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gay-friendly texts: The disciple whom Jesus loved

August 3, 2015

Jn reclines 2“disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26; 21:7, 20)
a phrase which does not occur in the Synoptic Gospels
this beloved disciple is present at the crucifixion of Jesus, with Jesus’ mother, Mary.
That disciple was John whom Jesus, the gospels affirm, loved in a special way. All the other disciples had fled in fear. Three women but only one man had the courage to go with Jesus to his execution. That man clearly had a unique place in the affection of Jesus. In all classic depictions of the Last Supper, a favourite subject of Christian art, John is next to Jesus, very often his head resting on Jesus’s breast. Dying, Jesus asks John to look after his mother and asks his mother to accept John as her son. John takes Mary home. John becomes unmistakably part of Jesus’s family.
a self-reference by the author of the Gospel (John 21:24), traditionally regarded as John the Apostle
τὸν μαθητὴν ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς (the disciple Jesus loved (ἠγάπα = Imperfect, indicative, Active, 3 singular)
who is said to lie (ἀνέπεσεν) on top of Jesus’ body (κόλπῳ) at the Passover Supper.

Jn recliningtranslations:

“the disciple, whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.” (New International Version);

“The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table.” (New Living Translation);

“One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus,” (English Standard Version)

King James Version, “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” But either these versions paraphrase the Greek with a totally new inoffensive non-erotic meaning or – like the King James Version – gives the impression this disciple was simply resting his head on the chest of a reclining Jesus.

[Note on ἠγάπα (Agape Love): Though Christians claim that agape is used only as spiritual or divine love, this claim cannot be supported in the Bible or more in precisely the LXX (Septuagint). In the story of The Rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon in 2 Samuel 13, we are told in 13: 1 that “… καὶ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὴν αμνων υἱὸς δαυιδ.” “and Amnon the son of David loved (agaped) her”. Here agape is used for the love of lust which would finally lead to rape. Thus, likewise, Jesus’ love for this one special disciple could just as well be one of sexual lust.]

[Note on κόλπῳ (torso): The English translation of just where the beloved disciple was lying on Jesus’ body is highly paraphrased from this disciple simply reclining next to Jesus to lying on Jesus’ breast. However, the Classical Greek Dictionary of Liddell, Scott, and Jones (Oxford University Press, 1968) gives the first definition of κόλπος either as bosom or lap. The second definition places κόλπος in the genital area between the legs as in the vaginal area in women. In the LXX, it can be used for a position of sex intercourse as with Abraham and Hagar: “…ἐγὼ δέδωκα τὴν παιδίσκην μου εἰς τὸν κόλπον σου…” (I have given my maid into your bosom) (Genesis 16: 5).]


Abraham Rihbany supposed that the depicted scene was a Syrian custom, similar to present day handshaking.

in the ancient East and even today, such affectionate displays are typical on that side of the world, and well-publicized (remember all the news clips of Arab and Middle Eastern leaders kissing each other on the side of the face?), which is probably why we don’t hear these sorts of verses brought up in service of homosexual Bible characters, except by the incredibly underinformed.

Abraham Rihbany (The Syrian Christ, 65), a native of the East early last century, bore with some patience the misinterpretations of modern Westerners who read the Bible through their eyes and tastes and missed certain points about what was being said and done. The particular instance of John 21:20 represents a custom “in perfect harmony with Syrian customs. How often have I seen men friends in such an attitude. There is not the slightest infringement of the rules of propriety; the act was as natural to us all as shaking hands. The practice is especially indulged in when intimate friends are about to part from one another, as on the eve of a journey, or when about the face a dangerous undertaking. Then they sit with their heads leaning against each other, or the one’s head resting upon the other’s shoulder or breast.”

By the same token, Easterners will use “terms of unbounded intimacy and unrestrained affection” to one another: “my soul,” “my eyes,” “my heart.” Paul’s holy kiss (Rom. 16:16, etc) is no more of a homosexual exchange.


physical sex act be a very minor component of a same-sex relationship. As in a heterosexual relationship, other things such as love, care, compassion, companionship, respect and concern for the partner’s welfare are much more important.

homosexuality encompasses a wide range of behaviour. Not everyone who is involved in a queer relationship necessarily engages in sexual intercourse.


