In John’s Gospel there is mention of “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This disciple (an apostle really) is never mentioned by name. However it is universally accepted by biblical scholars both ancient and modern, by the Church Fathers as well that this beloved disciple is in fact the Apostle John himself who writes the gospel. In the gospel itself John (or more likely a later editor who attached a postscript) tips his hand when at John 21:24 the text says regarding the “disciple who Jesus loved,”  This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true

I would not dream of over-ruling such a consensus that the Beloved Disciple is John  but I want to suggest to you that there is something more at work here than the identity of one man to fill this role.

With the exception of the verse I quoted just above, the exact identity of the beloved disciple is not supplied and John 21:24 just cited seems to have been added later most likely by the Johannine Community at Ephesus for the subject switches to “we” and refers to the beloved disciple as “he.”

John himself prefers to leave the beloved disciple unnamed. Perhaps this is humility. Or, perhaps his experience of being loved by the Lord was more precious to him than his name. It is almost as if when asked his name he might respond: “I am the one whom Jesus loves” instead of giving his name. In fact John never uses his name to refer to himself anywhere in his gospel. What is clear is that John knew and experienced that he was loved by God and that was apparently all that mattered to him in terms of his identity. This would also help to explain that this title was not an attestation that the Lord had favorites. Jesus himself does not use this title for John or any of the apostles. This is merely John’s self description of the fact that he was loved by the Lord and he knew that personally.

But the final thing I want to suggest to you, if you are prepared to accept it,  is that John’s deeper purpose for not supplying the name of the beloved disciple is so that you will understand and experience in a very true sense that the beloved disciple is YOU. You are the disciple whom Jesus loves. You are the one who reclines next to the Lord at the Last Supper and first Mass (jn 13:23). You are the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross to whom the Lord said, “Behold your mother” (John 19:26). You are the beloved disciple who runs to the tomb and comes to faith (Jn 20: 8). You are the beloved disciple who announces to others, “It is the Lord” (Jn 21:7). You are the Disciple who follows after the Lord and Peter (Jn 21:20). The beloved disciple, if you are prepared to accept it,  is you.  

 

49 Responses

  1. Bender says:

    You are the disciple whom Jesus loves

    This is quite plausible, especially since John is the most theological, rather than merely historical-factual, and uses the most imagery of any of the Gospel writers.

    In a similar vein, I’ve often presumed that Luke’s “Theophilus” is not any specific person, but is anyone who “loves God” or “who God loves.”

  2. Karen says:

    I was lectoring at the Easter Mass 12 years ago when I was about 5 months pregnant with my daughter. It was a busy day, both at home and at Church, and she had been quiet all morning. When “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was read, she literally leapt. It was such a dramatic and sudden movement that I nearly lost my balance. For me, that Gospel passage is forever linked to my daughter.

    • Wow, thanks for this wonderful story!

      • Suzanne says:

        Karen: so wonderful to hear that you, too, experienced this. I was pregnant with twin sons during an Easter vigil mass and during the readings, they just kicked and moved – my dress was bouncing every which way. The spirit does reach them and they do rejoice.

  3. Bain Wellington says:

    May I disagree for once? Respectfully following the lead given by the Holy Father in his book “Jesus of Nazareth” (2207) at p.223, I contend that the full, immediate, necessary and sufficient purpose of the references to the Beloved Disciple are to validate what is narrated, and to root Apostolic Tradition in solid fact – a project mirrored elsewhere in the New Testament, e.g. :-

    “You will be my witnesses”, Ac.1:8b (cf. Lk.24:48);
    ” . . it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us . . become with us a witness to his resurrection”, Ac.1:21f.;
    “we are all witnesses of [the resurrection of Jesus]“, Ac.2:32 (cf. 5:32);
    “I . . a witness of Christ’s sufferings”,1Pet.5:1;
    “we were eye-witnesses of His majesty”, 2Pet.1:16b

    Also:- “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it . .” (1Jn.1:1f.).

    The author’s decision to suppress the Beloved Disciple’s name may offer space for a spiritual reflection, but a spiritual dimension cannot be “the deeper purpose” for it.

    We are not, and can never be, authenticators of the historical truth of the Gospel – which is the specific purpose of the multiple references Monsignor has collected and presented in this article.

