St. John, Sleeping Hero

St. Isidore is so informative! But sometimes he collects info that’s just fun and not quite so certain.

I was reading the section on St. John from De ortu et obitu patrum, because it was one of the prologues people use. Apparently in his day, he had sources saying that some people in Ephesus thought that St. John the Evangelist was not dead, but sleeping until the time of the Antichrist when the Church needed him most. The proof of this was that the grave kept getting pushed up out of the ground (what’s the opposite of subsidence?) and dust would trickle out, and people would say that was John breathing. (And yeah, Isidore is very heavy on “some people” and “they contend”. He wasn’t believing it, but he recorded it.)

This is appealingly early, when it comes to a known “King in the mountain” story.

The “Golden Legend” focuses more on the idea some people had that John was assumed into heaven in a giant flash of light (living or dead, none knew), leaving nothing behind but manna. This came from some Pseudo-Jerome thing about the Virgin Mary’s Assumption, and how John got in on the Assumption gig also.

Of course, both these legends depend on John 21:21-23, and apparently don’t credit the Lord with sarcasm. :) They also had considerable legs. The Old English Martyrology knew about both stories, which is no surprise since Bede apparently had tons of Isidore to read; and it pointed out that the assumption thing could have been with John living or dead. And that’s interesting, because of course folks in the West tended later to get very insistent that Mary didn’t die before being assumed, whereas the East got very solid on that she did. If people could argue about John’s theoretical assumption, it’s not surprising that Mary would be the object of argument too. So I’m interested to find out more about this Pseudo-Jerome piece.

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