Re: [GTh] Re: Thomas and John
- [Rick Sumner]:
> Charlesworth's book was much more persuasive than I expected.As well he should, since in chapter 21, Simon Peter asks concerning the BD,
> However, to be fair I've never been persuaded that the BD was Mary
> Magdalene--a possibility Charlesworth neglects to explore in depth.
"What about this *man*?" And Jesus responds, "If I want *him* to remain
until I come ..." (Even if chapter 21 is an addition, it seems plausible
that the author(s) of that chapter would have understood the authorial
scheme of the original text, especially assuming them to have been of the
It's fun to sift thru the textual clues about the BD, and it has a point to
it, since the device of the BD gets us into the mind of the author(s). Again
referring to chapter 21, the BD must have been one of the seven disciples
mentioned there, and he could not have been Peter, so we're left with
Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two others unnamed.
Coincidentally, two disciples of John the Baptist are cited in chapter 1as
being the first to seek out Jesus; one of them turns out to be Andrew, the
other is never named. Nathanael receives a lot of attention in chapter 1 -
including the implication that Jesus has had his eye on him. On the other
hand, Nathanael is found by Philip, and Philip is the only one said to be
found by Jesus himself, and the only one to whom he says "Follow me!" Yet
Philip seems to be downgraded in the same section (14:5-10) wherein Thomas
says that he doesn't know where Jesus is going.
If the BD isn't just a conceptual symbol, the prime candidate is probably
John bar Zebedee, who is usually credited as being the last living original
disciple - which accords well with what's said about the BD in chapter 21.
As I recall, the Zebedee brothers are mentioned only the once, and aren't
individually named in GJn - which may be a crucial clue, since it seems
unlikely that the author of GJn would name the BD in some contexts, and then
hide his identity in others. Of course, the author might name him once and
then hide his identity thereafter. It's even plausible that the author would
name the BD twice - once at the beginning and again at the end - but too
many repetitions of the actual name (as in Thomas being named four times),
and it begins to look like that candidate can't be the one - otherwise the
anonymity device is compromised.
Our own Frank McCoy has argued cogently for Jacob the Righteous. For various
reasons, JR appears to be a plausible candidate, except that the
instructions at the foot of the cross ("Woman, behold your son!") are prima
facie inconsistent for a man (Jacob) who was *already* Mary's son. There is
a way around this, however, if we think of J's instructions as releasing
Jacob from his supposedly life-long Nazarite vows, and thus returning him to
the natural relationship he would have had to his parents if he had not been
dedicated to God at birth.
The search for the BD is also a kind of test of our own methodologies - do
we adopt a hypothesis, and then defend it at all cost - maximizing the
evidence for it and minimizing (or ignoring) the evidence against it, or do
we truly try to be impartial - even to the point of remaining agnostic if
the entirety of the evidence doesn't appear to yield a clear result?
Mt. Clemens, MI
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Grondin"
> If the BD isn't just a conceptual symbol, the prime candidate is probably
> John bar Zebedee, who is usually credited as being the last living
> disciple - which accords well with what's said about the BD in chapter 21.
> As I recall, the Zebedee brothers are mentioned only the once, and aren't
> individually named in GJn - which may be a crucial clue, since it seems
> unlikely that the author of GJn would name the BD in some contexts, and
> hide his identity in others. Of course, the author might name him once and
> then hide his identity thereafter. It's even plausible that the author
> name the BD twice - once at the beginning and again at the end - but too
> many repetitions of the actual name (as in Thomas being named four times),
> and it begins to look like that candidate can't be the one - otherwise the
> anonymity device is compromised.
I wonder if folks are thinking a bit too hard about this. Maybe the author
of John didn't really intend BD to be an anonymity device. He does say
(John 11:3) "So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, 'Lord, he whom you love
is ill.'" That is, of course, a direct reference to the disciple Lazarus.
In another reference to Lazarus in John 11:36 we read "So the Jews said
[referring to Jesus and Lazarus] 'See how he loved him!'" All references to
the disciple whom Jesus loved (BD) come after these passages. (I don't
think it is an artifact of the translation. In the unambiguous references
to Lazarus the Greek uses the term "phileo" for love and the references to
the BD use "phileo" in at least one place (John 20:2) and "agapa" in others,
"agapa" and "phileo" being basically interchangeable.) Maybe the author
assumes that once he has identified Lazarus as the disciple that Jesus loved
he can use either the name or title interchangeably without ambiguity.
Lazarus as the BD also makes sense of the ending of John. It seems fairly
clear that John has two endings, the second coming after the BD has died
which seemed to cause the community some concern because "the rumor spread
in the community that this disciple would not die." (John 21:23). This
would be natural if Lazarus was the BD since he had already died and been
resurrected. A community that believed that could certainly be forgiven for
spreading a rumor that he was not going to die again!
- Thanks for your note, Wade. Not being very well read in the literature, I
hadn't run across the Lazarus possibility before, but I see now that it
answers some important structural questions much more satisfactorily (to my
mind) than any of the others. I was aware that the BD wasn't mentioned in
GJn until after Lazarus was raised, but I failed to put two and two
together. And what you say about over-analyzing a problem is so true. If I
may say so without embarassing you, I think your exegesis is a very model of
fine analytical reasoning. Hard to imagine that such a persuasive case could
be put with such economy of reasoning - combining linguistic considerations
and structural explanations to boot! To me, this is one of the better
contributions of a very fine recent crop that gives me more hope than I've
felt in a long time for the future of this group.
OK, some possible large-picture implications:
1. Since Lazarus evidently wasn't one of the Twelve, and since Lazarus is
present at GJn's last supper, this must mean that the author didn't buy into
the idea that it was the Twelve (and only them) present at the last supper -
or that he/they wished to deny it for ulterior reasons. I can see how one
might go in two quite different directions with this: either that the
Johannines knew the truth of the matter - or that they were intent on
downplaying the Judaically-symbolic importance of the Twelve (as
representing the twelve tribes of Israel). Believing (as most do) that GJn
was the late gospel, and that it represented a much more radical separation
from Judaism than the synoptics, I'm inclined toward the latter view - that
GJn had it in for the Jews. Some take GJn to be more historically reliable
than the synoptics (other than the theological speeches), but what I see in
it is some fixing-up of certain problem-areas in the synoptics (which makes
it _look_ more historically reliable in some instances), plus some rather
blatant revisionist attempts to make Jesus look much more godlike and
innocent (the moving of the Temple incident away from his arrest, e.g.).
2. The "Secret Gospel of Mark" (along with Morton Smith's views) seems to
take on much more significance. Therein, the young man involved isn't named,
nor does it look much like John's story (being much more amenable to a
naturalistic explanation of someone simply secreting himself in a tomb and
refusing to come out), but there does seem to be a basis laid there for J
having "loved" the lad - perhaps the same lad who fled naked from the garden
in Mark's story of J's arrest? Could the author of GJn have been familiar
with this story and just built it up out of all proportion? If so, why? Why
not just ignore it? And finally - if I may broach the subject in a scholarly
way without everybody getting overly excited - why the reference to
nakedness, and the desire of the young man to be "with him", if these
weren't hints of homosexual love? Was this an invented sop to the Greeks, or
what? (One is reminded of Gandhi sleeping naked with young women,
purportedly to demonstrate control over his physical urges.) Or should we
ignore the "Secret Gospel" as being historically suspect? But if we do, what
is the possible reason for GJn designating Lazarus as "the disciple whom
3. Other references to Lazarus may take on added significance.
Mt. Clemens, MI