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James Charlesworth Reviews the Scholarship on the Beloved Disciple

James Charlesworth’s book The Beloved Disciple: Whose Witness Validates the Gospel of John? (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1995) provides an extensive list of scholarly suggestions about the beloved disciple before offering his own proposal about the Apostle Thomas. Some of the suggestions he reviews are plausible, while others are wildly improbable, and his interaction with the literature can be found on pages 128-223 in the third chapter. Here are the twenty-two options he covers:

  1. The identity of the beloved disciple is impossible to decide
  2. Influenced by the Buddhist traditions about Gautama’s special disciple Ananda (he also looks at the Hindu tradition about Krishna’s relationship with Arjuna)
  3. An ideal, fictitious, or symbolic figure
  4. A symbol of the apostolic prophet
  5. A symbol of the church
  6. A real human whose identity has been lost to subsequent readers
  7. Matthias
  8. Apollos
  9. Paul or a later Paulinist
  10. Influenced by the Jewish Patriarch Benjamin
  11. The Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10 and parallels
  12. Judas Iscariot
  13. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother
  14. Philip
  15. Nathaniel
  16. Lazarus
  17. John Mark
  18. Judas’, Jesus brother
  19. John, the son of Zebedee
  20. The Elder John
  21. A blending of the Apostle John and the Elder John
  22. One of the two anonymous disciples in John 21:2
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