Who was the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel of John is answered in The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved a new book anyone can download online as a free printable Bible study. Who was the disciple whom Jesus loved? The evidence in the Bible proves that this beloved disciple was not John The fourth Gospel (a.k.a. the Gospel of John) says the author was the other disciple whom Jesus loved
The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved is a book that reveals the identity of the unnamed writer of the fourth Gospel.
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Is it true there is not a single verse that indicates "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was John?

But wasn't John part of Jesus' inner circle?

How can God's Word be true, if the author of the Gospel of John wasn't John?

I heard a teacher say there are 'lots of verses' that show John was the beloved disciple?

So what if John was not the author of the fourth gospel? What difference does it make?

I have heard that the 'style of writing' in the fourth gospel indicates that John wrote it? (The supposed comparison to the books labeled 1st John, 2nd John and 3rd John.)

How would the beloved disciple be able to tell us about things he could not have witnessed, such as conversations that occurred when he was not around?

I've been told that every New Testament book had to be written either by an apostle or someone working closely with an apostle. Is this true?

Isn't there 'external evidence' to support the tradition that John was the beloved disciple?

I heard someone claim the "other disciple" who was "known to the high priest" was more likely Mark. Wouldn't this undercut the book's case against the John tradition?

Why do some people believe that Mary Magdalene was the beloved disciple who wrote the forth gospel?

What about The Da Vinci Code's claim that Mary Magdalene was the one "Jesus loved"?

Does respect for God's word require us to abandon the traditon that the beloved disciple was John?

Is The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved available in an e-book format?

 

Is it true there is not a single verse that indicates "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was John?
 
This is true. There is no verse that justifies teaching John was the beloved disciple who wrote the fourth gospel. Not one.
 
This is why those who want to continue promoting the John idea will always change the subject. For, they cannot cite a single verse that would justify promoting the John idea, but nevertheless, they intend to continue promoting that idea AS IF it was biblical. So, to avoid the light of God’s word which reveals the John idea is unbiblical, they will rush to get the subject off of the request for scripture or the suggestion that one should not be presenting an idea as if it were biblical if they cannot cite even one verse that would justify teaching that idea. Instead, they will cite this-or-that non-Bible source or use some other means to get the discussion off of what the Bible actually says.
 
There is, however, one verse that appears in the fourth gospel that might at first glance seem to be helpful to those who want to link the Apostle John to “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, so let’s consider this verse carefully. In the second verse of the last chapter we are told, "There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples". Here we see that "the sons of Zebedee" are said to be present at this event. And just five verses later we are also told that the unnamed beloved disciple was one of those men who present at this event. But in the list of the men that were at this event (that was given five verses earlier) we also see that two of the disciples are unnamed, which we know was consistent with the author's practice at that point in his gospel of referring to himself in anonymous terms. In fact, when it is examined carefully, this passage actually suggests that John was not the one whom "Jesus loved"! [See pg. 97-98]
 
Beyond this however is the fact that the Bible evidence requires us to conclude that the unnamed "other disciple" was not John because that idea actually forces the Bible to contradict itself, which of course, the truth cannot do. To conclude otherwise would mean that we would have to turn a blind eye to the evidence that has been preserved for us the biblical record, such as the fact that the beloved disciple believed first. [See Appendix]

 

But wasn't John part of Jesus' inner circle?

 

The Bible does mention three occasions where Peter, James, and John were involved in certain events that did not include the rest of the disciples: the Mount of Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and Jesus’ prayers in the garden of Gethsemane. However this certainly cannot single out John as being the one whom “Jesus loved”. Since both Peter and James also participated in these events there is no basis for concluding that these three occasions in scripture were intended to indicate that John had a unique relationship with Jesus that set him apart from all of the disciples. Furthermore his being taken aside these three times cannot be said to qualify John – and only John – for the unique title, "the disciple whom Jesus loved". [See pg. 45-46]

 

None of God’s inspired writers ever used the term ‘inner circle’ to refer to a select subset of disciples. The Bible indicates Jesus had a select group among his followers, but it calls them “the twelve” – “…he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Lu. 6:13). So we know that Jesus specifically chose out twelve from among those that followed him and, yet, what is often overlooked is the fact that throughout his ministry Jesus always had additional disciples with him besides just “the twelve”.

 

In Acts we read about those who were with Jesus besides “the twelve”, “…these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us”. The “us” in the foregoing verses refers to “the eleven” remaining apostles who recognize that from this group “must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” The point is the Bible makes it abundantly clear that for the duration of his entire ministry, Jesus had more than twelve disciples who accompanied him. Scripture also tells of a time when Jesus chose out from his disciples a subset of twelve men, who he named "apostles" and who, thereafter, are usually referred to in scripture as "the twelve".

