Who is the John who wrote the Apocalypse?

13 January 2022 | Apocalypse in discussion, Blog, Context and roots | 0 comments

Kees Zoeteman and Astrid van Zon

On this website we have already paid some attention to John, the writer of the Apocalypse (https://www.project-apocalypse.com/FAQ/). We know that he was one of the twelve apostles, was imprisoned on Patmos, became very old and ended his life as bishop of Ephesus. But his inner experiences were extraordinary and directional for the millennia to come. How could it be that a human being was capable of this? Who are we dealing with here?   

The more we delve into this man, the more enigmatic he becomes. Soon we come across all kinds of unusual spiritual backgrounds that spiritual researchers report to us about.

In this paper an attempt is made to collect these reported insights and develop an overall picture. This will lead us into detailed spiritual concepts which may not be familiar to the reader. Those who want to make themselves more acquainted with such concepts may read Rudolf Steiners views on the two Jesus children (https://anthrowiki.at/Die_zwei_Jesusknaben, https://fassadenkratzer.wordpress.com/2019/12/27/das-raetsel-der-zwei-verschiedenen-geburtsgeschichten-jesu/, GA 114, GA 123). In this context Rudolf Steiner warned us that ‘the truth of the world is complex’ (GA 114, p.92). This also applies to the individuality of John who wrote the Apocalypse.

Bastiaan Baan

Bastiaan Baan describes in Bronnen van het christendom (Sources of Christianity) (B. Baan, C. Gruwez and J. van Schaik, 2007, Zeist: Christofoor) the relationship John has with Christ. The Gospel of John (13:23) speaks of John who “lays at the chest of Jesus” at the last supper. It is an exceptional relationship that was based on a form of love referred to as Agape. The term Agape is a Greek expression for the highest form of love. This expression is used for the connection of Jesus Christ with John and for the connection of Christ with Lazarus. Baan describes the resurrection of Lazarus by Christ, who thereby becomes John as will be discussed later, as a moment through which Jesus Christ becomes aware of the purpose of his own resurrection for humanity. The special thing about John is that he is an example to all mankind of how Christ can live in man and how man can also be in the essence of Christ. The resurrected Lazarus-John acquires a new nature, which enables him to penetrate in his own way into the heart of Christ. This deep connection is revealed in the “I am” words in the Gospel of John. John is the one who can purely reveal the divinity of Christ. In the Apocalypse, both at the beginning and at the end, we hear “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” In addition to revealing the divinity of Christ, John also shows Christ’s human nature and vulnerability. Thus, he is able to connect the highest, Christ as the Son of God, with the lowest, Christ as the Son of Man, and in doing so shows that he is “taking the path from the hights of spirit to the depths of matter” (p. 110). John is the first human being showing how Christ is working through man in the future.

Rudolf Steiner

Bastiaan Baan, as a priest of the Christian Community, refers often to Rudolf Steiner. Steiner sees in the apostle John the same individuality as John the evangelist and the writer of the Apocalypse, despite the difference in writing style of the two Bible books. According to Rudolf Steiner, John is a forerunner in human evolution and he is at the same time, spiritually speaking, a complex composite being, who was the first to be initiated into the new mysteries by Jesus Christ himself.

The new Christian mysteries are a continuation of the old ones, in which the person to be initiated was put into a kind of death sleep for three and a half days. During this sleep, and under the supervision of a priest, the astral body was imprinted in the ether body, giving the initiate clairvoyant abilities. New organs had previously been developed in the astral body through exercises that only become active when they are imprinted in the ether body where they can lead to conscious spiritual perceptions. In the new Christian initiation, this whole process took place in the life of Jesus Christ in his crucifixion, burial, descent into hell and resurrection (GA 8). In the Apocalypse the seven stages of the new initiation are set forth. Rudolf Steiner had them depicted, referring to the Apocalypse, in the seven great seals shown at the Munich Congress in 1907 (GA 284).

