> Dear Frank:
> There is an assumption being made as you consider a male pronoun as key to
> the argument. In every known language when the identity and/or gender of
> person is not known the default pronoun is 'he'. To make the default
> pronoun the basis for speculation, even to the extent of a person not
> present in the scene, is far reaching unless you can show a pattern where
> this occurs in other ways it is used in the same gospel.
Your first general statement seems reasonable but in your second statement
you appear to jump to the assumption that a default pronoun *is* being used
rather than that the writer uses 'he' because s/he actually means 'he' and
not the default pronoun. In other words it seems reasonable to argue that a
default pronoun might be being used but it seems unwarranted to argue that
it is being used. The question seems open. It is one thing to argue that the
was anonymous to the readers of John but quite another to argue that this
was anonymous to either the writer, or the redactor.
In this case we must look elsewhere for further illumination; to internal
and external evidence.
You place considerable weight on the reliability of c.2nd source material
which in my view is no less likely to be a Gnostic pious invention in the
presence of the document and in the absence or reliable oral testimony, than
the orthodox idea that the BD was John the Apostle or one of several other
male disciples. In my mind the question remains open in the absence of
With regard to internal evidence, if John 18:15-16 refers to the BD and not
to a further un-named disciple,
it is intriguing because of its implications. How might this disciple be
'known to the High Priest', a
statement emphasised by the writer through repetition?
Was there: (a) a familial connection (I think some argue for Mary, the
sister of Martha and Lazarus on this basis);
(b) to do with trade in salt fish;
(c) to do with priestly office and function;
(d) to do with social status;
(e) due to an illicit relationship; or
(f) something else?
The disciple is able to either instruct or persuade the woman gate keeper
If this disciple was able to instruct it would imply social or functional or
familial status and such status would have afforded a man some protection at
the cross. If it was a matter of bribery or persuasion, we still have the
problem of why the gatekeeper nevertheless quizzes Peter, either
or else dutifully; I don't think we are meant to take it as sarcasm.
On the whole I am not persuaded that the connection was
one of trade, the High Priest would have been a person of massive social
status and priveledge and would not have known the household fish merchant
directly. If the disciple was known through a former illicit relationship
this might well literally open doors and gates, particularly at night.
If it was about social status or familial relationship or priestly office
this has implications for
the footwashing episode linked with 'first and least' type status issues.
One other possibility is that the BD was the Royal (basilikos) official's
(beloved) son / huios or servant / paidon / pais, (John 4:46-54), perhaps
with a Capernaum link, if not a home there (vs.46). Presumably a Royal
and his family would normally live either within the Royal Court in
Jerusalem or in a large household within easy reach of the Court, (perhaps
with an upper room).
In this case the Official and his son may have been in the Galilean border
business or family affairs when the boy had fallen ill. Perhaps too the
official was Herod's steward, Chuza (Lk. 8:3; 24:10), the husband of Joanna,
a woman present at the tomb. Potentially too there is a powerful historical
rather than simply a theological link between John 4:50 and 20:29. If
Chuza's Jerusalem residence had been used as the location of the last
and his son was the BD, it would also explain why the identity of the BD was
concealed and how this person found himself almost 'centre stage' at the
supper. The Capenaeum connection might explain why a Jerusalemite BD was
fishing with Galilean disciples, presuming John 21 contains both history and
theological symbolism and that it does not relate to a pre-Easter account.
What seems to be missing in such an identification is a priestly theological
interest but this after all might be the work of the chief editior,
redactor. Arguments in support of identifying the BD as John Mark or
alternatively as Chuza and Joannna' son have much in common despite evident
differences. I still favour the former but surely the question is a little
more open as is the question of whether or not a default pronoun is actually
being used as distinct from the thoretical possibility that it may have
Why would the High Priest have known Mary Magdalene and why would the woman
gatekeeper have responded to her request and yet have challenged Peter?
Bill Bullin (Private Student, East Sussex).
'It is the historian's function, not to make us clever for next time, but to
make us wise for ever'.