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.