 

Those who seek to defend the man-made tradition that John was the one “Jesus loved" would have us go beyond what scripture actually says when they suggest that the three events where Jesus brought aside Peter, James, and John justifies their teaching that this unnamed “other disciple” was John. This is not only a false inference, but it would require us to ignore the evidence in scripture which proves this “other disciple” cannot be John.

 

How can God's Word be true, if the author of the Gospel of John wasn't John?
 
God's word is not in error because it never said John wrote the fourth gospel. Like the chapter and verse numbers, the label that came to be attached to that gospel was not the work of the God-inspired author of the book. These things later came to be included, but they were not part of the original text written by the author. Besides all of this, God's word has always contained the evidence needed to correctly identify this author. This misidentification was not a mistake in the scriptures, but rather it was a misinterpretation or erroneous assumption on the part of those who later read something into the text that isn't there. [See pg. 19-20]

If the cover of a Bible was misprinted “Holly Bible" that error on a cover which is added to the Bible cannot call into question the accuracy of the words of the God-inspired authors of scripture. The same thing would be true for anything else that was not a product of the original authors of the books that make up the Bible. Any errors made by those who add something to a work that was produced by a biblical author is the fault of those who make that erroneous addition and it is wrong to assume that their error is a reflection on the quality of the work that was produced by the biblical author.

Similarly, if it can be shown that a given word in our English Bible was mistranslated, we do not presume that this is in any way suggests a problem with the work that was originally produced by God's inspired author.

 

It is true that in our Bible's today we find the fourth gospel is titled the Gospel of John, Gospel according to John, Saint John's Gospel or the Book of John, but these labels were added to this unnamed gospel author’s work long after it was written. If fact it is self-evident that this title was added to this work and was not a product of the author. Notice that God's inspired author went to great lengths to conceal his identity in his work – using the cumbersome phrases "the disciple whom Jesus loved", the "other disciple" or the "other disciple, whom Jesus loved" to refer to himself – rather than simply calling himself by name as Paul did in his works and as John did in the Book of Revelation. Therefore, it would surely be a self-defeating effort for any anonymous author to add a title to his work that proclaimed his name.

 

I heard a teacher say there are 'lots of verses' that show John was the beloved disciple?
 
Two words are very useful in such instances: ‘Show me’. For with these two words we can seek the correction that scripture may have to offer us, while we also make it clear the authority of God’s word is the determining factor in seeking the truth on biblical issues.
 
One should not allow claims of biblical proof to go unchallenged. Unfounded claims (like the claim to have ‘lots of verses’ without ever actually quoting them) are often used to brush aside sincere Bible questions without actually providing a scriptural answer. Note that if this claim were true, then it would be easy to produce at least one such verse - so ask for the proof. If someone says there are lots of verses that prove the beloved disciple was John, then it should be a fairly simple task for them to quote just one of those verses; and if they are unable to do so, then that disproves their claim.
 
When a teacher says 'John IS the beloved disciple' most of their students will not question that idea. But such dogmatic assertions lead to a dangerous practice. Scripture warns against adding to God's Word. Regardless, many teachers will read passages about "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and readily add the name John to the text. They feel free to add John's name to these passages, or to substitute the name John for the anonymous descriptions used by God's inspired author, because they assume that they cannot be wrong in their belief that John was the beloved disciple.
 
People who believe that John was the beloved disciple do so because they assume that idea is true. And that false presupposition causes one to them to mistakenly conclude they can treat all of the verses that mention the unnamed "other disciple, whom Jesus loved", as if they are referring to John. Many commentaries make this mistake. They will dogmatically state this unnamed author was the Apostle John and follow this claim with a list of Bible verses - verses which mention the unnamed "other disciple", but not John. The person making the list ASSUMED that the verses are referring to John but that idea does not come from the verses. Instead, it is supplied by the mind of the reader and imposed upon the text because of a learned presupposition.
 
A careful and complete examination of the Bible actually proves the Apostle John cannot possibly be the unnamed "other disciple" who wrote the fourth gospel. [See pg. 67-71]

 

So what if John was not the author of the fourth gospel? What difference does it make?
 
It is written, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Gal 5:9). So while some might like to suggest that certain mistakes, errors or unscriptural traditions (like the John idea) are really inconsequential, the Bible seems to indicate otherwise. Following that logic someone might ask, What difference could "one jot or one tittle" make? To most it might appear reasonable to suggest that minor details such as these couldn't matter much, but Jesus said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Mt. 5:18). Here Jesus referred specifically to "the law", however the idea of respect for the details in God's Word is also communicated in many other verses. [See the Preface on page 8 for some of these. Also see pages 21-26 for more on the issue of truth.]
 
