Which earliest sources does Christianity posses that claim that apostle John spent the last years of his life in Ephesus?
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Revelation 1:9 explicitly states that John was on the island of Patmos when he wrote revelation:
That he would have been exiled there is common:
Patmos is an island very close to the city of Ephesus, the major port city of the day. Indeed, Revelation 2 - 3 is a series of letters to the 7 cities in Western Turkey, and Ephesus is by far the largest of them. This is not surprising, since Rome pretty much cleared Jerusalem of Jews in 70AD (actually completely destroyed Jerusalem in 125AD!) thus resulting in a diaspora that moved many of the writers to Western Turkey and Galatia. Indeed - every one of the Epistles written to a city or region in Turkey or Greece.
Were we to receive word that a certain person was familiar with the Bronx, Manhattan, Newark, Hoboken, and we have written correspondance to them where he claims to be at Hsing Hsing prison - especially absent any transportation - it would not at all be unreasonable to assume he is from New York.
When tradition thus states that John was living in the biggest city of the area, and we have written correspndance that shows how close he was, it's a really safe bet.
It is just a tradition that John the Revelator is also John the Apostle whom Jesus loved. Nothing inside the word specifically says who is John the Revelator. In a similar fashion the epistle titled James is not thought to be written by either James the Apostle of the Lamb. It is also tradition that John lived at Ephesus. So Revelation itself is not a good choice for this tradition. The oldest tradition I could find but was not qualified for the word of God and also is not used as cannon and probably is just made up and is definitely gnostic is the acts of John.
The earliest written tradition placing John in Ephesus comes from Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 3, chapter 3, section 4. During an explanation of how the apostles passed on teachings to their chosen successors, Irenaeus says:
Irenaeus lived and wrote in the late 2nd century, but as a young man he had met Polycarp and been taught by him. Polycarp, in turn, is said by Tertullian (Prescription against Heretics, chapter 32) to have been appointed Bishop of Smyrna by John.