Aelred of Rievaulx, in his work Spiritual Friendship, referred to the relationship of Jesus and John as a “marriage” and held it out as an example sanctioning friendships between clerics.

James I of England defended his relationship with the young Duke of Buckingham: “I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had his son John, and I have my George.”

Others who have given voice to this interpretation of the relationship between Jesus and John have been the philosophers Denis Diderot and Jeremy Bentham.

Bob Goss the author of Jesus Acted Up, A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto and Queering Christ, Beyond Jesus Acted Up, said of the interaction between Jesus and John, it : “… eat together, side by side. What’s being portrayed here is a pederastic relationship between an older man and a younger man. A Greek reader would understand.”

JenningsDaniel Helminiak, Sex and the Sacred: In an explosive book, “the man jesus loved,  the reputable biblical scholar Theodore Jennings mounts an extended argument that Jesus himself was actually gay and that the beloved disciple of John’s Gospel was Jesus’ lover.  To support this provocative conclusion, Jennings examines not only the texts that relate to the beloved disciple but also the story of the centurion’s servant boy and the texts that show Jesus’ rather negative attitude toward the traditional family: not mother and brothers, but those who do the will of God, are family to Jesus.  Jennings suggests that Jesus relatives and disciples knew he was gay, and that, despite the efforts of the early Church to downplay this “dangerous memory” about Jesus, a lot of clues remains in the Gospels.  Piecing the clues together, Jennings suggests not only that Jesus was very open to homosexuality, but that he himself was probably in an intimate, and probably sexual, relationship with the beloved disciple.

Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church (USA), discussed the possible homoerotic inclinations of Jesus in a sermon in 2005. With host Jon Stewart on the TV “Daily Show.” Robinson commented: “Here’s a guy who — in a culture that virtually demanded marriage — was a single guy, spent most of his time with twelve men, singled out three of them for leadership and one of them is known in the Bible as ‘the one whom Jesus loved. … Now I’m not saying Jesus was gay, but let’s be careful to rope this guy in for a husband, wife and 2.2 children model for family. He knew about families of choice, and so do LGBT people.”

Patrick Goodenough, writing for “In the Gospel of John, the disciple John frequently refers to himself in the third person as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.” One might argue that Jesus loved all of his followers in a non-sexual way. Thus to identify Jesus’ love for John in a special way might indicate a sexual relationship. The disciple was “the” beloved. He was in a class by himself.  During the Last Supper before Jesus’ execution, the author(s) of the Gospel of John describes how the “beloved” disciple laid himself on Jesus’ inner tunic — his undergarment. See John 13:25 and 21:20.

Gagnon bkRobert A. Gagnon: the Greek word translated as “loved” is agape (used, for example, in John 3:16; “for God so loved the world”), rather than the Greek word referring to sexual love, eros.

At no time does the Gospel of John mention that Jesus is in a sexual relationship with the beloved disciple. References to the disciple “whom Jesus loved” are limited to five stories from the last half of John’s Gospel: at the Last Supper (13:23-25); at the foot of the cross alongside the three Mary’s (19:25-27); at the empty tomb with Peter (20:2-10); in the boat with the other disciples on the Sea of Galilee after Jesus’ death (21:7); and following behind Peter and the resurrected Jesus at the shore of the Sea of Galilee (21:20-23). This same disciple is then identified as “the disciple who testifies concerning these things and the one who wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true” (21:24). The following is the grand total of what is said of the beloved disciple in John:

The disciple whom Jesus loved. He is designated in John’s Gospel not by a name but by the relative clause ”the disciple whom Jesus loved” (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). The verb agapaō (ēgapa) is used in all occurrences but 20:2 where phileō (ephilei) is used.

Reclining at Jesus’ chest in the Last Supper. At the Last Supper he “was reclining [lit. ‘lying up or back,’ anakeimenos] on the chest [en tōi kolpōi] of Jesus” (13:23; cf. 13:25: “so falling [i.e. leaning] back [anapeson] on the chest [epi to stethos] of Jesus”; 21:20: “he reclined [anepesen]at the supper on his chest [epi to stethos]”). Peter beckoned to this disciple to ask Jesus who his betrayer was.