As a matter of fact, several passages in the Bible indicate that faithfulness to the truth includes being faithful to the truth when one encounters some question that might appear to be a small matter or secondary issue. Consider the words of Jesus in Lu. 16:10 which says, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much..." along with the ideas expressed in:
  • Lu. 16:12 - And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
  • Lu. 19:17 - ...he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little...
  • Mt. 25:21 - His lord said unto him, Well done, [thou] good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
  • Mt. 25:23 - His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

More important, once someone has been made aware that there isn't a single verse to justify teaching that John was the beloved disciple, the situation changes. After this, the key question is no longer, Who was the disciple whom Jesus loved? Rather, at this point, the real question becomes, Is it honoring to God to imply that the Bible says something, that it does not say?

When one becomes aware that there is no verse of scripture that justify teaching a certain idea, is it okay for someone to continue to present that idea as biblical so long as they consider the matter to be a secondary issue? At this point the problem is not so much the identity of the "other disciple", but a willingness to present an idea as if it was scriptural, when the opposite is known to be true.

What teacher will stand-up and honestly say, 'There is no verse to justify teaching that John was the beloved disciple, but I'm going to teach it anyway because I'm trusting in non-biblical quotations on this matter that are attributed to men in the second and third century?' Such a statement would at least be honest, but it would certainly not be honest for someone to imply that the John idea is biblical even AFTER that person has been made aware that THEY cannot cite a single verse that would justify teaching that idea.

Simply declaring that an issue is 'secondary', does not give one the right to take artistic license with God's Word. It is NEVER right to say or imply that God's Word says or teaches something when that is untrue. Labeling an idea as 'secondary' or 'non-essential' is not a justification for ignoring the truth and it is certainly no reason to be promoting an unbiblical idea as if it was biblical.

Furthermore, you'll find that those who want to avoid having to respond to the fact that the John idea has no biblical foundation will raise the what difference does it make objection as a means to change the subject. But while some may find it momentarily convenient to brush aside this matter as minor point or a secondary issue, recognize that a rhetorical question is a far cry from citing a verse and providing a biblical response. Since you now know that there's not even a single verse that would justify teaching the John idea, you'll have to weigh that fact as you to decide whether or not you are willing to accept the notion that perpetuating this unscriptural idea is harmless. [See pg. 135-139]

Finally, remember that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction… " (2 Tim 3:16). Therefore, it would seem wise to acknowledge the biblical evidence regarding "the other disciple, whom Jesus loved" and to let it correct us on this issue. Those who want to dismiss this correction as unimportant or unworthy of our attention will be hard pressed to cite a verse that would suggest one should turn a blind eye to the truth.

 

I have heard that the 'style of writing' in the fourth gospel indicates that John wrote it? (The supposed comparison to the books labeled 1st John, 2nd John and 3rd John.)
 
Some try to suggest this by asserting that the book that they want to call the Gospel of John is similar in 'style' to the three letters that came to be called 1st John, 2nd John, and 3rd John. But are these works really so similar? Who says so or who's opinion determines if this is the case? And if they are similar, what would this tell us?
 
Consider three key points on the style claim: the significance of the issue, the subjective nature of determining similar writing styles and the possibility of a circular argument.
 
How significant is the style issue? The most important evidence is always the testimony of the God-inspired writers of scripture, which is delivered to us by the words that we find in the plain text of the scripture. If the words of the text indicate one thing and some expert's assessment of the style seems to suggest a contrary conclusion, then we have to decide which evidence is more reliable. If the actual words in the text provide sufficient revelation to answer a question, then no one's opinion on writing style can be a valid reason to hold a position contrary to the one revealed by the text. The biblical writers do teach from and quote the words of scripture in ways that indicate that those words are authoritative, but one would be hard pressed to find a verse where they appeal to anyone's opinion of writing style as a basis for their teaching.
 
Moreover, consider the subjective nature of determining similar styles. Some 'experts' boldly declare, wrongly, that the style in the Book of Isaiah proves it had two different authors! Can someone's opinion about the style of a biblical writer supersede the facts that were actually recorded in the plain text of God's word? And then there is always the problem of dueling experts; if one 'expert' says he believes 'x', and another 'expert' says he believes 'y', who's opinion is correct? (Also, note the word 'style' is used in various ways in regard to scripture. There are different styles of writing in the Bible: personal letters, historical records, apocalyptic prophecy, etc. However, recognizing categories of literature in the Bible is vastly different than claiming the author of a particular book of the Bible can be identified with certainty simply by comparing elements of writing style between books.)
 
