The Evangelical Universalist Forum

James: The Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel


Explicit allusions to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (hereafter BD) begin with the Fourth Gospel’s account of the Last Supper in 13:23-26 and include, with variant wording, 18:15-16, 19:25-27, 20:2-10, 21:2, 7, and 21:20-25. An intriguing case can be made that John the Baptist’s anonymous disciple in 1:35-40 later becomes Jesus’ BD. The modern scholarly consensus has abandoned the traditional view that the BD is John the son of Zebedee, but there is no consensus about his true identity. This thread will make the case for Jesus’ brother James as the BD and in the process will demonstrate why John is now precluded from this identity. The thread will do so by addressing these 7 questions.

(1) What is the source of inspiration for the awkward, even shocking designation “the disciple whom Jesus loved and its application to James?”
(2) What is the theological significance of the application of this phrase to James?
(3) Why is the BD’s identity never disclosed in the Fourth Gospel?
(4) Why is there no explicit reference to the BD until the Last Supper?
(5) What hints are there in each allusion to the BD that James is the disciple in question?
(6) How do these hints derive support from early Jewish Christian and Gnostic tradition about James?
(7) How do OT underpinnings of Johannine allusions to the BD support James as the BD?