History of the Feast of St. John: Which St John?

Bill Petro
4 min readDec 27, 2021
St. John

December 27, since the 5th century, has marked the day in the church calendar for celebrating the life of St. John the Evangelist and is known as the Feast of St. John.

We’ve already mentioned that the day before, December 26, is the Feast of St. Stephen. The following day, December 28, is the Feast of The Holy Innocents, referring to those babies killed by King Herod the Great in Bethlehem.

Which St. John is celebrated in this feast?

It is not John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus; instead, it’s the young disciple of Christ, known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This John writes about “the Baptizer” in the first chapter of his Gospel. Tradition holds that he is the author of the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John (I, II, and III John), and the Book of Revelation, also known as The Apocalypse. He’s also known as John the Apostle, John the Divine, John the Theologian, and John of Patmos.


St John the Apostle

Island of Patmos

John is unique among the Twelve Disciples in that according to tradition, going back to at least the 2nd century if not earlier, he is the only Disciple who did not die a martyr like the rest. Instead, in addition to participating in Jesus’ ministry and that of the early church, he lived to old age in Ephesus. He was initially one of the followers of John the Baptist. He and his brother James, both fishermen, were called to be disciples of Jesus and, along with Peter, were considered to be among the inner circle.

John suffered during one of the first empire-wide persecutions of the early church and was exiled to the Island of Patmos. The Book of Revelation says its author was on Patmos “for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus” where he received a vision of heaven and the world to come — from the risen and exalted Jesus. Hence, while it is sometimes called the Revelation of St. John, the book’s first verse identifies it as the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Persecution of St John

Bill Petro

Writer, technologist, historian. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel. https://billpetro.com