Now, we will consider this argument relative to the beloved disciple. Some claim the fourth gospel (the one men labeled The Gospel of John) and the some other writings that have also been traditionally attributed to John are so similar in style that it proves the gospel and those works were written by the same author. Although this might sound persuasive, if this were true, then one should produce the evidence that would prove this to be the case, rather than just saying this is so. But if one simply takes someone's word for it on this point, then this idea of similarity is merely based on the opinion of others. 'Similar' is a highly subjective criterion. So we cannot simply pick an 'expert' who sides with our tradition and assume their opinion can rightly serve as the measure of truth.
 
On the other hand, if someone was actually able to show a person evidence that was able to convince that person that an improbably high level of 'similarity of style' existed between the fourth gospel and one or more of three anonymous letters that men also ended up attributing to John, then:
  1. that person would need to confirm the similarity was not merely the result of the translation of those works - for the works in question were not written in English and, therefore, any attempt to argue for common authorship of these works based on them having an unusual amount of similarity of style would have to prove the similarity exists in the original Greek and that the level of similarity is well beyond the level of similarity found in other books of scripture and other writings of that day [i.e., one has to consider to what degree the similarity might simply be due to (A) the common backgrounds of the writers and/or common truths being taught to the New Testament church, (B) the common figures of speech and other language conventions that existed in that era, and (C) the fact that the writers of scripture were all promoting the same ideas and were all inspired by the same source, God (so, the New Testament some topics could tend to have a 'ring of similarity' without having the same human author)]; and
     
  2. that person would then be in the position of having to decide how to reconcile that supposed argument for common authorship with the clear biblical evidence that proves WHOEVER the unnamed author of the fourth gospel was he could not possibly have been John.
Finally, consider the three letters that came to be called 1st John, 2nd John, and 3rd John. It would be wise to exercise caution if one's style argument is based on these letters, especially since no author is named in these letters and since those who want to use these letters to make their 'style' claim can cite no clear and convincing evidence as to who actually wrote these letters.

In order to use 1st John, 2nd John, and/or 3rd John in a 'style' argument, one would need to prove authorship of one or more of those letters before one could even begin to think about using the writing style of any of them as a basis of comparison by which one could try to establish the identity of another unnamed author. You may also be surprised to learn that commentaries will often claim similar style as a way to 'show' that John was the author of these letters. They claim to know John wrote the Gospel of John and they then claim similar style proves John also wrote these three letters. However, one cannot then subsequently go back the other way and try to claim the style of these letters can be used to prove John was the beloved disciple who wrote the fourth gospel because that is circular reasoning.

 

How would the beloved disciple be able to tell us about things he could not have witnessed, such as conversations that occurred when he was not around?
 
Unlike the question of an author leaving out information that we would expect him to have included, this question deals with an author including information that he would not have witnessed directly. This is a wholly different question than the one the book raises about John. We know that John was present at the Mount of Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the prayers of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. Since this is the case the question becomes, if John wrote a Gospel about the life and ministry of Jesus, why would John have left out these important events since he was present and did have personal, eyewitness testimony that he could have provided?
 
In the Bible, we are reading the writings of those who were inspired by God as they wrote. However, a large part of what we read is NOT written from the perspective of the author being an eyewitness. The creation account of Genesis 1, the account of Noah's ark, the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, the account of Jesus in the temple at 12-years-old, and the account of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness would be just a few examples. Surely, God WAS an eyewitness to everything, but few would suggest that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit automatically make all of the Bible's words eyewitness testimony.
 
When an investigator writes a book on a crime or an honest journalist writes a news report, the author will interview eyewitnesses along with others that can shed light on the facts surrounding the subject of their work. If the writer was an eyewitness to something that is relevant to the subject, then the work would likely include the author's own testimony. But facts reported by the author that come from other trustworthy sources are no less credible than the author's own testimony, assuming the other witnesses and sources that are interviewed have been equally as honest and equally as accurate as the author. Thus, as long as the author faithfully reported an accurate account of the events, his record would still be trustworthy, even if it described events or conversations he had not personally witnessed.
 
