The Authorship of the 4th Gospel: The Disciple Whom Yeshua Loved
Well I wonder, wonder who, who oo oo oo -
Who Wrote the "Book of John"?
By David M Rogers
Published: December 2009
Updated: May 2012, February 2014
Table of Contents
Anyone who has been reading the articles and Bible studies on BibleTruth.cc knows that traditional Christian teachings and interpretations are routinely called into question. Our approach to biblical interpretation is to let the Scriptures speak and have authority as the proper way and walk of faith without consideration to the traditions and commandments of men. This requires that we give no weight to man-made traditions which tend to steer people away from the truth. Much of what our fathers were taught and passed down to us is fraught with the errors of misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the culture and context of the writings of Scripture. Our fathers have taught us lies because they were taught lies.
One such tradition that has been taught throughout the centuries and passed down by our fathers is that of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel. The "church fathers" attributed the writing of the fourth gospel to Yochanan (a.k.a. "John") the apostle, brother of Ya'acov (James) and son of Zebedee. But the writer of the 4th Gospel does not identify himself in the usual way. The only explicit statement in the gospel about its authorship is in 21:24 where the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" is the same one "who testifies to these things and who wrote them down."
We are left to figure out who the disciple is whom Yeshua loved. Yet, if we had been paying attention to what we were reading in his account of the life and ministry of Yeshua, we would know who this disciple is "whom Yeshua loved."
An account is told of the third appearance of Yeshua to his disciples after his resurrection. We are told that Kepha (Simon Peter), the sons of Zebedee, Thomas and Nathaniel and two other disciples, one of which was "the disciple that Yeshua loved," were fishing. Yeshua called to them from the shore to cast their net on the other side of the boat, though they did not realize that it was Yeshua. They reluctantly did so. Then they netted a great catch of fish.
The "disciple whom Yeshua loved" then realized it was Yeshua and told Peter, who jumped into the water and swam ashore. After a meal of fish cooked over an open fire, Yeshua spoke directly with Peter:
When they had finished eating, Yeshua said to Shimon Kepha, "Shimon son
of Yochanan, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Master," he
said, "you know that I love you." Yeshua said, "Feed my lambs."
Now most people familiar with the story know that Yeshua spoke three times with Peter because Peter had denied the Master three times. These three affirmations of Peter that he did love Yeshua effectively restored Peter to right relationship with the Master.
Much is made of the use of the "love" verbs in this dialogue between Yeshua and Peter. Many a sermon has been preached in which the speaker insisted that the Master asked Peter a different question the third time.
The Greek verbs employed here are as follows:
avgapa,w (aga-pa-o), love, especially of love as based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will and action; (1) toward persons love, be loyal to, regard highly (EP 5.25); (2) toward God (MT 22.37); (3) from God (JN 3.16); (4) toward things value, delight in, strive for (LU 11.43); long for (2T 4.8).
file,w (phile-o), (1) love, as devotion based in the emotions, often distinguished from avgapa,w (love), which is devotion based in the will like, feel affection for; with the accusative of person (MT 10.37; JN 11.3); with the accusative of the thing (MT 23.6); (2) as an outward expression of affection kiss (MT 26.48); (3) followed by an infinitive like to or be accustomed to do something (MT 6.5). (Friberg Lexicon)
Keep in mind that these definitions and the distinctions they suggest are based in the common understanding of these words as given in the Greek lexicons, often based upon someone's interpretation of passages like the one we are examining now. As the scholars try to find a distinction in the meaning of these Greek words, they sometimes project meanings and distinctions that these words don't actually mean.
This passage is a textbook example of how scholars project a meaning onto the text which is unwarranted. The first two times the text says that the Master asked him if he agape-ed (God-like loved) him. But the third time the word phileo is employed. This, in the view of these scholars and preachers, indicates that the Master lowered the standard of love in his third question to Peter, which caused Peter some hurt. Yet Peter insisted that he phileo-ed the Master.
However, I take umbrage with that sort of irresponsible analysis. First, it is abundantly clear that the reason Peter was hurt by the third question had nothing to do with the vocabulary the Master used. He was hurt because he knew the Master was reminding Peter that he had denied him three times. This is what caused Peter to be saddened by Yeshua's questioning, not some alleged diminishing of the kind of love the Master was expecting from Peter.