Standing at the foot of the cross where Jesus declares Mary to be his mother and him her son. He stood with the three Mary’s (Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, and Mary Magdalene) by the cross, where Jesus told his mother “Woman, see, your son!” and the beloved disciple “See, your mother!” “And from that hour/time, the disciple took her into his own things [i.e. home, family circle]” (19:25-27).

The second person to reach the empty tomb and the first to believe. He was the second person, after Mary Magdalene, to reach the empty tomb and look in, outrunning Peter to the tomb, and the first one to have “believed,” namely, that Jesus’ body had not been stolen but that something heavenly had occurred (20:2-10). The Fourth Evangelist’s comment, “for they [i.e. the beloved disciple and Jesus] did not yet know the scripture that he must rise from the dead” (10:9), is ambiguous. It suggests either that the belief of the beloved disciple was in place but only in nascent form (something miraculous had happened but precisely what he did not yet know) or that the beloved disciple “believed” that Jesus as the man from heaven had been raised to return to the Father, in spite of not knowing the scriptural predictions of the Messiah’s resurrection. At any rate the beloved disciple was poised for his next breakthrough.

The first to recognize the resurrected Lord on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The beloved disciple was the first to recognize that the man who stood on the beach and told them to cast their net into the Sea of Galilee (upon which the disciples caught an enormous number of fish) was the resurrected Lord (21:7).

The one about whom a rumour spread that he would not die before Jesus’ return. Peter noticed that the beloved disciple was following him and Jesus after Jesus had thrice asked Peter if he loved him, thrice commanded him “Feed my sheep,” and predicted Peter’s martyrdom. Peter asked Jesus about the duties and fate of the beloved disciple and Jesus responded: “If I want him to remain until I come [back from heaven], what (is that) to you? You, follow me!” The narrator adds that though a rumour then spread among “the brothers” that that disciple would not die before Jesus’ return Jesus did not actually say that he would not die but only, in effect, the beloved disciple’s fate was none of Peter’s business. The implication of the narrator’s comment, of course, is that by the time that ch. 21 was written the beloved disciple had already died.

The chief authority behind the message of John’s Gospel. The beloved disciple is the chief source and at some level the writer of “these things,” presumably the Gospel as a whole since “these things” is contrasted with the “many other things which Jesus did” that were not recorded in the Gospel of John (21:24-25). Since the beloved disciple is referred to in the third person, appears by mention only from the Last Supper on, and obviously did not write everything in the Fourth Gospel (e.g., the denial that Jesus had assured the beloved disciple of remaining alive until Jesus’ return), scholars generally distinguish between the beloved disciple and the Fourth Evangelist (if even they view the beloved disciple as a real figure in history).

None of these passages contain any reference to sexual activity between Jesus and the beloved disciple.

The verbs agapaō and phileō and their cognates nowhere in John’s Gospel have a sexual connotation. The verb used to denote a sexual relationship between two males in the Greco-Roman milieu is eraō and its cognates, where the active “lover” is an erastēs and the more passive/receptive “beloved” is an erōmenos. If the Fourth Evangelist had wanted his readers to know that Jesus was in a sexual relationship with this disciple he would have chosen the appropriate words for sexual love between males.

With regard to agapaō and cognates in John’s Gospel we read of Jesus’ sacrificial love for all his disciples (13:1, 34; 15:9, 12-13; defined as those who keep his commandments or word: 14:21, 23; 15:10); Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (11:5); Jesus’ love for his heavenly Father (14:31); God’s love for the world (3:16) or for Jesus’ followers (14:21, 23; 17:23 26); God’s love as Father for his Son (3:35; 15:9; 17:23-24, 26; because he lays down his life: 10:17; because he has kept his Father’s commandments: 15:10); the love that Jesus commands people to have for him which for unbelievers is manifested in believing in him (8:42; cf. love for God in 5:42) and for believers is manifested in keeping his commandments or word (14:15, 21, 23-24; or rejoicing that Jesus is returning to the Father: 14:28), expressed especially in their sacrificial love for “one another” (13:34-35; 15:12-13, 17) and, as regards leaders, in “feeding Jesus’ sheep” (21:15-16); and people’s tragic love of darkness or praise from other people (3:19; 12:43).