Take the death of Lazarus, for example. To assume Lazarus could know nothing of what happened regarding Jesus' conversation with Mary and Martha or other facts about the miracle that raised him from the dead because he was dead AT THAT TIME is simply wrong. While he didn't know it WHILE he was dead, it runs counter to common sense to expect Lazarus would never ask, never be told, or never learn anything about what occurred during the period that he was in the tomb. His sisters Mary and Martha, his "friend" Jesus, the other disciples, and the other people who were there would certainly have been willing to talk to Lazarus about what happened and what was said while he was dead and before he walked out of the tomb.
 
This is similar to what we know regarding the time when the three disciples were asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Mount of Transfiguration. When a person is sleeping that person cannot be an eyewitness. However, we still trust the record of things that occurred and words that were said at these events. Thus, one cannot pretend the biblical authors needed to personally witness to every event and every word included in their written testimony because that would discount much of the Bible (along with most of the words ever written by historians, reporters, criminal investigators, etc.).
 
The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved - A Better Bible Study Method, Book One seeks to provide evidence to prove beyond-a-reasonable-doubt (our highest legal standard) that John could not have been the writer of the fourth gospel. Those who want to cling to the idea that John was this author have to rely on EVERYTHING BUT THE BIBLE in order to support their position. Still, the biblical evidence proves otherwise, as anyone who actually reads this Bible study will know because the book pulls together the scriptural evidence that (A) shows the unnamed author of the fourth gospel could have been John, and (B) reveals the totality of the all of the facts taken together points to only one man, someone other than John. And this book makes its case by relying on both the eyewitness testimony in scripture and the other facts reported in the scripture (the non-eyewitness testimony) as being equally trustworthy.

 

I've been told that every New Testament book had to be written either by an apostle or someone working closely with an apostle. Is this true?
 
This may sound like a good rule-of-thumb, but it presents several problems.
 
First note that even if this were an appropriate standard this rule would not present any problem to the conclusions set fourth in The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved. Although "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was not an apostle, he was connected with the apostles – evidence his presence at the Last Supper, at the tomb on the morning of Jesus' resurrection and his participation in the events of John 21. While this "other disciple, who Jesus loved" was not one of "the twelve", he was certainly loved by Jesus and was a friend of the apostles. [See pg. 76-83.]
 
Second, since there is no verse of scripture that states any such rule, then we should recognize this idea is the creation of men. Even if this idea is asserted with the best of intentions that does not make this man-made rule either inspired or infallible.
 
Finally consider the Book of Hebrews. Most teachers will admit it is not clear who the author of this book was (though they will usually say they believe the author was Paul). But if we do not know for certain who the author of Hebrews was, then we cannot know for certain that the author would fall under this rule. And if the Book of Hebrews cannot pass this man-made rule, then no one should suggest this rule is valid grounds to challenge the identity of "the disciple whom Jesus loved".

 

Isn't there 'external evidence' to support the tradition that John was the beloved disciple?
 
First off please notice that in The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved you are not once asked to trust ANY evidence that you cannot examine for yourself by confirming the facts in context in your own Bible. EVERY argument that is presented in The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved is based on the facts that are preserved in the biblical record and clearly discernable from the plain reading of the scriptural text.
 
In response to this question it would certainly be fair to ask what non-Bible 'evidence' is this supposed argument based on? Secondly, are you able to check out this supposed 'evidence' for yourself or are you simply being told to take someone else's word for it that such 'evidence' even exists?
 
There are many problems with such references to non-Bible 'evidence' that supposedly exists and that supposedly would justify teaching the John idea as if this idea was both true and biblically sound. However, for a reason I will explain below, I will deal with just a few of these problems here.
 
Problem #1 - If you've read The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved, then you know the biggest problem with any source that suggests John was "the disciple whom Jesus loved" is this suggestion is necessarily false because it puts the Bible in conflict with itself. Since John cannot possibly be the unnamed "other disciple", then any source that suggests otherwise is in error.
 
If the Bible can prove an idea is not true, then one can never allow any amount of non-Bible writings (the so-called 'external evidence') to trump that. Unless one wishes to assert a particular non-Bible source is on par with inspired scripture, then we need to recognize that no amount of uninspired, fallible, non-Bible writings or hearsay can override the truth revealed by the facts that have been preserved for us in the biblical record.
 
Problem #2 - Such references to non-Bible 'evidence' on this question are cited in order to convince one to accept that the John idea is true and biblically certain – so certain, in fact, that it's even okay to ADD to the scriptures (like when the title The Gospel of John was added to the work of God's anonymous author). But why would one rely on second-hand, uninspired, non-Bible sources to provide the identity of the author of the fourth gospel?
 