The seven great seals shown by Rudolf Steiner at the Munich Congress in 1907

Here, Christ is the one who guides the initiation, which is depicted in the first great seal of the Son of Man. The second great seal shows that now not only the four group souls, who in the past led humanity, become visible, but in the center also the priestly King himself, the Lamb, who faced us in the first great seal as the Son of Man. In this role of the Christ, the new mysteries are indicated in their essence. No longer does man find initiation in ancient mystery places such as the temple at Ephesus, but now initiation requires an inner path that can be walked by all men as expressed since the Middle Ages in the search for the grail and the finding of the Christ (GA 260, p.242).             

The new initiation is described in the Bible as the resurrection of Lazarus, as mentioned above. This requires further clarification and will continue to raise many questions.

The initiation of Lazarus

Steiner (GA 100, p. 240 ff.) indicates that the expression “the disciple whom he loved ” (see, e.g., St.John 19:26) is an expression used for those who have been initiated by the Master himself. John describes his own initiation in the raising from the dead of Lazarus, according to Steiner. The text also says about Lazarus that Jesus loved him. As Lazarus was laying as dead in his grave, his ether body was released from his physical body to go through initiation. This will be discussed in more detail later. He is then resurrected and is able to write the Apocalypse and the Gospel as Lazarus-John. Just as the old initiation took place in three-and-a-half days, this new initiation takes an equal period of time. Jesus announced that this death-like sleep “does not lead to physical death”. After the initiation, Lazarus can become a witness of the spiritual world and write the Apocalypse and the Gospel based on the imaginations and inspirations he perceives (GA 103, fourth lecture, May 22, 1908).   

Fusion of Lazarus with a part of John the Baptist

As miraculous as this explanation by Rudolf Steiner already is, the question immediately arises as to what Lazarus has to do with John. And here we encounter the following mysterious communications of Rudolf Steiner (GA 264, p.232 ff.). On the one hand, there is a certain John, who is the brother of James. Both are sons of Zebedee. On the other hand, John the Baptist, who was beheaded, plays a role. And both these Johns are again different from the one whom Steiner refers to as the Lazarus-John who lies at the chest of Jesus at the Lord’s Supper and who acts as the apostle of Jesus. John, the son of Zebedee, was not among the actual apostles. Something happened to this John at the resurrection of Lazarus. Later Steiner makes more detailed statements about this. The brothers James and John, like Lazarus, could not develop at that time beyond the so-called ‘intellectual-and- temper’ soul. (In anthroposophy the human soul is seen as developing from the sentient soul to the intellectual-and-temper soul and finally in our present times evolving to the consciousness soul). The essential thing that happens at the resurrection of Lazarus is that the being of Lazarus is fused with the spiritual higher part of the deceased John the Baptist and then comes out as the human being referred to as Lazarus-John (GA 238, p.175). On the possible role of John the brother of Zebedee, we will return later.

Lazarus-John anticipates the future development of mankind

How should we picture the risen Lazarus-John? After the death of John the Baptist, as the result of the beheading which Herodias, the daughter of King Herod, had demanded, the spiritual being of John the Baptist inspired the group of apostles. At the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus Christ, this spiritual being of John the Baptist, -consisting of his Atman, Buddhi, Manas and consciousness soul-, permeated from above the being of Lazarus which had been developed up to his intellectual-and-temper soul. And so the human being Lazarus-John, the disciple whom Jesus loves (GA 238, p.175) and who is the author of the Apocalypse and John’s gospel, was created. This indicates that in the risen Lazarus-John we are dealing with a very high developed human being. Lazarus-John had a spiritual state, which  humans in general can only develop in the distant future. This insight has come to us through a communication recorded by M. Kirchner-Bockholt from Rudolf Steiner to his doctors during the last year of his life (GA 238, p.175).      

Incarnations of Lazarus-John

Rudolf Steiner has also indicated which incarnations are connected with this Lazarus-John. For example, he mentions about Lazarus that he previously lived as Hiram Abiff, the master builder of Solomon’s Temple and, after his initiation by Jesus Christ, was born in the 13th and 14th centuries as Christiaan Rosenkreutz (GA 265, p.405 and 420). In the 18th century he was born as the Count of Saint Germain.

