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Monday, June 14, 2010

Who is the Beloved Disciple?

- One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved by Ary Scheffer

I was intrigued to see that Duke University NT scholar Mark Goodacre has a new podcast on the identity of the beloved disciple (NT Pod 38: Who is the Beloved Disciple in John's Gospel?) ....

It's one of those great enigmas in new testament criticism: try and work out who the beloved disciple is in John's gospel, or what it is that the author of John's gospel wants to do with this character ..... is he the key to the origins of John's gospel, and what is it about this character's witness that's so important?

I had a past post myself about the beloved disciple in 2006 (The Beloved Disciple) and thought I'd briefly quote me :) ...

One of the interesting things about John's gospel is that the author doesn't refer to himself by name, but only as the "other disciple" or more famously, "the disciple Jesus loved". Some scholars think the beloved disciple might have instead been Mary Magdalene, and others, like Ben Witherington, think Lazarus was the disciple Jesus loved (What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible). I'm sticking with John, though (The Disciple Whom Jesus Kept on Loving?)

And it appears that Mark kind of agrees with me :) In Mark's podcast he mentions the idea that the beloved disciple is an idealized example to readers of perfection in discipleship, but Mark also allows that the seeming intention of the author of John's gospel to have us suspect John as the beloved disciple is no accident - listen to the podcast to hear his reasoning.

Maybe it's fitting that we're not sure who the beloved disciple is - imprecise definitions, like poetry, give us room to imagine ....

The Beloved Disciple
- George MacDonald


One do I see and twelve; but second there
Methinks I know thee, thou beloved one;
Not from thy nobler port, for there are none
More quiet-featured: some there are who bear
Their message on their brows, while others wear
A look of large commission, nor will shun
The fiery trial, so their work is done;
But thou hast parted with thine eyes in prayer--
Unearthly are they both; and so thy lips
Seem like the porches of the spirit land;
For thou hast laid a mighty treasure by
Unlocked by Him in Nature, and thine eye
Burns with a vision and apocalypse
Thy own sweet soul can hardly understand.


A Boanerges too! Upon my heart
It lay a heavy hour: features like thine
Should glow with other message than the shine
Of the earth-burrowing levin, and the start
That cleaveth horrid gulfs! Awful and swart
A moment stoodest thou, but less divine--
Brawny and clad in ruin--till with mine
Thy heart made answering signals, and apart
Beamed forth thy two rapt eyeballs doubly clear
And twice as strong because thou didst thy duty,
And, though affianced to immortal Beauty,
Hiddest not weakly underneath her veil
The pest of Sin and Death which maketh pale:
Henceforward be thy spirit doubly dear!


Blogger Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for the post, Crystal, and for mentioning the latest NT Pod.

8:56 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for the NT Pod and happy one year anniversary!

10:35 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

It seems to me that asking questions like this is similar to asking what happened to the characters after the end of a novel, or before it started. The point being that the novel is an idea created in the reader's mind and we cannot ask questions about its source, for we have the entire text before us.

If we start asking questions like "who is the beloved disciple?" then we are implicitly accepting that the gospel is a true eye-witness account of events. Many think that, and I would engage in disputation with them on that belief. But I didn't think you were one of them, Crystal. However I come here to learn about you.

12:52 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Vincent,

I try to keep up with new testament studies but I don't know a lot about it. I would say that the gospels are not written by the actual disciples, but are based on some past people's eye witness accounts, along with other stuff. I try to keep an open mind, but I am a Christian and have decided then to give the idea of Jesus being God the beneift of the doubt.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous John said...

It is easy for people to make the Bible fit their view. What is harder is to for people to hold the authority of God's word above the traditions of men.

One has to take off their own shoes before they can take a walk in someone else’s moccasins, and similarly, when it comes to a case of The Bible vs. Tradition, one has to be willing to let go of the traditions of men in order to see the truth that is hidden in plain sight in the text of scripture. has a free eBook that compares scripture with scripture in order to highlight the facts in the plain text of scripture that are usually overlooked about the “other disciple, whom Jesus loved”. Since scripture is profitable for correction, you may want to weigh the testimony of scripture that it presents regarding the one whom “Jesus loved” and may find it to be helpful as it encourages bible students to heed the admonition, “prove all things”.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Whoops, sorry about my typo, I meant to say I would not engage in disputation with anyone's belief! I respect yours and any one else's who's sincere.

1:58 PM  

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