    Perhaps this is just me quibbling over the phrase “deeper purpose”, for I don’t deny that the Monsignor’s reflection is a legitimate one; but, as the Holy Father says in his book, a spiritual understanding of these “witness” passages is insufficient and actually empties them of meaning.

    • Good distinctions here.I surely do not mean to empty the word witness of historicity. The focus of my reflection was on being loved rather than on the question of historic witness which I surely do not deny.

      • Bain Wellington says:

        I mentioned it, Monsignor – and I apologise for the length of the post – because it is only comparatively recently that scholars have begun to take seriously the historicity of St. John’s Gospel (the Church has never doubted its historicity, as we read in Dei verbum, nn.18f.).

        The spiritualising tendency had the field to itself for a long time. Until I read “Jesus of Nazareth”, I wasn’t fully aware that there was much argument the other way. Some reviewers of the Holy Father’s book actually mocked him for so naive (as they considered it) an approach – as if the modern consensus compelled assent.

      • Theresa says:

        Thanks for bringing this up. I recently completed a Johannine course for credit . The focus was primarily about who the beloved disciple was not-the apostle John- then why the beloved disciple probably was-the apostle John. Plus I have read the Holy Father’s book, but I did not pick this point up as succinct as you have.

        I was accepting the theory that John did not write the gospel albeit with hesitation. I am quite grateful to read your critical analysis.

        Thank you too monsignor for the beautiful reflection and clarification.

  4. Bain Wellington says:

    **(2007)

  5. Philip says:

    The first Gospel was the Gospel of Mark written in c.100 AD, almost 67 years after the death of our Lord. The disciples couldn’t possibly be alive and strong enough to write the Gospels at a much more later date than Mark’s.We should be careful with regards to identification of Second Testament authors as most of the writings were ascribed to the chosen apostles inorder to enhance the authenticity of the post ressurrection message. It is also important to guard against the fundamentalist approach to literal interpretation of the Scipture; for all Scripture is inspired by God through the action of the Holy Spirit and we all need this same Holy Spirit to savour a better glimpse of the Scripture message. In this light I think the last thing you said was the closest to the inspiration and light that is found in those passages of the John’s Gospel.

    • Not sure I understand where you are getting such a late date for the composition of the Gospels. All of the scholarship I know dates then authoship of the Gospels much earlier. The general consensus is that John was the Last to be written ca 90 AD.

      • Philip says:

        I agree with you Monsignor.I’m sorry for mixing up the dates. c.AD 100 was actually the date when the New Testament writings were completed. Mark’s Gospel was composed in c. AD 70. It took about 67 years for the New Testament writings to be completed, a period long enough for the Gospel message to be assimilated and understood by the early christians and converts as handed down first class from the Apostles via oral tradition. This tradition was fading as the Apostles were passing away as a result of the vigorous persecutions during that era.There was need to preserve this message in a more sustainable form consequently producing the first New Testament writings as early as AD 50 (the First Letter to the Thessalonians). The first Gospel was only completed 20 years later. Authorship of these later compositions were ascribed to the Apostles from whom the true writers got the message. They passed it across in written form as they understood it through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I still mantain my point Monsignor that care should be taken with respect to identifying authors of the Books of Scripture as well as interpretation of the text. Inorder to understand more about the disciple whom Jesus loved it is important we draw our minds back to the person of Christ and see the equality of his love towards all. It will therefore be dangerous to think that Jesus loved a disciple more than the others thereby making that portion of St. John’s Sripture ambiguous. He loved of all them equally as he loves us today and he simply treated each one of them according to the disposition of their hearts as well as their willingness to sacrifice for the truth.

    • Bender says:

      We should also remember that, although the composition of the written Gospels was completed at that time (mid to late 1st century (A.D. 60-90), as the Monsignor points out), the authors did not necessarily begin to put pen to parchment at that late a date — they might have started composing earlier, and in any event, those completed versions followed many years of oral transmission of the Good News, such that the “Gospel” itself is as old as the Church herself.

    • Catherine Elliott-Dunne says:

      I was quite surprised to see that Philip says the first gospel (the Gospel of Mark) was written c. 100 AD. I recall that at least 10 years ago the New York Times, of all sources, had an article on its front page to the effect that the earliest full copy of the Gospel of Mark had been unearthed at an archeological site. It was in the form of a scroll, and contained a lot of other content. The “other content” was not described in any great detail, but it did allow for quite accurate dating of that scroll to March-June, A.D. 52. Where Philip gets his dating from is not clear, perhaps he could provide it, and hopefully it will be something other than “the consensus of prevailing public opinion.”