Incarnations of John the Baptist

Rudolf Steiner has also mentioned incarnations of John the Baptist. For this, he points to the high priest Pinehas who lived in the times of Moses (13th century BCE) (GA 139, p.155), the prophet Elijah (9th century BCE), the painter Raphael and the poet Novalis (GA 114, p.122 ff; GA 120, p.162 ff; GA 126, p.110 ff; GA 139, p.49 ff). We must realize that this great spiritual being cannot be contained in one human form and is several stages of consciousness ahead of present-day humanity. This indicates that through the fusion of Lazarus with the higher aspects of John the Baptist, in which Elijah is included, a consciousness works in Lazarus-John that is far ahead of human development in our present time.

Since the publication of these spiritual research results by Rudolf Steiner, who lacked the opportunity at the end of his life to state and explain his findings at length, some additional findings of other spiritual researchers have been published. A summary will be given, although it may create some confusion due to differences in these reports.

Peter Tradowsky

In his book Johannes der Täufer und Lazarus-Johannes (Dornach: Verlag am Goetheanum, 1995), Peter Tradowsky elaborates on what Rudolf Steiner described and wanted to describe on Lazarus-John in his last public lecture on September 28, 1924. He looks at the moment of initiation, when an earthly human being, Lazarus, stands before Christ. He is composed of physical, ether and astral bodies with a sentient soul and an intellectual-and-temper soul. On the other side of the threshold to the spiritual world stands the much earlier deceased John the Baptist, who left behind his lower bodies but developed as a spirit the consciousness soul and the Manas, Buddhi and Atman. When these two beings unite, a human being stands before Christ who reaches from the earthly depths (just deceased physical body of Lazarus) to the highest heavens (the Atman of John the Baptist). What force brings about this union, Tradowsky asks himself. That, he believes, must be the power of love that leads both individualities to the I that unites them and builds the bridge across the threshold between life and death. It is the presence of the Christ that allows this love to become a reality and surrounds the Lazarus-John being (p. 24).

Then, Tradowsky wonders if this is a primal image for the future of man or if this has a meaning only for these two individualities of Lazarus and John the Baptist. From the similarities with two other individuals, Demetrius and Kaspar Hauser, which Rudolf Steiner also mentioned to Count Polzer-Hoditz in the last month before his death on March 3, 1925 (Tradovsky, p.28), Tradowsky deduces that this is a powerful primal image of the cooperation required in the future between both sides of the threshold between the material and spiritual world. The individual human being is called to transform in the future with his ‘I’ the lower three parts of the body (astral, ether and physical bodies), so the ‘golden triangle’ of the upper three parts (Manas, Buddhi, Atman) can emerge.     

Sergei Prokofieff

In 2003 Sergei O. Prokofieff gave a lecture on this theme (John the Baptist and John the Evangelist; the secret of the two John figures around the turning point of time; Dutch translation from German, Bergen op Zoom: Perun Books, 2004). He shows that Lazarus-John, receives earlier than the other apostles a so-called solar initiation from Jesus Christ and becomes a solar hero, as it was called in the Persian Mysteries. Lazarus-John is initiated on Easter, while to the other apostles were initiated on Pentecost. Lazarus-John, as a representative of all earthly humanity, mirrored microcosmically the death and resurrection that Jesus himself had yet to accomplish macrocosmically at Calvary (Prokofieff, p.15).

John the Baptist was the witness for all humanity to the beginning of the Christ-life at the baptism in the river Jordan and the one who first recognized his divinity (St. John 1:34).

