Friday, June 27, 2008

The disciple whom Jesus loved

The phrase the disciple whom Jesus loved or Beloved Disciple is used several times in the Gospel of John. It is the Beloved Disciple who asks Yeshua during the Last Supper who it is that will betray him. Later at the crucifixion, Yeshua tells his mother "Woman, here is your son"; that he indicates the Beloved Disciple is the common interpretation. To the Beloved Disciple he says, "Here is your mother." When Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb, she runs to tell the Beloved Disciple and Simon Peter. Since the Beloved Disciple does not appear in any of the other New Testament gospels, it has been traditionally seen as a self-reference to John the Evangelist, and this remains the mainstream identification.

Apart from John, there have been numerous attempts to identify the "Beloved Disciple" using any number of interpretations. However, all fail to recognize and understand a simple semitic idiom which is important in helping to zero in on the correct identity.

In the Hebrew culture, the inheritance of land, titles and other property as well as the responsibilities for caring for an individual family was channeled along patrilineal lines using a system of modified Primogeniture, or succession by the eldest son (In reality, succession by a preferred son, was the the custom in practice. See the cases of Isaac, Jocob, Joseph, and David and many others.) . The institution is explicitly promulgated in Deuteronomy 21:15-17.

In Hebrew, the primogeniture was called bekhor (fruit, birthright) and was referred to as the yachiyd ahava "the only loved one." Genesis 22:2 records the fact that Isaac, the second son (but heir) of Abraham was referred to as "your only one whom you love." Matthew 3:17 refers to Yeshua as the primogenitor of Yah, saying, "and behold! A voice out of the heaven saying, This is My son, the loved one, in whom I delight." "Delight" (Hebrew chaphets) was a idiomatic phrase as well that marked primogeniture (see 1Sa 18:22).

Yeshua, as the eldest, was also the primogeniture of his "father" Joseph. But, he had, by Hebrew custom, chosen his own primogenitor. Perhaps a brother?

It is known that James (Yakov), the brother of Yeshua, inherited at least one of his titles hatzadeek as well as his nazarite vow. Also, by the time the gospels were written, Jude, another brother, was referred to as Jude of James.

Clement of Alexandria in the late second century, implying that James was preferred by Jesus, stated:

"For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just episkopos (overseer) of Jerusalem."

Saint Jerome, De Viris Illustribus, quotes Hegesippus' account of James from the fifth book of Hegesippus' lost Commentaries:

"After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels' knees."
James was succeeded as bishop or Jerusalem by Simeon of Jerusalem, the brother of James.

The Bible does not reveal the name of the "disciple whom Yeshua loved," but it is James, the brother of our Lord, who best fits the description.


Marc Thomas said...

When I first posted an earlier version of this post, I received a comment from Jim (who identified himself with

Take a look at his site, when you have time.

Jim had some misgivings with my post and I certainly did not intend to start an argument. As can be seen from his URL, he has invested a great deal of time in his work. I have done very little with this particular posting and, in fact, am more interested in the concept of primogeniture, which I will post a lot more on shortly. I have no strong feelings about the actual identity of the "disciple that Jesus loved." My point is that the words used represent a common Hebrew idiom implying that the disciple whom Jesus loved was to be understood as his primogenitor. There are legitimate historical reasons for believing that his primogenitor was Yakov (James), but I didn't include them.

My goal was, as usual, to get people to think about the context when interpreting the words.

Take a look at Jim's site and decide for yourselves.

Jim, Keep up the good fight. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is very interesting. Thank you.

One question on this one. What basis do you have to say that Jesus/Yeshua has a nazarite vow? He drinked wine, etc.

Marc Thomas said...

The Nazarite oath could be taken for a time (1 day, 30 days, lifetime). While John was a lifetime Nazarite, dedicated in the womb, Yeshua/Jesus was not. However, there are indications that he, and his followers, took a Nazarite vow at various times during their ministries.

First of all, the word Nazarite is a bad English transliteration of the Hebrew word nazir or. Many dictionaries define this as "set apart," however, it actually means "shoot." Since young grape shoots were spared pruning during the fall pruning, they became unkempt and ragged. They were spared or "set apart" from the pruning knife. Thus a nazir was unkempt (hair uncut) and set apart.

Jesus is referred to by the writer of Mark as NZRYA , or "nazireea" (translated as Nazarean). A better translation of this word is "he/she is Nazarite." If Mark would have meant to say that Jesus was from the town of Nazareth, he would have used 'BNZRT" Matthew even includes a tortured description at 2:23 in an attempt to link the two words. Recall that Matthew did not even think that Jesus's family were from Nazareth, but believed that they were from Bethlehem.

Prophets (see Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; 60:21; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15, and many others) often referred of the Messiah to come as a "shoot" or "branch."

Acts 18:18 demonstrates that Paul, a follower of Jesus took a Nazarite vow (for a term as well).

At John 20:17, Jesus tells his mother, Mary, "do not touch me." Indicating that she too was under the vow of a Nazarite to abstain from touching a dead body. Matthew 28:9 indicates that some of the women were allowed to touch his feet, but not Mary. Later, Jesus allows Thomas to touch him and probe his wounds. Interestingly, at times, Jesus touched dead bodies himself, and at other times, he simply spoke of them, but refrained from touching them or even going into the same room with them (note Lazarus). These are all indicative of a term Nazarite vow.

At Matthew 26:29 and Mark 14:25, Jesus is seen explicitly taking a Nazarite vow. Recall that he did not drink the fourth cup (he gave it to his disciples and said take this and drink it) and later refused the sour wine offered to him while on the cross. These actions indicate that he was under a Nazarite vow.

So, for many reasons, it is logical to understand that Yeshua/Jesus, on occasion, took a Nazarite vow and taught his disciples to do the same.

May God bless.