      • Philip says:

        I’m sorry for the mix up Catherine but you should not base your disagrement with me on a typographical error. Try to get my point. The last Apostle to die was John at an Advanced age of about 97 in c. 100 AD when the last of the new Testament writings were completed i.e his book of Revelation. He died naturally and peacefully in Ephesus. Peter and Paul and most of the other disciples died c.AD 64 much more earlier. Come to think of it; were the gospels that bore their names actually written by them? If not, then others wrote on their behalf and for them according to how they understood them as as how they were directed by the Holy Spirit. It is important to place our minds in context when interpreting the Scriptures, never forgetting that the main blood that runs the veins of the Holy pages of Scripture is love, justice and equality. Jesus of all could not discriminate and therfore we must read that portion of Scripture with a spiritual orientation and likewise all other portions where ambiguity seem to be common because the Sripture is inerrant.

  6. Athol Bloomer says:

    Well i do disagree. The writer of the Gospel who is the disciple that Jesus loved is not John the Apostle but John the Presbyter whose identity had to be hidden as he belonged to the High priestly family. He was a priest and a rabbi. Claude Testmontant writes about this in this book “The Hebrew Christ”. Theophilus is the former High Priest who retired to the High priestly estates in Ephesus. He was the father or grandfather of John the presbyter. Certain early martyrologies have the Apostle John martyred during the same persection as his brother James the Greater around 44-45 AD.

    • Bain Wellington says:

      These are interesting speculations.

      The Holy Father reviewed some of the arguments in “Jesus of Nazareth” at pp. 224-227. The point of departure is Jn.18:15f.:-

      “Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.”

      Cf. Jn.20:3 where Peter and “the other disciple” are again linked – and here, this “other disciple” is certainly “the one Jesus loved” (Jn.20:2a).

      There is a respectable but far from conclusive argument that Zebedee was a member of the priestly caste – which gave his son John the entrée referred to above (see “Jesus of Nazareth”, at pp. 224f.).

      Whether or not “John the Presbyter” and John the Apostle/ Evangelist are two different people depends on how one interprets the preface to a lost work by Papias as quoted by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. III.39).

      Papias reports hearing “John the Presbyter”. St. Irenaeus (martyred AD 177 or 178) understood him to mean the Apostle/ Evangelist; Eusebius (died AD 339) took the opposite view.

      Since Papias, in the same extract, calls all the Apostles “presbyter” (cf. 1Pet.5:1; 2Jn.1.1 etc.), the claim that “John the Presbyter” was not the Apostle/ Evangelist (let alone that he was definitively a Second Temple Priest) is somewhat optimistic.

    • Athol,
      I have read many theories about authorship. Such questions swirl around many if not most NT books. The position you cite is out there and would be regarded as a minority position. I have read similar conclusions about the The Book of Rev. too. While authorship questions have their place and need to be discussed at certain levels, I often, from a merely pious level, remember that the Holy Spirit is the true author. What ever human being he inspired to write the text is an interesting academic question and helps us perhaps to understand a bit of the context but in the end God the Holy Spirit is the truest answer on which my faith in the text rests.

      • Athol Bloomer says:

        Even if this John is different from the Apostle John son of Zebedee, he was still part of the inner circle of Jesus followers and was the one who stood at the foot of the Cross, and lay on the Lord’s breast and became the Bishop of Ephesus and wrote the Gospels, letters and Revelation. The apostle John was in the Garden with jesus but then as did all the apostles they ran off and left Jesus. John Mark and this priestly John were two young disciples of Jesus who were not of the 12. It is said that John served as the High priest and wore the High priestly robes- John the apostle was a fisherman not a priest, If John the beloved belonged to the High priestly family then he may well have served as the high priest on Yom Kippor if he was the Deputy High priiest and the actual High priest became ritually unable to serve. with you Monsignor I believe whether it was St John the Apostle or St John the presbyter they were inspired by the Holy Spirit in an infallible manner.

  7. Robert says:

    I don’t know: I find it so discouraging that several commenters seem to be missing Msgr’s point by engaging in technical disputes about timing and “authorship.” Msgr, you are admirably patient on this daily blog.