Secondly, this conversation did NOT occur in the Greek language! Yeshua and his followers spoke Hebrew. The Greek language was actually offensive to the Hebrew speaking Jews of their day. No self respecting Jew of that time would be speaking conversational Greek with another Hebrew speaking Jew. Hebrew was their native language and the language of Jews in the Land. Thus, because this conversation did not take place in the Greek language, the Greek terms used here may not necessarily be significant.
With that in mind, the Hebrew language has only one word which is commonly translated "love." The word is ahav. Ahav can mean any kind of love much like the word love in English can cover a wide variety of applications. Surely this is the word actually spoken on this occasion, yet the translator who converted this Gospel and this conversation from Hebrew to Greek employed two different Greek words to translate this Hebrew word.
The Greek words, agapao and phileo are often used interchangeably because there is very little difference in the meaning of these words. While the Christian preachers who are looking for something in the text "that will preach!" often tell us that there is a significant difference in the usage of these two words, a study of these words as used in the New Testament will bear out a very different conclusion.
The word phile-o is employed 25 times in the New Testament. Paul only uses it 2 times. The 4th Gospel uses this term 13 times, by far the most used by any writer of the New Testament. Matthew, Mark and Luke altogether use it 8 times. And Revelation uses it 2 times. By contrast, agapa-o is employed 143 times in the New Testament. Clearly, agapa-o is the preferred and more common word for love. But the writer of the 4th Gospel uses both terms almost equally.
In fact, these words are synonymous in meaning most of the time and are used interchangeably most of the time in the Fourth Gospel and throughout the New Testament. A few examples of the usage of the Greek words agapa-o and phile-o will bear this out. It is precisely that the preachers and teachers of the Christian churches have NOT taken the time to examine the usage of agapa-o and phile-o in the Greek New Testament that they come to irresponsible conclusions such as has been suggested of our passage of Scripture.
For example, the word agapa-o has been suggested to indicate the kind of love that Elohim has for people - an unconditional kind of love. Yet its usage does not bear this out. While often speaking of Yahuwah's love for his people, agapa-o can be speaking of other kinds of love as well. It is the context, and not the particular word used alone, that determines the meaning of the word.
Agapa-o often is used of our Father's love:
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved (Greek agapa-o) me before the creation of the world. (4th Gospel 17:24)
But because of his great love (Greek agapa-o) for us, Elohim, who is rich in mercy, made us alive (Ephesians 2:4-5)
But agapa-o is also used of someone's love of the world:
...for Demas, because he loved (Greek agapa-o) this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. (2 Timothy 4:10)
Do not love (Greek agapa-o) the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves (Greek agapa-o) the world, the love of the Father is not in him. ( 1 John 2:15)
Agapa-o is used of Balaam's love of the wages of unrighteousness- certainly not a godly kind of love:
They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved (Greek agapa-o) the wages of wickedness. (2 Peter 2:15)
While the predominate usage of agapa-o in the New Testament has to do with Elohim's love for us, our love for Elohim and our love for our brothers, agapa-o does not exclusively refer to a godly kind of love.
On the other hand, phile-o is thought by scholars to describe human love. While this may be true sometimes, in contrast with their theory, phile-o is also used of Father's love for his people.
Yeshua gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves (Greek phile-o) the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. (4th Gospel 5:19-20)
Why does the Father phile-o the Son? Shouldn't the text tell us the Father agapa-os the Son? with an unconditional love? Surely here phile-o perfectly describes Father's unconditional love for the Son., and does not conform to the so-called Greek scholars' definitions.
Again, phile-o is the word used to describe the Almighty's love for the disciples of Yeshua:
No, the Father himself loves (Greek phile-o) you because you have loved (Greek phile-o) me and have believed that I came from Elohim. (4th Gospel 16:27)
So we would expect to see the word agapa-o here since it describes the Almighty's love for his people. But phile-o is employed here.
In another place, Yeshua speaks of his love for the assembly:
Those whom I love (Greek phile-o) I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. (Revelation 3:19)
Isn't Yeshua's love for the assembly an unconditional love? Why is phile-o used here? So shouldn't the writer have used the word agapa-o?
It should now be obvious that phile-o and agapa-o often mean the very same thing. We should not press our preconceived notion of the meaning of a word into the text of Scripture. This will cause us to sometimes miss the point of a passage, and sometimes to misinterpret a passage of Scripture.