When it comes to biblical questions, it is best to look to the Bible for the answer. So when the only way someone can get you to accept their idea is to get you looking at anything BUT the Bible, be leery. And note this, today there isn't a single verse that would justify teaching the John idea and that is a fact that hasn't changed. This means that anyone in the early church who put forth the John theory would be in the same boat as those who teach this idea today, they would have NO biblical justification for it.
 
Problem #3 - Some who defend the John tradition do not think that they need a biblical justification for teaching this idea, because they believe the supposed 'external evidence' that shows this is what some in the early church believed. But there are several problems with this 'early church' rationale.
 
First, let's assume for the moment that some or even many in the late second and early third century 'early church' did believe that the Apostle John was the unnamed beloved disciple. Would the fact that this belief existed in that era make the John idea true? If so, then by the same logic any idea that was believed in that era would have to be correct. But ask yourself: Is this what we see in the Bible? Or do we see errors from the very beginning of the church?
 
In fact we see the letters of Paul correcting mistakes that he'd become aware of and one can't get much earlier than that. But if you want earlier, check out the false rumor that was spread abroad about the unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" (Fourth gospel 21:23).
 
The New Testament doesn't hide the fact that that the early church was not perfect, from the racial discrimination charge in Acts 6 to the descriptions of the churches in the Book of Revelation. The point is that the record of the New Testament itself let's us know that we can't assume that an idea is true merely because it is attributed to the early church.
 
Problem #4 - The quality of this non-Bible 'evidence' isn't what it's cracked up to be. If you take the time to examine the non-Bible sources that the defenders of the John tradition claim to have, you will learn that they not only rely on hearsay, but they also routinely imply that they have evidence that doesn't actually exist.
 
Since they have no biblical evidence that would justify teaching the John idea, those who defend the idea that John was the beloved disciple have to convince people to trust in the non-Bible sources and the quotes of men that they selectively present (and the label 'external evidence' helps to make the selected quotes seem on par with Bible evidence, that being the facts found in the record of scripture.) And their so-called 'evidence' amounts to a few statements attributed to some church leaders in the second and third century, really not as 'early' as many people are led to believe. But those men had no more scriptural evidence on this question than we have today, and yet their ideas came to be adopted by others. Those who came after them relied on the ideas of the generation before them (without searching the scriptures to see "whether those things were so"), and that practice of blindly following tradition is part of the reason that the hand-me-down John tradition has survived until today.
 
Even worse however is when men today resort to false implications as a way to justify teaching the John tradition. Here I'm specifically referring to a name that you'll see if you take the time to investigate the so-called 'external evidence' – i.e. NON-BIBLE sources – that the defenders of this tradition claim to have. Routinely you'll find the name Polycarp cited as part of the non-Bible 'evidence' that supposedly justifies teaching the John idea. However, what you won't find is anyone actually quoting anything that Polycarp ever said or wrote on this question. Yet his name is almost always used as a justification for the John tradition because it is said that Polycarp knew John personally.
 
But how would it matter if Polycarp knew John or not, since there is not a single solitary statement that is attributed to Polycarp as regards the identity of the "disciple whom Jesus loved"? Here is where the bait and switch comes in. The bait is Polycarp's name, which is thrown in to make the argument sound credible, since we're told he knew John. The switch is in what comes next in this supposed chain of non-Bible 'evidence' – and it's not a statement of Polycarp! Instead you'll find a statement attributed to someone else, someone who we are told once met Polycarp. But why bring up Polycarp's name if there is no evidence that he ever weighed in on this issue? Because Polycarp's name is used to falsely imply that an unbroken chain of evidence leads back to the Apostle John himself, which is not true. While those putting forth Polycarp's name are not likely to be perpetrating an intentional act of deception, the advancement of this argument is, nevertheless, misguided.
 
Are we to assume that Polycarp was in 100% total agreement with everything that someone else might say simply because they are said to have met at one point? If not, then we have no way of knowing which points Polycarp might agree with and which he might not. Since there is no evidence to suggest that Polycarp ever condoned the idea that John was "the other disciple, whom Jesus loved", to use his name to imply that he approved this idea is extremely disingenuous, to say the least.
 
Lastly, remember that church leaders in the late-second and early-third centuries (the so-called 'early' church) were just as fallible as men today. If you want to rely on their assumptions about the identity of the beloved disciple, that's up to you. But it is better to trust scriptural evidence over non-Bible sources and hearsay. There are more problems with the non-Bible sources upon which the John tradition rests, but those who are determined to cling to these sources as a way to defend teaching that John was the beloved disciple will no doubt continue to promote the John idea in spite of the biblical evidence to the contrary. Further debunking of such non-Bible sources isn't likely to dilute the allegiance of some to the John tradition, but hopefully the biblical evidence will open the eyes of many.