    • Yes, Robert, in the end my post was meant more at a spiritual sense of the text rather than a textual sense or a discussion as to authorship. I will say however, on a blog such as this discussion is one of the main points.Hence my “patience” emerges from a gratitude that people are engaged and discussing the faith. It is a true fact that comment threads some times go in directions rather distant than the original article but I guess that is the nature of discussions. I was most amused a few weeks back when I wrote an article on having a broken humble heart and somehow the conversation ended up being a rather lenghty on on modest dress in Church. In this case however, the question of authorship does bear a rather central place since since I cited Jn 21:24 which makes a veiled reference to the identity of the beloved disciple historically.

      But in the end, you are right, my central point was to get you and me to ponder that we are loved by God and hence, in a spiritual sense are “the beloved disciple”

      • Climacus says:

        Sorry to enter the conversation so late, but the subject of John being Jesus ‘beloved disciple’ holds special interest for me. All historicity aside, John has always struck me as the most contempletive of the Apostles. John’s Gospel also strikes me as the most Eucharistic. Sorry, no footnotes or references, these are strickly personal paradigms. What bothers me most is I have always considered John Jesus’ beloved disciple. Until now I never thought about why or from whence it came. On numerous occassions, because of these perceptions I’ve asked God to make me like John, the beloved disciple. You all give me much to reflect on and research.

        Thanks,

  8. Susan Cole says:

    what a remarkable line of thought, pulling each of us closer to God’s love.

  9. Nick says:

    Your post makes sense in light of Jesus’ words to Mary from the Cross, Msgr. :)

  10. esiul says:

    Msgr., once again, you did a wonderful job bringing across to us how much we are indeed loved.

  11. dianne says:

    I have heard before the suggestion that Irenaeus confused John the apostle with a later John the Presbyter. There is no evidence for this. On the contrary, Irenaeus specifically states in his work, Against Heresies, that “John, the disciple of the Lord who also had leaned on his breast, did himself publish a gospel.” Irnaeus received this information from his teacher, St. Polycarp, who had been a disciple of John the Apostle.

    • Athol Bloomer says:

      Dianne the point is that it is John the presbyter known as St John the beloved who leaned on his breast and wrote the Gospel and the other writings of John and was entrusted to Mary and went to Ephesus. Notice he is called the beloved disciple not beloved Apostle. John the Apostle was close to Jesus along with his brother James and with Peter. he was present at the Tabor. Of course both Johns were actually disciples and apostles but only one was of the 12 apostles. Polycarp was taught by John the Presbyter of Ephesus who was also an apostle (shaliach) who had been with Jesus but not one of the 12.

  12. Diane Duggan says:

    I have come to love St. John. About a year ago we moved to a small town. We started going to the most beautiful church I have ever seen, St. John the Evangelist. Last Sunday, 3 parishes in the town merged. St. John the Evangelist, Our Lady of the Rosary, and Our Lady of Jasna Gora. The home church is St. John’s. The ceremony was magnificent. The two altar stones from the closing churches were carried in procession and laid in the existing altar of St. John’s. The new parish is beautfully called St. John the Guardian of Our Lady. I believe that he may very well be “the beloved apostle”. Jesus chose him to care for His Most Prescious Mother. If I remember the passage, doesn’t scripture say the he [John] took Mary into his home and cared for her? St. John, Guardian of Our Lady, pray for us.

    • Climacus says:

      Diane,

      I love that you brought up the fact that John took Mary into his home and cared for her. One of my favorite things to meditate on regarding John (causing such envious sweet sorrowful longing and desire) is what it must have been like to live in Ephesus with Mary after the Crucifixion. To live with the Mother of God, the Mother of Contemplative Prayer is beyond my comprehension.

  13. Mike Rooke says:

    Does John 11 not indicate the person Jesus loved was Lazarus ?

    John 11:3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”

    John 11: 35 And Jesus wept.
    John 11:36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

    Why did Jesus love Lazarus ?

    The clue may be in John 11:2
    Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

    This identifies Mary, the sister of Lazarus, as the woman in Mark 14:3

    “When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.”

    Might we conclude that Lazarus and his sisters were rich and so had costly perfumed oil at hand or

    is Luke 7 also relevant and was Mary the same woman as in Mark 14.

    36 A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
    37 Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
    38 she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
    39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

    40 Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

    Jesus identifies the Pharisee in Luke 7 as Simon that is also the name of the Leper in Mark 14.
    Can we infer that perhaps that Mary is indeed the same person in Luke 7 and Mark 14 and had been in a different profession or lifestyle and Lazarus had taken his wayward sister into his home and that Jesus had loved Lazarus especially for his compassion to his sister in the face of hostile social convention.?