Now the reason why we took the time to examine these words as used in this conversation between Yeshua and Peter is that these same two words are employed with respect to the "disciple whom Yeshua loved." Both terms are used to describe Yeshua's love for that disciple. And we will see this as we proceed in this study.
After the Master restored Peter, he told Peter about his future. Peter would one day be a prisoner for his testimony about the Messiah. Next, Peter looked over and saw the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" and inquired about the future of "that other disciple."
Kepha turned and saw that the disciple whom Yeshua loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Yeshua at the supper and had said, "Master, who is going to betray you?") When Kepha saw him, he asked, "Master, what about him?" Yeshua answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."
Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Yeshua did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (4th Gospel 21:20-24)
The author of the 4th Gospel uses this event to identify the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" with himself as the writer of this Gospel account. And this is the only place in the 4th Gospel where the writer indicates that it is this one who is its author.
Though the apostle John, brother of James (Ya'acov), son of Zebedee has for centuries been thought to be the writer of the 4th Gospel, there are several compelling reasons why he likely isn't its author. First, Yochanan is not identified by name anywhere in this gospel as its author and writer. By contrast, Yochanan identifies himself several times at the beginning and at the end of the book of Revelation:
The revelation of Yeshua Messiah, which Elohim gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant Yochanan, who testifies to everything he saw-- that is, the word of Elohim and the testimony of Yeshua Messiah. (Revelation1:1-2)
Yochanan, To the seven assemblies in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne. (Revelation 1:4)
I, Yochanan, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Yeshua, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of Elohim and the testimony of Yeshua. (Revelation 1:9)
I, Yochanan, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. (Revelation 22:8)
The fourth gospel does not even mention Yochanan by name anywhere, except once when the "sons of Zebedee" are mentioned. Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) is referred to many times, but the apostle Yochanan is not. It makes little sense that Yochanan would not give first hand testimony about himself by name in this account of the Messiah's ministry if Yochanan is its author.
Secondly, not only is Yochanan never mentioned by name in the 4th Gospel, neither is his brother Ya'acov (James). Matthew, Mark, Luke and the book of Acts all mention both Yochanan and Ya'acov his brother and they each give certain accounts about their connection and involvement with Yeshua Messiah. But nowhere in the 4th Gospel is either Yochanan nor Ya'acov, his brother, mentioned by name. Certainly, if Yochanan were the author of the 4th Gospel, he would have given eye-witness testimony about his and his brother's involvement with Messiah and their conversations and activities in conjunction with Yeshua. But no such information is given about Ya'acov and Yochanan in the 4th Gospel. Their conspicuous absence suggests Yochanan might not be its author.
Thirdly, Yochanan was given explicit instructions by the Master regarding his transfiguration. We are told that he was an eye-witness of this event:
After six days Yeshua took with him Kepha, Ya'acov and Yochanan the brother of Ya'acov, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:1-2)
Afterward, these three disciples were strictly commanded about how and when to proclaim his glory:
As they were coming down the mountain, Yeshua instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." (Matthew 17:9)
Thus, Yochanan was told to remain silent about this event UNTIL Yeshua's resurrection. The instruction from the Master is clearly implied: after the resurrection, tell what you have seen!
But the writer of the 4th Gospel makes no mention whatsoever about this important revelation of Yeshua's esteem. As an eye-witness to this event, Yochanan would most certainly have told about this event in his account of Yeshua's ministry. And as an eyewitness, he would have been able to give greater detail and insight than the other three Gospel writers offer. His Master explicitly commanded him to make this event known after his resurrection. So, its absence from the 4th Gospel strongly suggests that Yochanan was not its author.
A fourth compelling reason why John cannot be the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" is the account of the other disciple who went into the courtroom with Yeshua. The 4th Gospel mentions "another disciple" who accompanied Yeshua, first to the house of Annas, then to Caiaphas, and throughout his trial that night.
Shimon Kepha and another disciple were following Yeshua. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Yeshua into the high priest's courtyard, but Kepha had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Kepha in. (4th Gospel 18:15-16)
This disciple, found only in the 4th Gospel, gave a detailed account - much more detailed than in the other three gospels - of the conversations between Yeshua and Annas and Caiaphas and Pilate. This "other disciple" must be the same person as the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" and the author of the 4th Gospel because no one else could have given such a detailed eye witness account as we see in the 4th Gospel. There was none other who saw and heard the things the "other disciple" saw and heard. Besides, he is emphatically identified as the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" in the account of he and Kepha finding the tomb empty.
