In the Gospel of John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is at the foot of the cross (19:26) and is entrusted with caring for the mother of Jesus (19:27). Who is this disciple and what makes him more loved than anyone else?
For centuries, most Christians have thought it was the Apostle John, but biblical scholars have more recently questioned this. The “Beloved Disciple,” who appears only in the Gospel of John, is introduced in 13:23 with later references in 18:15–16; 19:26–27; 20:2–4, 8; and 21:7, 20, 23–24.
In his Introduction to the New Testament, Sulpician Father Raymond Brown summarizes three main theories about this disciple’s identity: 1) Apostle John or another man in the New Testament, 2) a symbol for the perfect disciple, or 3) a minor figure during Jesus’ ministry but one who later became very important to the Christian community addressed in the Gospel of John. Brown thought the third possibility was probably correct.
The term “Beloved Disciple” is not a profound theological statement but more likely reflects what sports people refer to as “a home field advantage”: the disciple whom that group of Christians knew best and whom they considered—after Mary—the model disciple. The name of Jesus’ mother does not appear in the Gospel of John. Each of us is called to show the belief the Beloved Disciple exhibited outside the empty tomb of Jesus (20:8) and lived thereafter.