Prokofieff further wonders in what way Lazarus-John received the higher essence of the consciousness soul, the spirit self (Manas), the life spirit (Buddhi) and the spirit man (Atman). He sees John the Baptist as an initiate on the level of the “Son of Man”, that is, possessing the consciousness soul and Manas, a level that had been reached at that time by such individualities as Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jeremiah (GA 123, lecture 11-9-1910). John the Baptist, after his death, was able to endow Lazarus with the consciousness soul and Manas from the spiritual world. But how then did Lazarus-John obtain the two even higher parts of being, wonders Prokofieff. He deduces from indications given by Steiner that it was the Buddhi of Zarathoustra that was transferred from the Moon sphere to the initiated Lazarus-John (p.25) and that it was Aristotle who, from the Sun sphere, made his powers of the Atman available to Lazarus-John (p.32). So, at the initiation a human being stood ultimately before Christ, who reached from the earthly depths to the highest heavenly heights. John the Baptist, Zarathoustra, and Aristotle, Prokofieff argues, are the transcendental witnesses with Lazarus-John of the mystery of Golgotha. In this sense, the initiation of Lazarus was a one-time exceptional event, in which both the forces of the ancient pre-Christian mysteries and those of the new Christian mysteries were at work simultaneously.  Prokofieff thus arrives at a different view from that described above by Tradowski.     

Judith von Halle

In 2009, Judith von Halle (Vom Mysterium des Lazarus und der drei Johannes, Johannes der Täufer, Johannes der Evangelist, Johannes Zebedäus; Dornach: Verlag für Anthroposophie) publishes an explanation based on her research into the individuality that wrote the Apocalypse. Judith von Halle also begins her argument, following the findings of Rudolf Steiner, by interlinking the incarnation series of Elijah – John the Baptist – Lazarus-John – Raphael – Novalis with that of Hiram Abiff – Lazarus-John – Christian Rozenkreutz – Count Saint Germain. She points at two ancient movements in humanity that have their origin in the struggle between Cain and Abel and which was later recognizable in that between Solomon and his master builder Hiram Abiff. By the resurrection, that Christ accomplishes by merging Lazarus with the being of John the Baptist, the Cain and Abel movements are united with each other in the form of the Cain-man Lazarus and the Abel-spirit John the Baptist. To make this possible, they both must make the sacrifice of death (p.61), after which the new man Lazarus-John can emerge.

Von Halle then addresses the statements that at the time of the resurrection the body of Lazarus had been dead for 4 days and had begun to “smell”. She deduces that the physical and ether body of Lazarus were already dissolving at that time. In what body, then, could the risen Lazarus step out of the grave? She suggests that it was John, son of Zebedee, who offered his 19-year-old ether body to the older, approximately 29-year-old, Lazarus. That this was possible was partly due to the great similarity between the configuration of John Zebedee’s ether body and that of the deceased Lazarus (p.79). Thus, John Zebedee created the possibility that the seven parts of being of Lazarus-John (from astral body, sentient soul, etc. to Atman) could flow into a physical shell. The physical body, newly constructed from this ether body, had, according to Judith von Halle, not the features of the older Lazarus but those of the young John Zebedee (p.82). In the process, his earlier physical body would have dissolved momentarily and his higher parts of being (astral body, sentient soul, and intellectual-and-temper soul) would have been incorporated with his brother James (p.87). Incidentally, Judith von Halle does not follow Prokofieff’s reading that in Lazarus-John the Buddhi of Zarathoustra and the Atman of Aristotle flowed in. She sees these higher parts coming from John the Baptist (p.93).

In summary, she arrives at the following origin of the spiritual parts of being of the initiated Lazarus-John who is later referred to only as John.


The above shows how various anthroposophists, based on Rudolf Steiner’s legacy, have tried to elaborate and detail the lines indicated by him. The results are not everywhere unambiguous. Prokofieff has proposed a role for Zarathoustra and Aristotle for the highest aspects of the initiate Lazarus-John in addition to Elijah.

Von Halle sees reason to attribute all higher parts of being to Elijah (earlier incarnation of John the Baptist), and describes a role of John Zebedee in bestowing his ether and physical body. Unfortunately, each had to use the limited guidance of Rudolf Steiner who, due to his illness and death, was no longer able to share his insights in detail.

What emerges from these contributions is that we have before us in the author of the Apocalypse an enigmatic human being indeed. He is unique as a representative of what the human being will ultimately develop as Atman consciousness at the time of Vulcan Earth. Because of this high consciousness, he was able to show us vistas of the human evolution. In this Lazarus-John we meet a human being who possessed the abilities of imagination, inspiration and intuition that are not yet accessible to us and he could show us the promises of the divine vocation of man that can be activated within us.


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