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Cradle Catholic with a lot of questions; such as, why am I just figuring this stuff out now?

March 4, 2011

Jesus's Best Friend

The Gospel of John mentions a “Beloved Disciple” five times, which actually sounds a lot more significant than a best friend, but I guess that’s what we would call it these days. Only the gospel of John uses this term to refer to anyone and his true identity is debated to this day. Who this person is, if he existed, and why his identity is never revealed have been speculated for a long time. In fact, it is the topic of many well-respected books, theses, and lectures. Here are the basics.

The following gospel reading specifically mention this mystery person:

John 13:23-25: One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.
John 19:26-27: When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 20:1-10: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
John 21:1-15: The Beloved disciple is among the fisherman present when 153 fish were caught. The gospel states that Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

Possible Identities:
There’s a lot of speculation and no clear answer. But here are three of the more accepted possibilities:

  • The Apostle John, son of Zebedee’s, aka the author or the author or inspiration for the Gospel of John. Christian art has depicted the last supper with John pictured close to Christ. According to art history professor Heidi Hornik, John is…[sleeping] with his head on the table. John is shown without a beard suggesting he is younger than the others. In the painting, “The Last Supper" by Jacopo Bassano Christ embraces or lays his left hand over the shoulder and back of the sleeping disciple, suggesting a friendly intimacy. In addition John 21:20-24, also seems to back up this claim. “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
  • James, the Lord’s brother - If John 19:26 is taken literally, this makes sense. James went on to be a leader within the modern church.
  • No one - just a symbol. He is never given a name, or referred to in other gospels where stories are retold, so it has been suggested that he did not really exist. The level of intimacy is meant for each one of us as followers of Christ to put ourselves in the place of the beloved one.

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