Also, this other disciple was "known to the high priest." This disciple cannot be Yochanan (John). The reason is obvious when we consider the testimony of Acts 4. Here, Kepha (Peter) and Yochanan (John) were preaching in the temple and were confronted by the religious rulers:
They seized Kepha and Yochanan, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Yerushalayim. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, Yochanan, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. (Acts 4:3-6)
So, Peter and John were brought in to Annas and Caiaphas. But look at the reaction of Annas and Caiaphas:
When they saw the courage of Kepha and Yochanan and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished when they came to understand that these men had been with Yeshua. (Acts 4:13)
This is not the reaction we would expect from the high priest if the high priest knew Yochanan. The text indicates that the high priest came to the understanding that these two men were disciples of Yeshua. Yet, the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" was already known to the high priest! So, Yochanan cannot be the "disciple whom Yeshua loved." If he were, the high priest would not have just come to understand that he was a disciple of Yeshua.
A fifth compelling reason for understanding that Yochanan was not only unlikely, but couldn't be the writer of the 4th Gospel, is found in the accounts of the post-resurrection appearances of the Master. In the 4th Gospel we are informed that Peter and "another disciple" ran to the tomb and that the "other disciple, the one whom Yeshua loved" (see 4th Gospel 20:2) got there first. Then Peter arrived, went into the tomb and saw the grave clothes.
Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed (4th Gospel 20:8)
Now the text indicates that Peter did not understand what he saw. But the "other disciple" - the one who is the author of this 4th Gospel - "saw and believed."
Yet after that event, Yeshua appeared to the Eleven and rebuked them for not believing when the women told them he was raised:
Later Yeshua appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen (Mark 16:14).
So, since we are told that the "other disciple" believed, but that the Eleven had to be scolded because they didn't believe, this seems to positively rule out John as being that "other disciple" who outran Peter, went into the tomb, "saw and believed"! If John were that disciple who "saw and believed," the Master would not later have rebuked him for not believing! We must look elsewhere for the identity of this disciple who believed. The author of the 4th gospel was NOT one of the Eleven, and therefore positively NOT John.
A sixth reason why John cannot be the author of the 4th Gospel is that every event found in the first three gospels where John is named as having been there as an eyewitness is missing in the 4th gospel. Not one single event that is recorded in the other three gospels where John is named can be found in the 4th gospel. There were three events where only three persons were present with Yeshua. Here they are: the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mt. 9:18-26, Mk. 5:22-43, Lu. 8:41-56), his transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-9, Mk. 9:2-9, Lu. 9:28-36), his Gethsemane prayers (Mt. 26:36-46, Mk. 14:32-42, Lu. 22:39-46). None of these three is recorded in the 4th gospel. How do you account for this? Certainly, if John wrote the 4th gospel, he would have included a detailed eyewitness account of these three events.
There are also these events which occur in the other three gospels, but are conspicuously missing from the 4th gospel: Yeshua told John, “ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of” when rebuking John and his brother after they sought to “command fire to come down from heaven” (Lu. 9:54-55). John and Peter were sent by Yeshua to prepare the Passover (Lu. 22:8). Yeshua “privately” answered the questions of John, Peter, James, and Andrew on the Mount of Olives (Mk. 13:3). The mother of John and his brother asked Yeshua to seat them, “one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory” (Mk. 10:35-41). Yet none of these events are recorded in the 4th gospel although John was there for each of them.
Therefore, since the 4th Gospel does not claim to be written by Yochanan, nor does it even mention Yochanan or his brother Ya'acov, and since none of those events are described of which Yochanan was an eye-witness, particularly the transfiguration event of which Yochanan was only one of three witnesses and of which he was obligated to proclaim after Yeshua's resurrection, it is easy to call into question Yochanan's authorship. Yochanan as author of the 4th Gospel does not pass the tests of common sense and reasonability. Just because some church fathers said Yochanan wrote the 4th Gospel does not compel us to accept their opinion as accurate - in light of the glaring problems that proposal creates.