  14. august weitzel says:

    Very interesting, though i rather use the Bible as a holy book of inspirition, rather than a history book.

    • Understood as a preference, though we do need scholarship tohelp elucidate the historical context. But I understand your point.

      • Athol Bloomer says:

        it is important to thrash these things out. disagreement is good if it is done for the sake of Heaven. It is only through vigorous discusion often lasting centuries the important understandings come forth as part of the development of doctrine in the church. The concept of the immaculate conception was thrashed out in this way before the magisterium came to a conclusion on this.

  15. Mike Rooke says:

    Just an after thought.
    If the accounts are broken down into key phrases it would seem to point to a single incident.

    John: her brother Lazarus who was ill; Mary was the one who anointed the Lord; perfumed oil; dried his feet with her hair;

    Mark: a woman; Simon the leper; alabaster jar; perfumed oil; poured it on his head;

    Luke: sinful woman; bath his feet with her tears; wiped them with her hair; anoint his feet; alabaster flask of ointment; Simon the Pharisee;

  16. luzvimindarp says:

    Good day Msgr. Pope, i really loved your blog site, for me it is always a place for meditation, inspiration, eye opener and most especially a sharing of faith that guides my spirituality if i am still in the guidance of the Lord. My great thanks for your spiritual guidance monsignor.
    I will claim your thoughts..i am the beloved of the Lord and i know that He loves me so much. The book of the Bible for me is something to guide me always on my faith and my communion with His apostles, disciples and saints and seeing and reading testimonies of spiritual writers like you affirms me of my faith. Thank you and may the Holy Spirit of God continue to strengthen you and enlighten your mind, heart and soul forever. God bless us all.

  17. Bible student says:

    Mike Rooke, In light of your comments you might want to check out this presentation of the biblical evidence on topic of the beloved disciple.

    TheDiscipleWhomJesusLoved.com has a free eBook Bible study which relys on the primary source – the recorded testimony of God’s inspired witnesses – and, therefore, lets the authority of God’s word be the deciding factor on the question of the identity of this unnamed disciple. Hope it helps.

  18. Paul says:

    THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED WAS LAZERUS.

  19. Alton Milligan says:

    I was reminded of the painting of the Walk to Emmaus where the unknown figure is turned away and could be a man or woman. This figure is meant to be “you” too.
    If we sing Were You There we can definitely say with John’s gospel “yes” as we enter the living word of the story.
    As for John’s text the Holy Spirit is given to be with us so that “the Father and the Son” will be in us. So the one whom Jesus loved is the you reading the story as, like you said, if you will receive it. I do.
    Thank you, one of the one’s whom Jesus loves

  20. Bolanle Sodunke says:

    I beleive and accept that i am the beloved of Christ.

  21. ver santos says:

    I think Jesus Christ is referring to disciples that truely follow and obey what Jesus commands and teaching not just merely believing but truelly follow and obey His teaching .

  22. The Rev. Carl F. Reynolds says:

    I think the disciple that Jesus loved was Mary Magdalene!

  23. Carissa Anne says:

    Too many people make the simplicity of the gospel complicated. Though there are Hebrew, Greek, and English translations etc., the Bible is not about grammar; it’s about the word, who is Jesus. John was absolutely aware of the Love of Jesus because he continually received it. Everybody has the ability to experience the same awareness of the love of the father. Everyone has the choice to receive the love of the father; believe it, receive it, speak it, and walk in it, but too many are caught up in “trying to do right” or “suppressing the truth”, that they completely miss out on the sacred communion we’re able to have because of Jesus. God’s grace and peace be with you.

  24. Linda says:

    This may be a bit too “elementary” but let’s bring Satan into this discussion……he loves confusion and debate especially when it concerns the trinity and scripture…..we can all agree on this. He works to draw us away from God….don’t fall for it. Open your mind, heart and soul to the Holy Spirit and feel the love Jesus has for ALL of us! Yes, many scholars have debated the authorship of the Gospel of John, the Epistles and Revelation but until we “come to him as little children” we will not feel the love he has for us! I am the “beloved disciple.” What about you??? When we are with him in heaven will it matter who wrote what?? O ye of little faith!!!

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