Local Christians may have continued to worship at the original tomb. In more recent times, until the expulsion of the Greek inhabitants from the area in 1920, Greek Christians decorated with wreaths and lamps a simple arcosol-tomb cut into the rock a little east of the ancient stadium, identifying it as the grave of St. John. If Eisler's theory of the movement of the remains from a simple tomb to the catacombs is correct, the remains were moved before Dionysius wrote in A.D. 262. Whether or not the Square Church had been built by this date, its location would have been connected with John's tomb by this time. Legends concerning the tomb of John include reports of manna or miraculous dust rising from the tomb, which had healing powers. Recounting a legend of apparently separate origins, Augustine says that the ground rose and fell over the tomb as though the apostle were sleeping.
And of course there is this late report about Papias:
Philip of Side, quotation of the Ecclesiastical History, codex Baroccianus 142 (de Boor 4.6), Bihlmeyer & Schneemelcher fragment 11.1-2: 1 Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, hearer of the theologian John and friend of Polycarp, wrote five books about the sayings of the Lord. In these, in a list that he made of the apostles, after Peter and John, Philip and Thomas and Matthew, he indicated that Aristion and another John, whom he also called an elder, were disciples of the Lord. Papias was also mistaken about the future millennium; Irenaeus got his ideas from him. 2 In his second book Papias says that John the theologian and his brother James were killed by Jews. And this Papias we have been discussing related a story that he evidently received from the daughters of Philip, that when Barsabbas, also called Justus, was put to the test by unbelievers, he drank snake poison but was preserved unharmed by the name of Christ. And he tells other amazing stories — especially one about Manaim's mother, who was raised from the dead. And he relates that those who were raised from the dead by Christ lived until the time of Hadrian. / 1 Παπίας Ἱεραπόλεως ἐπίσκοπος, ἀκουστὴς τοῦ θεολόγου Ἰωάννου γενόμενος, Πολυκάρπου δὲ ἑταῖρος, πέντε λόγους κυριακῶν λογίων ἔγραψεν. ἐν οἷς ἀπαρίθμησιν ἀποστόλων ποιούμενος μετὰ Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην, Φίλιππον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ματθαῖον εἰς μαθητὰς τοῦ κυρίου ἀνέγραψεν Ἀριστίωνα καὶ Ἰωάννην ἕτερον, ὃν καὶ πρεσβύτερον ἐκάλεσεν. ὥς τινας οἴεσθαι, ὅτι <τούτου> τοῦ Ἰωάννου εἰσὶν αἱ δύο ἐπιστολαὶ αἱ μικραὶ καὶ καθολικαί, αἱ ἐξ ὀνόματος Ἰωάννου φερόμεναι, διὰ τὸ τοὺς ἀρχαίους τὴν πρώτην μόνην ἐγκρίνειν. τινὲς δὲ καὶ τὴν Ἀποκάλυψιν τούτου πλανηθέντες ἐνόμισαν. καὶ Παπίας δὲ περὶ τὴν χιλιονταετηρίδα σφάλλεται, ἐξ οὗ καὶ ὁ Εἰρηναῖος. 2 Παπίας ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ λόγῳ λέγει, ὅτι Ἰωάννης ὁ θεολόγος καὶ Ἰάκωβος ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων ἀνῃρέθησαν. Παπίας ὁ εἰρημένος ἱστόρησεν ὡς παραλαβὼν ἀπὸ τῶν θυγατέρων Φιλίππου, ὅτι Βαρσαβᾶς, ὁ καὶ Ἰοῦστος δοκιμαζόμενος, ὑπὸ τῶν ἀπίστων ἰὸν ἐχίδνης πιὼν ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἀπαθὴς διεφυλάχθη. ἱστορεῖ δὲ καὶ ἄλλα θαύματα καὶ μάλιστα τὸ κατὰ τὴν μητέρα Μαναΐμου τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστᾶσαν· περί <τε> τῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστάντων, ὅτι ἕως Ἀδριανοῦ ἔζων.
