Apostle John, Polycarp and Patmos

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Puritan Board Freshman
Hello, I was wondering if someone has any information about the Apostle John's exile to the island of Patmos, more especifically if there are any historical records of his release from there.

Based on church father records, Polycarp was a disciple of John. He was probably around 5 years old when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. If John discipled Polycarp, when was John released from Patmos? Was he? Is there any historical record about this?

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Alex,

I see no one has responded to your questions. There is not too much information we have on them. Irenaeus is perhaps the sole “witness” to the historical data. He stated that he was “a hearer of Polycarp,” who in turn was “a hearer of John” the apostle.

We have the record of the Book of Revelation that John was on the Isle of Patmos (1:9), and there wrote the Apocalypse. In his Against Heresies Book III, at the end of chapter 3, Irenaeus says, “Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.” Trajan began to rule in A.D. 98, and John was alive among the people of Ephesus till that time and perhaps a little while after.

In Against Heresies Book V.30.3, Irenaeus writes (declining to try to identify what the number of the beast signifies), “for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, toward the end of Domitian’s reign.” Domitian died in A.D. 96.

As to John’s actual release from Patmos it would likely have been soon after the death of Domitian, as his edicts – such as banishments – would be voided on his death. But we have no accounts of his release.

Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, III.18.3, and other early church leaders repeat Irenaeus’ account of the writing of the Apocalypse, and John's tenure in Ephesus.

This dating is hotly disputed by those who are supported in their doctrines by the supposed early writing of the Apocalypse, for the benefit of the preterist view of their eschatology. It remains that the majority of church historians and commentators on Revelation hold to the late date of the writing of this last book of the Bible.

To steer clear of the fray may be why no one has ventured to respond.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Everything I have ever heard had him released from Patmos and going to Ephesus where he died naturally.

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
This is from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Which on this point, I think is accurate.

With Eusebius (Church History III.13.1) and others we are obliged to place the Apostle's banishment to Patmos in the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96). After Domitian's death the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan, and at Ephesus he died about A.D. 100 at a great age.

So according to this, it would appear that he left Patmos and returned to Ephesus following Domitian's death.
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