The fact that the verb phileō, which refers to friendship love, and the related noun philos, “friend,” are used interchangeably with agapaō and cognates in John’s Gospel confirms the non-erotic character of this love: Jesus’ love for Lazarus (11:3, 36; called “our friend” [ho philos hēmon] in Jesus’ conversation with his disciples in 11:11); Jesus’ love for the beloved disciple (20:2); God’s love for Jesus’ followers (16:27); God’s love as Father for his Son (5:20); the love of Jesus’ followers for Jesus (expressed in their “believing that [Jesus] came from the Father”: 16:27; expressed in “feeding [Jesus’] sheep”: 21:15-17; called “friends” [philoi] if they do what Jesus commands them: 15:13-15); the world’s love for its own (15:19), and the tragic love some people have for their own life in the world (12:25).

It is interesting that Mary and Martha tell Jesus about their brother Lazarus’s serious illness in these terms: “Lord, see, the one whom you love (phileis) is sick” (11:3). Two verses later we read that Jesus “loved (ēgapa) Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” He loves all three but nevertheless Lazarus can be referred to simply as “the one whom you love” (hon phileis). This sounds a great deal like the reference in 20:2 to the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (hon ephilei ho Iēsous), which singles out a specific disciple even though the broader context makes clear that Jesus loves all his disciples (13:1, 34; 14:21-23; 15:9-13). If Jesus’ special love for Lazarus is not understood in a sexual sense–otherwise, Jesus would be having sex with more than one person, contrary to his own teaching about monogamy in Mark 10 and Matthew 19–how can his special love for one disciple be understood in a sexual sense? When “Jews” saw how Jesus wept for Lazarus and said, “See, how he loved (ephilei),” they obviously were not drawing the conclusion that Jesus was in a sexual relationship with Lazarus. Rather, Jesus loved Lazarus as though he (Lazarus) were his own brother. The same applies to the references to the beloved disciple.

The fact, too, that the descriptor “the disciple whom Jesus loved” can use for “loved” either ēgapa (13:23; 19:26; 21:7, 20) or ephilei (20:2)–i.e. either the verb agapaō or phileō—also confirms that friendship love, not sexual intercourse, is intended. To be sure, erotic love is not necessarily exclusive of friendship love. The point rather is that phileō and its cognates most basically refer to the affectionate regard of friends and carry no inherent implication of sexual desire. So the basic meaning of the verb is “love” in the sense of “regard with affection, treat affectionately or kindly” as friends commonly do. As a substantive participle, “those who love” (hoi philountes) someone are simply that person’s “friends” (a formula found frequently in letters; cf. LSJ, s.v. phileō, I.1). The nouns philos and philia most commonly mean “friend” and “friendship” respectively. Similarly, the verb agapaō and the noun agapē in ancient Greek seldom refer to sexual love; their original sense is that of non-sexual love (cf. LSJ).

The beloved disciple loved not for his sexual attractiveness but for his faith in Jesus and love for fellow believers. The usage of agapaō and phileō throughout John’s Gospel explain why the beloved disciple was specially “loved” by Jesus and what that love consisted of. For the references above show that those whom Jesus loves and who “abide” in his love are those who (a) believe in Jesus, specifically as the man from heaven who becomes human in order to atone for human sin, and (b) obey his commandments, especially the commandment to love one another. This is confirmed by the portrayal of the beloved disciple as (a) the one who is the first to have insight into the miracle behind the empty tomb (“believed,” 20:8) and the first to recognize the resurrected Lord on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (21:7), as well as (b) the one who, unlike Peter, does not need to be told,  “If you love me, feed my sheep” (21:15-23). There is no hint anywhere in the Gospel of John that Jesus is sexually attracted to the beauty of the beloved disciple, as is often the case in Greco-Roman discussions, even philosophical discussions, of man-male love. The beloved disciple is specially loved because is a model of the kind of disciple that Jesus loves. This is nothing sexual about this. It is the love of a friend for a friend, as Jesus’ words in 15:14-15 make clear: “You are my friends (philoi) if you do what I am commanding you (to do). No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master [or: lord] is doing. But you I have called friends because all the things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

Reclining on the chest as an asexual place of intimacy. In ancient banqueting practice there was nothing necessarily erotic about reclining on a couch slightly to the side of, in front of, and parallel to the host such that conversation required leaning the head back on the host’s chest. The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus has Lazarus reclining after death on Abraham’s chest without any sexual connotation (Luke 16:22-23). A text in Pliny’s Epistles refers to a senator named Veiento who “was reclining [or: leaning back] on the chest” of the emperor Nerva, again without any sexual connotation (4.22.4). The beloved disciple occupies a position of intimacy for the asexual reasons specified above.

