At my church this morning it was preached that the apostle John survived being boiled in oil before he was exiled on Patmos. Is this true?

It is certainly true that he was exiled on Patmos (see Revelation 1), but the tradition about his being boiled in oil was relayed by Latin writers Tertullian (late 2nd / early 3rd century) and Jerome (late 4th / early 5th century). Interestingly, this is not included in the apocryphal Acts of John (late 2nd century).

Keep in mind that countless miracles were ascribed to the apostles and other early Christians – many of these accounts fanciful. Thus it is difficult for us to accept them uncritically.

The story of John in the deep fryer reminds me of the tradition that Lawrence was roasted on a gridiron. Halfway through his martyrdom, he is alleged to have cried out, “I’m done on this side – time to turn me over” (or something to this effect).

I suspect we will not be able to ascertain the veracity of such accounts until paradise. Presumably at that time – if we are still interested – we can ask John and Lawrence ourselves!

For more, please listen to the NT Character Podcast on John (login required).