Or did Philip misread Origen and then attribute it to Papias by mistake?
Origen, Commentary on Matthew 16.6: 6 And the sons of Zebedee have, <according to these things, as it seems to me, both> drunk <the> cup and been baptized with the baptism, since Herod slew "James the <brother> of John with a sword," and the king of the Romans (as the tradition teaches) condemned John, who was martyred on account of the word of truth on the island of Patmos. / πεπώκασι δὲ <κατὰ ταῦτα, ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν, καὶ τὸ> ποτήριον καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ἐβαπτίσθησαν οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου υἱοί, ἐπείπερ Ἡρώδης μὲν ἀπέκτεινεν «Ἰάκωβον τὸν <ἀδελφὸν> Ἰωάννου μαχαίρᾳ», ὁ δὲ Ῥωμαίων βασιλεὺς (ὡς ἡ παράδοσις διδάσκει) κατεδίκασε τὸν Ἰωάννην μαρτυροῦντα διὰ τὸν τῆς ἀληθείας λόγον εἰς Πάτμον τὴν νῆσον.
This suggestion has been made, but I am not sure.
At any rate, some sources say that John lived a long life before dying (among which some of these former even assert that he died peacefully), while others say that he died a martyr, like his brother James, and apparently, according to some of these latter, on the same day (as suggested by the feast days).
John2 wrote: ↑
Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:41 pm
the minority view is that the gospel was written with knowledge of the epistles. I currently hold pretty firmly with the minority view.
Ah. Well, I'm still thinking that Papias' presbyter John and Polycrates' Asian John could be the same person....
This is certainly possible. Both are associated with Asia.
...(and that they could also be the pillar John), but even if they aren't, do you think either of them could have a) written all or some of the Johannine epistles; and b) that these epistles and/or the fame of either of these Johns could have inspired the author of the gospel of John to pretend be one of them (and/or could have inspired whoever called that gospel John)?
I suspect that the Johannine epistles were written by the Elder John mentioned by Papias. This would explain their titles (as epistles "of John") and the internal authorship claim of 2 and 3 John as having been written by someone who could be referred to simply as "the Elder."
I think that the gospel of John came later, and in multiple layers. (Evidence for this gospel being layered is abundant.) Whoever added the appendix (= John 21) also added the beloved disciple to a gospel which previously lacked him. This beloved disciple may well have been intended to be the Elder John, since we find the author of the gospel of John correcting or critiquing Matthew and Mark quite a lot; I suggest that the editors (lurking behind the plural "we") were following John the Elder's lead, who, according to Papias, was not above correcting or critiquing the gospels of Matthew and Mark.
Before the beloved disciple was added to the text, the most beloved individual in the gospel was Lazarus. Calling this upstart disciple "beloved" was a way of replacing Lazarus with the beloved disciple, so far as intimacy with Jesus is concerned.
Even if John the Elder is the beloved disciple (and I may be wrong about that), I doubt
he was ever a follower of Jesus. He may have met Jesus, or someone he thought was Jesus, as a very young man, or even as a child, in Palestine, thus explaining this weird tradition:
Pseudo-Hilary, Tractate on John 1a: 1a John the most holy evangelist was the younger among all the apostles. When the apostles discussed which of them was greater, the Lord held him, saying: "Whoever is not converted as this child," and the rest. It is he himself who reclined upon the breast of the Lord. It is he himself whom Jesus esteemed more than the rest, to whom also he transmitted his mother Mary, and whom he transmitted as son to Mary. / 1a Iohannes sanctissimus evangelista inter omnes apostolos iunior fuit. hunc, cum disquirerent apostoli quisnam eorum maior esset, tenuit Dominus dicens: «Quicumque non fuerit conversus sicut puer hic,» et cetera. ipse est qui super pectus Domini recumbebat. ipse est quem prae ceteris diligebat Iesus, cui et Mariam matrem, et ipsum Mariae filium tradidit.
Because so precious little is said about John the Pillar, I am not sure which other John he may or may not be; nor am I sure where he may fit in.