Re: [John_Lit] Identifying the Beloved Disciple
- 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
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
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
(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
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,
On Tue, 06 Nov 2001 00:20:39 -0000 khs@... writes:
> Dear Tom,[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> 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
> 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
> South Australia
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- 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.