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Re: [John_Lit] Identifying the Beloved Disciple

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  • Thomas W Butler
    Dear Kym, I quite agree that it is reasonable to consider other references to the one who was clearly an intimate friend of Jesus. In fact, I would say that
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 8, 2001
      Dear Kym,

      I quite agree that it is reasonable to consider other references to
      the one who was clearly an intimate friend of Jesus. In fact, I would
      say that it is necessary to consider all such references in order to test
      the theory.

      MAQHTHN appears in three passages (Jn. 19: 26; 21: 20 [the disciple];
      20: 2 [the other disciple]. All three references are to the beloved

      MAQHTHS appears in 12 passages, 8 of which (Jn. 18: 15 [another
      disciple]; 18: 16; 20: 3, 4 (which you mentioned), 8 [the other
      19: 27 [the disciple]; 21: 7 [that disciple] and 21: 23 [this disciple]
      clearly indicating the beloved disciple, as shown by Raymond E. Brown.

      While this term in both forms is grammatically a male noun, it does
      always refer only to males. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, in
      their Greek-English Lexicon of the NT based on Semantic Domains
      (NY: United Bible Societies), 1988, 1989, (36.38) observe:

      "Though in the NT MAQHTHS generally refers to men, it is neutral as to
      sex distinction, and thus in a few instances in the NT also includes
      (as in Ac 6.1). In some languages it may be important to indicate
      the sex distinction, and in those contexts in which the twelve disciples
      being referred to, obviously the reference must be to men. However, when
      the wider group of disciples is referred to, then some indication should
      introduced as to the fact that both men and women were involved."

      The issue thus focuses upon whether the BD is a member of the 12 or
      of the larger group of disciples who followed Jesus and learned from him.
      The twelve are specifically mentioned only four times in the Fourth
      (three in one short passage: Jn. 6: 67, 70, 71, and one in Jn. 20: 24).
      might argue (as I believe some have, though I cannot cite them) that
      are not complimentary references to the twelve, since they imply
      of the twelve, which included Judas Iscariot and the doubter, Thomas.

      I have shown (Let Her Keep It, pp. 123-128) that the FG offers a
      of the term *disciple* that includes many more than 12 among the
      including both men and women. John the Baptist sets standards for
      in Jn. 1: 24:

      "And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of

      The two criteria set down by this verse for discipleship are (1) that one
      seen the Christ in Jesus and (2) that this same one has witnessed this
      to others. Following that definition, the number of disciples listed in
      Gospel of John are innumerable and, as I have said, include both men and

      You mention Jn. 21 in which the disciples (all of whom that are named
      are male) decide to go fishing after the crucifixion and first
      appearance of Jesus. Though I agree with those who contend that this
      passage is an addendum to the gospel, probably written by an editor who
      is not the original source or author of the main text, it seems to me
      this editor knows the identity of the BD. In fact, I suspect that it is
      editor who has chosen to hide that identity from subsequent readers.

      You suggest that the BD could not have been a female disciple because
      those who go fishing are male and presumably had stripped as Peter did
      (21:7) to do their hard work. I agree that it is not likely that a
      disciple would have accompanied these men, or if she had that even one
      of them would have been comfortable with stripping naked in her presence.

      However, that does not prove that the BD was not a female. There are
      two ways that this can be true. (1) 21: 4 indicates that Jesus stood on
      beach at daybreak, but it does not indicate that Jesus stood alone. One
      of the things we can say about the BD is that this disciple was not only
      close to Jesus in a relational sense, but is also presented as being
      near to him (Jn. 13: 23; 18: 15-16; 19: 26), in fact the point is often
      that the BD is closer to Jesus than Peter is, so, though the text does
      specifically indicate it, the BD could be standing with or near Jesus.

      Just as Jesus is able to speak to the fishermen, so could the BD,
      to them what they are at that point unable to see. As I indicated above,
      first criteria for being a disciple is the ability to see the Christ in
      Jesus. The
      BD (whether one accepts my theory or not) is, in this passage, revealing
      the Christ to those who have been disciples, but are not seeing the
      at that point. "... the disciples did not know that it was Jesus" (21:

      Clearly, though the BD is not listed as one among the fishermen in the

      boat (here I disagree with Charlesworth who suggests that, since Thomas
      IS in the boat, that supports the theory that the BD is Thomas), the BD
      IS PRESENT. That she was with the resurrected Jesus is one way that
      can be.

      (2) The second way this could be true is more mystical. That is to
      that the Christ abides in the BD, so that, while the disciples in the
      boat did
      not at first recognize that the person who spoke to them from the shore
      Jesus, the BD was able to reveal the Christ to them, because it was the
      in the BD that spoke to them. Such a mystical interpretation is one that
      be either accepted or not. I'll just leave it at that.

      Yours in Christ's service,
      Tom Butler

      On Tue, 06 Nov 2001 00:20:39 -0000 khs@... writes:
      > Dear Tom,
      > In this debate on the gender of the BD, it is not unreasonable to
      > consider other references to the one who was clearly an intimate
      > friend of Jesus.
      > In 20:4 we have the BD out-running Peter to the tomb. This, of
      > itself, does not demand a male - and I might be accused of
      > being sexist if I say that I think it may, however, be an indication
      > in that direction - but there are masculine terms attached, e.g.
      > 'the other disciple'.
      > In 21:1f. the BD was amongst the group who went fishing (v.7). In
      > v. 2 they appear to be a group of males, even the two un-named
      > 'others' (alloi) are, by intimation, male. Added to this, would it
      > be
      > appropriate for a woman to have been out on the boat all night
      > with these men, at least one of whom was 'stripped (naked?) for
      > work' (21:7).
      > Just a thought.
      > Kym Smith
      > Adelaide
      > South Australia
      > khs@...
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      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • khs@picknowl.com.au
      Dear Tom, By the definitions you gave, if I have read them properly, the masculine form of MAQHTHN can represent male and female disciples in the plural form.
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 8, 2001
        Dear Tom,

        By the definitions you gave, if I have read them properly, the
        masculine form of MAQHTHN can represent male and female
        disciples in the plural form. That does not seem to be a problem.
        However, to use the masculine form when speaking of a single
        disciple is, I would think, something else. Either we have a male
        disciple or, as you suggest, the author/s intentionally hid the fact
        that the BD was a woman. As we are dealing with those who are
        given the responsibility of proclaiming the truth, that makes little
        sense to me that they would do so, but I think you have already
        given your reasons why you consider they may have.

        I know that chapter 21 is considered by many to be a later
        addition, I think there is evidence to the contrary, however. I
        believe that 20:30-21:25 is a ten-part chiastic structure in which a
        (20:30) and b (20:31) parallel b' (21:24) and a' (21:25). The
        whole structure can be seen in Part Three of my book on the
        website mentioned in my post #2048. For 20:30-31 to be so
        linked with chapter 21 either means that those two verses are
        also part of the later addition or chapter 21 was part of the
        original. I guess it could mean that a later writer used the last
        two verses to build such a structure but that would only be so if
        that chiastic structure was unique in John. If I am right that the
        whole of John is made up of such structures, the last one being
        the 70th, then not only the structure itself but the complete
        number (i.e. 70) indicates that the last one was part of the whole.

        While I can see how you could manage to get your two
        interpretations concerning the BD in chapter 21, I think the clear
        understanding is that he was one of the six men on the boat.


        Kym Smith
        South Australia
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