Questions, Insights, & Responses

shared from and with users

#44 - The "beloved disciple" of the Fourth Gospel

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.

Question/insight #44: "I am currently enrolled in a graduate-level theology seminar, and we have recently taken up John's Gospel. In four places, John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2 and 21:7, there is mention of a 'beloved disciple' or 'disciple whom Jesus loved.' In the edition of the Bible which I personally use, The New American Bible, copyright 1971, there is footnote for the first mention (13:23) which says that this 'beloved disciple' was John by tradition. Most of the members of my class are from the Roman tradition, and to some this was something that they had not previously heard. My question is therefore, is John's identity as the 'beloved disciple' a tradition more common to the Roman church, or is this tradition more ecumenical in scope?"

Response #44:

The issues involved in your good question have been debated for at least 18 centuries!

(By the way, the New American Bible is also one of my favorite English versions, along with the New Revised Standard Version, the Revised English Bible, and the Today's English Version. Each has unique strengths.)

The tradition of John being both the Beloved Disciple and the author of the Fourth Gospel predated the Roman church's political dominance in Christendom. Somewhere between 180 and 200 C.E., Irenaeus identified the disciple John (the son of Zebedee) as the Beloved Disciple and the author of the Fourth Gospel. Others around that time also advocated that view. That still is the majority view among both Roman Catholics and Protestants, though thorough scholars have been debating the issue since (and maybe before) Irenaeus, and the debate continues. For more details and some further food for thought on this issue of the Beloved Disciple, browse:

Today I revised that webpage article, hopefully to more clearly answer your questions and to point you to resources to enable you to further explore your own honest, thoughtful conclusions.

I participate in an international, ecumenical email forum with scholars, theologians, and/or clergy; and the issues involved with your questions have been hot topics for discussion. You may also find it helpful to explore the website for resources that may help you in other parts of your biblical studies. Many students have also found helpful the nearly 500 volume annotated bibliography at:

Also heavily used by students is the "Topical Index of Commentaries and Cross-References," which is at:

Your questions, comments, and insights are always welcome.


Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer