Study Guide

The Beloved Disciple in Gospel of John

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The Beloved Disciple

Shmoop would like to announce a name change. We would officially like to be called "The Beloved Shmoop" from now on. Thank you for your cooperation. Now back to our regularly scheduled analysis.

We never quite catch this disciple's name, but he's clearly teacher's pet. After all, his nickname is "the disciple whom Jesus loved." According to the gospel, he's also the source for all John's info on Jesus's life and work. Yeah, we think he's worth a look.

Why He's Awesome

Though he doesn't show up until Chapter 13, The Beloved Disciple gets a feature roll in some of the most important moments of Jesus's life (and death):

  • He's the one who asks Jesus to explain a little more about the "betrayer" thing at the last supper (13:23-25).
  • He hangs out with the ladies at the foot of the cross, making him the only male disciple with enough guts to be there.
  • He's the first one to believe in Jesus's resurrection: he "reached the tomb first […] and he saw and believed" (20:8).
  • He's the first to recognize the post-resurrection Jesus as the disciples are fishing on the Sea of Galilee (21:7).

This guy is sharp. He gets it. No silly misunderstands for him. Which makes us wonder…

Rival Disciples

Did you notice a bit of tension between Peter and The Beloved Disciple during the course of the story? The two followers just love to play off each other:

  • It's Peter's idea to ask who's going to betray Jesus. The Beloved Disciple does the asking.
  • When they find out Jesus's tomb is empty, Peter and The Beloved Disciple race there. The Beloved Disciple wins, but Peter gets to go into the tomb first.
  • The Beloved Disciple spots Jesus on the shore, but Peter's the one who jumps off the boat to swim to him.
  • And, in the end, when Jesus tells Peter his fate (spoiler alert: he's going to die), Peter immediately asks what's going to happen to The Beloved Disciple.

What's going on here? It's like they're locked in some kind of weird discipleship contest. Are we supposed to be comparing the two?

Seriously, we're asking.

Man of Mystery

So who exactly is this mysterious follower of Jesus? No one really knows. For years, Christians thought that he was actually named John and that he wrote the whole Gospel himself. Hence, the Gospel of John.

Over the years, other theories have floated around. Was he one of Jesus's brothers? Was he Lazarus? Was he actually a she? (Gasp!) Now, many scholars believe that he may just be a creation of the gospel writers—a special, gifted disciple to be the ultimate witness for their version of Jesus's life.

The questions continue to this day. What was his name? Did he really exist? And what kind of running shoes was he wearing when he beat Peter in that race? Sadly, the world may never know.

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