 

I heard someone claim the "other disciple" who was "known to the high priest" was more likely Mark. Wouldn't this undercut the book's case against the John tradition?

Don't be fooled. The Bible says, "PROVE all things; hold fast that which is good." [Emphasis added] So, if someone makes an assertion and yet provides no biblical evidence whatsoever to back up that statement, what should be our response?
 
Should we just believe every statement of rank unbiblical speculation that others espouse? Why not respond by asking the one who says Mark was 'more likely' the unnamed "other disciple" who was "known to the high priest" to quote a single verse of scripture that indicates Mark was known to the high priest? There is no such verse. Still, for this or any other topic, the response of asking for biblical evidence would cut down on time wasted on unbiblical rumors (by always first subjecting all such claims to biblical scrutiny).
 
If the one making a truth claim on a biblical topic cannot cite even a single verse that would justify the statement they have made, that reveals something about their willingness to present unbiblical ideas as if they were biblical - i.e., to substitute the authority they mentally attach to their own beliefs for the actual authority of God's word. 'More likely'? Really? Based on what verse?
 
The deception perpetrated by false truth claims is so effective that many will fail to notice the problems such unbiblical speculation introduces. Take the foregoing claim, for instance. First off, there is not a single verse of scripture that would justify teaching the unnamed "other disciple" was anyone named John – not the Apostle John or any other John.
 
Secondly, the author of the fourth gospel EXPLICITLY used the term "other disciple" to refer to himself. Moreover, in the term "other disciple, whom Jesus loved", the unnamed author of the fourth gospel took the time to weave the term "other disciple" together with the primary identifying term he used regarging himself, "whom Jesus loved". Anyone who takes the time to search the scriptures on this will find the fourth gospel's author used the term "other disciple" to refer to himself multiple times (both with and without "whom Jesus loved") in his account of resurrection morning. [See pages 32-33]
 
Would an unprejudiced jury conclude this God-inspired author intended the readers (or hearers) of his work to clearly recognize the term "other disciple" referred to himself in one part of his writing, but he wanted them to somehow see that same term ("other disciple") as referring to a separate, mysterious, second "other disciple" just a little bit earlier in his report of Jesus' last days on earth? No, they would not. The reason they would not is because nothing in the text this author wrote indicates he used the term "other disciple" to refer to both himself and someone else.
 
The suggestion of a second "other disciple" (the OTHER "other disciple"?) is a totally baseless idea concocted by some who are desperate to cling to the John idea. People who have believed John was the author of the fourth gospel idea can come up with all kinds of ways to dismiss biblical evidence that argues against the John idea when they are determined to continue believing in that idea, and this applies to the biblical evidence about the "other disciple".
 
Other defenders of the John idea recognize there is NO justification for believing the unnamed author was writing about an other "other disciple". Thus, they end up making this-or-that pronouncement to explain why John was "known to the high priest" ('John was likely the one who delivered the fish they caught in Galilee to the high priest', being the saddest I've found so far). But such unbiblical excuses are only necessary if one is trying to force scripture to fit with the man-made, unbiblical, hand-me-down idea that says John was the "other disciple, whom Jesus loved" who wrote the fourth gospel.
 
On the other hand, there are others who also want to cling to the John idea, but recognize the notion of a Galilean fisherman (John) having access to the palace of the high priest is utterly without merit, and almost comic. But since they don't want to let go of the John idea, they have to dismiss those points of biblical evidence that argue against the John idea. Hence the need to create an other "other disciple". In doing so, they are undercutting the authority of God's word just as much as their fellow defenders of the John idea who make statements saying John was "known to the high priest". [Note: if John had been "known to the high priest", he would have become the prime suspect to be the betrayer of Jesus on the night of the supper when the speculation was going on about that topic (because the followers of Jesus knew the priests were out to get him). But that is not what happened.]
 
The truth is the John idea is a false teaching and no amount of scripture twisting will make it true. A lie does not get true with age, even if it is told for over 1700 years. No one has ever cited a single verse that would justify teaching the John idea, not those who originated that error and not those who repeat their error to this day.
 
Scripture contrasts a word of encouragement for those who love the truth with a warning to those who may be tempted (because of their allegiance to their preferred tradition) to try to force scripture to fit their unbiblical beliefs: “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Pr. 30:5-6).
 
Those who love the truth should get in the habit of being quick to subject any idea to biblical scrutiny, including ideas we have believed in the past (like the idea that John was the beloved disciple).