Dr. Katherine Dunbabin, professor of classics at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) and author of The Roman Banquet: Images of Conviviality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003):

I think the Pliny passage shows incontrovertibly that there is no necessary sexual connotation involved in a diner reclining “on the chest” of another; there is no suggestion whatsoever that Fabricius Veiento had any sort of sexual relationship with the emperor Nerva! What the passage does imply is intimacy; here in the sense that Veiento (whose past history was extremely shady) was being received as a favoured associate of the emperor/host. It was not the position of honour, but at least in the traditional Roman triclinium arrangement, it was one reserved for members of the host’s family or his close associates. It is true that, if his wife was present, this was the position that she occupied (and there is some discussion whether, for a woman, reclining on the same couch with a man did imply sexual availability); but in an all-male banquet, it would be occupied by an associate of the host. Thus in Horace’s description of the dinner of Nasidienus (Sat.2.8), the host occupies the lowest couch with two friends, giving up his regular position at the top end of the couch to one of them to place him next to the guest of honour, Maecenas, on the end of the middle couch. And in fact, whenever there are two or more people reclining on the same couch, it is inevitable that the one to the right will be reclining “on the chest of” his neighbour — obviously there cannot always be sexual connotations. Quite how the writer of St John’s gospel envisaged the arrangement at the Last Supper, and where he imagined Jesus as lying, is another question, and I am not sure of the answer. Hardly, I think, the traditional Roman pattern of the late Republic and early empire that we know of from Cicero or Horace, and anyway there are 13 guests to be accommodated, not 9.

The impossibility of man-male sex in Jesus’ cultural context. Nowhere in the gospel traditions is there any mention of sexual attraction for males on Jesus part. In the context of early Judaism, where homosexual practice of any sort would incur a capital sentence, how likely is it that Jesus would have had sexual intercourse with a male disciple and have done so without apparently raising an eyebrow among any of his other disciples? Even Socrates is said to have renounced for himself sexual intercourse with males and to have urged his followers not to have such relations because such acts were “contrary to nature” (cf. Plato, Charmides 155C-D; Symposium 216B-219A; Phaedrus 227D, 250D, 254A-256B; Laws 636B-D, 836C-837C, 838E-839A, 841D-E; Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.3.8-14; Symposium 4.24-28). Socrates did this in spite of the fact that he, unlike Jesus, was noted for having a strong sexual attraction for beautiful “boys” (i.e. adolescent males and young men); moreover, in spite of the fact that he operated in a cultural milieu that was considerably more permissive about homosexual relations than first-century Palestine.

Everything else that we know about Jesus speaks against the notion that he had intercourse with a male. There are at least a dozen arguments that collectively demonstrate in convincing fashion that the historical Jesus was not supportive of homosexual practice. Briefly, these include:

Jesus’ adoption of a back-to-creation model for marriage (Mark 10:6-9; Matt 19:4-6) that predicated (a) the ‘twoness’ of the marital bond on the twoness of the sexes in Gen 1:27 (“male and female he made them”) and (b) the reunion of man and woman into “one flesh” on a story that posits women’s creation from a part of the one flesh of the ’adam (earthling, human) in Gen 2:21-24 (“for this reason a man . . . will be joined to his woman/wife and the two will become one flesh”).

Jesus’ retention of the Law of Moses even on relatively minor matters such as tithing, to say nothing of a foundational law in sexual ethics; and his view of the Old Testament as inviolable Scripture, which Scripture was absolutely opposed to man-male intercourse.

Jesus’ further intensification of the Law’s sex-ethic in matters involving adultery of the heart and divorce (Matt 5:27-32), suggesting a closing of remaining loopholes in the Law’s sex-ethic rather than a loosening; and, in his saying about cutting off body parts, warning that people could be thrown into hell precisely for not repenting of violations of God’s sexual standards (5:29-30).

