Eusebius of Cesarea writes (Church History, Book 3, Chapter 39)

In these words, it is noteworthy that Papias lists the name John twice. The first time he includes John with Peter, James, Matthew and the other apostles; he obviously means the evangelist. The second time, in a new sentence, he includes John in another category, which is different from that of the apostles; he places Aristion before him and expressly calls him a presbyter. This proves the report true that in Asia two disciples had the same name, and that in Ephesus two tombs were erected, each of which still bears the name John. This must be taken into account. For it is probable that, if one does not want to think of the first John, the second saw the revelation that went under the name of John. John's name, the second has seen the revelation that goes under John's name. Papias, whom we have just quoted, confesses, received the teachings of the apostles from their disciples, and heard Aristion and the presbyter John personally.

The thesis has been disputed; see SE anwer to Who wrote the Book of Revelation?

My question: Are there any independent sources available that support Eusebius thesis that John the Disciple and John the Elder were two different persons? I read in aforementioned article: "But Zahn and most Catholic writers agree that Dionysius was mistaken about the tomb". I could not identify the citation; in the writings of Dionysius I have only found passages about the tomb of Jesus. Have the two tombs in Ephesos been mentioned or even been identified?

  • Just to point out that the Apostle John was also a disciple and also an elder. By the time the book of the Revelation was written, John the Apostle was about 90 years of age, so he had been a Christian elder for at least two or three decades, by virtue of his age. Perhaps we today have a slightly different idea of what a Christian elder is, attaching little importance to seniority in years, supposing even someone in their 20s could be appointed as an elder (with a capital 'E')?
    – Anne
    Nov 14, 2021 at 11:47
  • Two tombs in Ephesus might be explained coincidentally by the fact the the Apostle John looked after Mary the Mother of Jesus and who tomb is presumed to be near Ephesus. This legend could explain a little of the confusion of the two tombs. Especially, since St. John never published the whereabouts of the tomb of Mary. They both lived in Ephesus. See Mary’s House. Her tomb to this day remains unknown.
    – Ken Graham
    Nov 14, 2021 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


It's possible that the two tombs mentioned are for the same person. Jerome writes that 2 and 3 John “are said to be the work of John the presbyter to the memory of whom another sepulchre is shown at Ephesus to the present day, though some think that there were two memorials of this same John the evangelist.” (Joannis presbyteri asseruntur, cujus et hodie alterum sepulcrum apud Ephesum ostenditur, etsi nonnulli putant duas memorias ejusdem Joannis Evangelistae esse – Lives of Illustrious Men, 9) (Sourced from the secular writer Peter Kirby)

It is interesting how Eusebius in his earlier Chronicle (Greek text from Syncellus, Latin from Jerome; Lightfoot-Holmes 1) writes the following:

Ιωαννην τον θεολογαν και αποστολον Ειρηναιος και αλλοι ιστορουσι παραμειναι τω βιω εως χρονων Τραιανου, μεθ ον Παπιας Ιεραπολιτης και Πολυκαρπος Σμυρνης επισκοπος ακουσται αυτου εγνωριζοντο.

Irenaeus and others report that John the theologian and apostle remained in life until the times of Trajan, after which his earwitnesses Papias the Heirapolitan and Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, became known.

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