 

Why do some people believe that Mary Magdalene was the beloved disciple who wrote the forth gospel?
 
If one studies the question of the fourth gospel authorship they will soon discover that the idea that Mary Magdalene was the unnamed writer of the fourth gospel has attracted quite a large following. However, a brief Bible study on Mary Magdalene is sufficient to disprove this idea on three counts. Click here for this Bible study on Mary Magdalene.
 
Non-Bible sources are used to convince people that Mary Magdalene was the beloved disciple and, sadly, those who believe that John was the beloved disciple will ridicule those who believe the Mary Magdalene idea without ever realizing that the John idea is based on the very same mistake – i.e., trusting in the authority of non-Bible sources, and not respecting the authority of God's word.
 
Truly, the idea that Mary Magdalene was the beloved disciple is just as unbiblical as the idea that John was the beloved disciple – for there is no biblical evidence that would justify teaching either idea. Those who cling to the John tradition fail to see the beam in their own eye as they ridicule those who believe the Mary Magdalene idea, though both ideas can be show to be equally unbiblical. Both ideas get people to put their trust in non-Bible sources and both ideas require that people ignore or dismiss the biblical evidence that proves those ideas are false. So goes the traditions of men.

 

What about The Da Vinci Code's claim that Mary Magdalene was the one "Jesus loved"?
 
The idea that Mary Magdalene was the author of the fourth gospel existed long before Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code, but that book has helped to popularize the idea that Mary Magdalene was the beloved disciple. After The Da Vinci Code was published, a flood of books appeared in Christian bookstores that were intended to refute the ideas that were promoted in Dan Brown's book. Sadly, however, those books actually made the same basic error in methodology that Dan Brown did.
 
Read The Da Vinci Code debate for a Bible-only take on this topic and to see how the Da Vinci Code critics err by substituting the authority of non-Bible sources for the authority of God's word.

 

Does respect for God's word require us to abandon the traditon that the beloved disciple was John?

 

Absolutely!

 

If there is a man in jail who has been convicted of a crime and we later uncover videotape or DNA evidence that prove we’ve identified the wrong man, then we let him go. We do not keep him in jail until we find out who did do it. Likewise, if Bible evidence can prove that John was not the “other disciple, whom Jesus loved”, then we need to admit our mistake and let go of that erroneous tradition whether or not we can identify the actual author.

 

The idea that the beloved disciple was John does not come from the word of God (i.e. the actual content produced by God's inspired authors) it has been added to it. There is not a single verse that would justify teaching that the “other disciple, whom Jesus loved” was John, which is why those who promote this man-made tradition ultimately end up pointing to some non-Bible source(s) in their attempts to defend this unbiblical tradition.

 

In fact this tradition is the result of relying on non-Bible sources (the selected statements of this-or-that person) and presuming that those non-Bible sources do not need scripture to justify the statements that they made. No non-Bible source offers any biblical evidence that would justify teaching the John idea yet many will say that this idea cannot be wrong simply because it has been around for a long time – clearly faulty logic.

 

Consider this: if we have the complete word of God, then no one has ever had more of the word of God than we have. Not in the second or third century 'early church', not ever. Therefore what is true today was also true then, which is why no one has ever offered biblical evidence to prove that the beloved disciple was John. This tradition is simply repeated without biblical justification while biblical evidence to the contrary is ignored.

 

The label The Gospel of John was added to scripture, and since the content of scripture – i.e. the words of the God-inspired authors thereof – can show the John idea is not true, then those who believe in the inspired word of God have an obligation to cease promoting the false idea about John being the one whom “Jesus loved”.

 

While it will surely mean having to endure scorn from those who are determined not to be swayed by the biblical evidence on this question, rejecting the man-made John tradition befits the admonition, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Th. 5:21). If we truly want to respect the authority of God's word, then we will go beyond merely saying so with our lips. We will submit to the authority of God's word and be willing to stand corrected on any issue where scripture can prove we have erred.

 

Inspired scripture is what we are to rely onnot the things that men may add to it.

 

Moreover, each believer's obligation to respect the authority of God's word does not depend on what others do. Even if the vast majority will go on promoting a false tradition, the fact that some people will refuse to submit to the authority of God's word does not mean we should join them. We will be judged for what we do with the knowledge of scripture which God has blessed us with. Therefore, we must do our best to honor God's word, whether or not we think others will do so.

 

Is The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved available in an e-book format?
 
Yes. Click free eBook on the beloved disciple to view the available eBook formats.
 
A printer-friendly version of this free Bible study on the beloved disciple is also available so that you can make copies to share with friends or with your Bible study group.

 

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