Disciple whom Jesus Loved

Q. Why does John keep referring to himself in the third person (the disciple whom Jesus loved) in John? In the last few chapters 19-21, it is especially prominent, and only until the very last verse he mentions himself in the first person “I suppose that even….”

A. First of all, all four Gospels were written in the third person. One might expect Matthew and John, who were apostles, to write in the first person, while Mark and Luke, who were not among the Twelve, to write in the third person. Mark was Peter’s penman, and Luke wrote as a researcher (Lk 1:3), but all four wrote in the third person. There are several possible reasons:

  • The Gospels are not autobiographies, but the history of the life and work of Jesus. So the authors wrote from a historian third-person perspective.
  • The writers respect our Lord the main character and do not want to inject themselves into the picture.
  • The third-person narrative was the writing style, though not exclusively, of the time of Jesus.

This does not explain the use of the term “the disciple whom Jesus/He loved” in the fourth Gospel, which appears 5 times in John:

  • Jn 13:23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.
  • Jn 19:26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, …
  • Jn 20:2a So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, …
  • Jn 21:7a Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” …
  • Jn 21:20a Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; …

The Bible does not name this disciple directly, but tradition identified him as the apostle John, which is also supported by deduction. Why was he so discreet? Again the Bible does not explain, but suggestions include:

  • Out of personal modesty, though some might feel the exact opposite, as self-conceit.
  • That there were two Johns, John the Apostle (the disciple whom Jesus loved) who narrated his recollections, and John the Elder at the church in Ephesus, who wrote down Apostle John’s memories. This is a minority view.

Not fully satisfactory but that what we know as of now.

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