The fact that the man who baptized Jesus, John the Baptist, was beheaded for defending Levitical sex laws in the case of the adult-incestuous marriage between Herod Antipas and the wife of his half-brother Philip (Lev 18:16; 20:21), a woman who was also the daughter of another half-brother (Mark 6:17-18; Matt 14:3-4).

Early Judaism’s univocal opposition to all homosexual practice.

The early church’s united opposition to all homosexual practice. This completes the historical circle and underscoring the absurdity of positing a Jesus favorable to homosexual practice—a Jesus without analogue in his historical context, cut off from his Scripture, cut off from the rest of early Judaism, cut from the man who baptized him, and cut from the church that emerged from his teachings.

Jesus’ saying about the defiling effect of desires for various forms of sexual immoralities (Mark 7:21-23), which distinguished matters of relative moral indifference such as food laws from matters of moral significance such as the sexual commands of his Bible and connected Jesus to the general view of what constitutes the worst forms of porneia in early Judaism (i.e. bestiality, same-sex intercourse, incest, adultery).

Jesus’ acceptance of the Decalogue prohibition of adultery, which in its Decalogue context and its subsequent interpretation in early Judaism as a rubric for the major sex laws of the Old Testament presupposed a male-female prerequisite for valid sexual bonds.

Jesus’ saying about Sodom which, understood in the light of Second Temple interpretations of Sodom (Matt 10:14-15 par. Luke 10:10-12), included an indictment of Sodom for attempting to dishonor the integrity of the visitors’ masculinity by treating them as if they were the sexual counterparts to males.

Jesus’ saying about not giving what is “holy” to the “dogs” (Matt 7:6), an apparent allusion to Deuteronomic law (23:17-18) and texts in 1-2 Kings that indict the qedeshim, self-designated “holy ones” identified as “dogs” for their attempt to erase their masculinity by serving as the passive-receptive partners in man-male intercourse.

Jesus’ comparison of “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven” with “born eunuchs” (persons who are asexual and/or homosexual), a comparison that presumes that “born eunuchs” are not permitted sexual relationships outside a man-woman bond and that Jesus himself is a “eunuch for God’s kingdom” who goes without sexual intimacy (Matt 19:10-12).

The fact that Jesus developed a sex ethic that had distinctive features not shared by the love commandment (love for everyone does not translate into having sex with everyone), reached out to tax collectors and sexual sinners while simultaneously intensifying God’s sex-ethic, insisted that the adulterous woman stop sinning lest something worse happen to her (i.e., loss of eternal life; cf. John 8:3-11; 5:14), appropriated the context of the “love your neighbor” command in Lev 19:17-18 by insisting on reproof as part of a full-orbed view of love (Luke 17:3-4), and defined discipleship to him as taking up one’s cross, denying oneself, and losing one’s life (Mark 8:34-37).

all the contextual evidence points in the direction of Jesus being as opposed to homosexual practice as anyone else in early Judaism or earliest Christianity. Thus the only thing that differentiates Jesus from Paul—the latter speaking more directly to the issue of homosexual practice in two of his letters—is that Jesus operated in a cultural context where he could presume unanimous agreement on a male-female prerequisite for sexual relations (addressing fellow Jews in first-century Palestine) whereas Paul operated in a cultural context where such a presumption could no longer be made (addressing Gentiles in the Mediterranean basin).

The beloved disciple as the symbol of the preeminence of the Johannine tradition. The portrait of an unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved” functions as support for the Johannine community’s claim to possessing the preeminent witness to Jesus. The scenes where the beloved disciple outruns Peter (literally and figuratively) are probably symbolic, at least in part, of friendly tension in the author’s day with dominant Petrine Christianity. The Johannine Jesus is a more thoroughgoing fusion of the historical Jesus and risen Christ than one finds already at work in the “Petrine” trajectory of Mark and Matthew. The image of the beloved disciple’s closeness to Jesus is designed to convey the deeper existential truth of the Johannine community’s more spiritualized portrait of Jesus. Had the community out of which the Gospel of John arose wanted to present a sexual relationship between Jesus and their own patron disciple, it would have succeeded only in making themselves outcasts in relation to the rest of Christendom.

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