Tom wrote: Does your comment (that this is fair enough
> to ask this question regarding Thomas or James) mean that you
> agree that this question should, indeed, be asked of any scholar
> with a theory as to the BD's identity?
> Perhaps you could elaborate further as to the importance that
> you see in distinguishing between disciples and apostles. Do you
> mean to suggest that if the BD was a mere disciple, and not an
> apostle, that this would be reason for obscuring that disciple's
Again, yes. This is a very unclear area, and one on which I still have some
work to do, but I am a full-time pastor and the project must necessarily be
long-term. However I do believe the early church, in the apostolic and
sub-apostolic age, did make a distinction between "apostles" and
"disciples", in the sense that all apostles are disciples, but the reverse
is not necessarily true.
The problem is in defining the two terms. The New Testament gives
little help. Acts 1 gives a list of qualifications for one of "the Twelve"
( should have been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry until the
end, and have been an eye-witness of the resurrection), but there is some
evidence that the Twelve were a sub-group within "the apostles", and the
term covered a much wider group. Many scholars are also sceptical of the
historical accuracy of Luke's account, anyway. Paul (1 Corinthians 9) gives
only one qualification ("have I not seen the Lord?" - presumably a
resurrection appearance, probably referring to the "Damascus Road"
incident). Maybe he sees all 500 people mentioned as witnesses to the
resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 as apostles! Who lnows? And we have not
even mentioned yet the "apostles of the churches" - regarded by most as a
When it comes to the word "disciples", the NT uses this word for the
generality of believers. The Gospels, and some sub-apostolic texts uses it
as a reference to those who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry,
which could cover a considerable number of people, most of whom have been
completely forgotten by history.
The Papias text which refers to "John the elder", appears to rank him
with a group including Aristion, who appear to be on a lower level (in
esteem by the Christian community) than Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas,
James, John, or Matthew, whose names are separated from those of John the
elder and Aristion. Confusingly, all are referred to as "disciples of the
Lord", but the position in the text of the last two names, and the fact that
no-one has posited Aristion as an apostle, suggests a distinction is being
drawn here, at the beginning of the second century. Perhaps Papias knew
these latter two figures had been companions of Jesus (he valued their
reports of what Jesus had said), but maybe they were junior figures (perhaps
in age. Aristion is credited in one document with the authorship of the
longer ending of Mark - he must have been of a younger generation than Peter
Hengel seems to be suggesting this "John the elder" had a kind of
"adopted favourite son status" with Jesus, and that this gave him special
insight into Jesus' teaching. But because he was not one of the "first rank"
leaders of the new community (and they may well have resented his closeness
to Jesus), he may well have found it necessary to conceal his identity. And
followers of his (I believe "a" follower was the final author of the FG,
based on the BD's teaching and discussions between the BD and his disciples)
may well have decided to follow the same practice
> > The case for a female author has not yet been made, I'm
> > afraid.
> You are quite right. There is still an abundance of evidence to
> present and debate before I or anyone else can claim that the
> case has been made.
> Please note that I am making the case that the BD is a woman
> named Mary, not that the author of the FG is a female. These
> are different questions. The answer to each question may be
> the same, but the evidence required to answer each question is
> different. I submit that the open question as to who wrote the
> Fourth Gospel is one that has been addressed and will be
> addressed again on this list. If permitted, I will gladly enter into
> that thread as well, but for now, I am content to stick with the
> issue at hand: Could the BD have been a woman named Mary?
I take your point here. Everyone has their own view, and given the history
of study on this matter, it is highly unlikely there will be any resolution
of the question this side of the parousia. For my part, however, I still
remain to be convinced of your identification of the BD.
JOHN E STATON