Since Yochanan (John) is not the author of the 4th Gospel, then who is? There are some other clues where he describes himself as "the disciple whom Yeshua loved." What do we know about the "disciple whom Yeshua loved"? There are five explicit references to him by this designation in the 4th Gospel.
The "disciple whom Yeshua loved" mysteriously first appears in the narrative of the 4th Gospel in chapter 13. He is at the supper Yeshua had with his disciples just before his betrayal. Yeshua had finished washed his disciples feet and was revealing to them that one of them was going to betray him.
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Yeshua loved, was reclining next to him. Shimon Kepha motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." Leaning back against Yeshua, he asked him, "Master, who is it?" (4th Gospel 13:22-25)
Since the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" was at this dinner, we can begin compiling our list of possibilities. Who was at the dinner? What does the record indicate?
We know that the 12 apostles were at the dinner. Matthew and Mark tell us so (see Matt 26:20, Mk 14:17). But were they the only ones present at the last supper? While the gospel writers don't explicitly tell us who else was there, there is a presumption that the one whose home they were meeting in was there. There must also have been people to cook and serve the meal, though they aren't explicitly mentioned. And there usually were others disciples with Yeshua, including women, wherever he went.
Proof that there must have been other disciples present besides the 12 can be seen in Acts 1. While looking for a replacement for the betrayer Yehudah (Judas), Peter suggests that there were other disciples accompanying Yeshua throughout his ministry days:
Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Master Yeshua went in and out among us, beginning from Yochanan's baptism to the time when Yeshua was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." So they proposed two men: Yoseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. (Acts 1:21-23)
Though these two disciples of Yeshua - Yoseph and Matthias - accompanied Yeshua throughout his ministry days, nowhere do the Gospel writers mention their presence with the Master by name. But they were there.
So it stands to reason that there were others present at the supper besides Yeshua and the twelve and these two disciples who were also with Yeshua throughout his ministry days. Therefore, the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" and who leaned back against Yeshua during the supper could have been one of the twelve, or he could have been some other unmentioned disciple who was present at that meal.
The second explicit reference to the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" is found in the account when the Master was hanging on the tree:
Near the cross of Yeshua stood his mother, his mother's sister, Miryam the wife of Clopas, and Miryam Magdalene. When Yeshua saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (4th Gospel 19:25-27)
We know that the 12, including Kepha, forsook him. And there is no mention in any of the gospel accounts of any of the 12 witnessing first hand Yeshua's trial and hanging. Only these women mentioned and the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" were found present near the tree of his death.
The third explicit reference in the 4th Gospel to the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" is found in the account of the finding of Yeshua's tomb to be empty:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Miryam Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Shimon Kepha and the other disciple, the one Yeshua loved, and said, "They have taken the Master out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" So Kepha and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Kepha and reached the tomb first. (4th Gospel 20:1-4)
Here again, as in chapter 18:15, the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" calls himself "the other disciple." He was with Kepha when they followed Yeshua into the courtyard of the high priest (see above). And He was with Kepha again here. The text says that this time, he outran Kepha - a detail that only a first person observer would likely make a note of.
Then, "the other disciple" stops at the door of the tomb and looks in:
He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Shimon Kepha, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Yeshua's head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (4th Gospel 20:5-8)
The account does not say that Kepha believed when he saw. So what was it that caused "the other disciple" to believe when he saw the burial cloth and strips of linen laying on the ground? More about this later....
The fourth explicit reference to the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" in the 4th Gospel is when Yeshua appeared to his disciples while they were fishing:
It happened this way: Shimon Kepha, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. (4th Gospel 21:1-2)
Here, Yochanan is mentioned by his father's name, and two "other disciples" are noted to have been there. This is, again, the author's signature way of identifying his presence at an event he is telling about.
As they were fishing, Yeshua called out from the shoreline and told them to cast out their nets.
Then the disciple whom Yeshua loved said to Kepha, "It is the Master!" As soon as Shimon Kepha heard him say, "It is the Master," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (4th Gospel 21:7)
While it is possible from the information given in this account that Yochanan could have been the "disciple whom Yeshua loved," because he was named as being there, we have already noted that the author is not in the habit of identifying himself by name when he recounts the events he witnessed. So, it is more plausible that someone else, perhaps one of the "two other disciples" is the author who is recounting these events.
And finally, the fifth explicit reference to the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" comes later on in this same account. When all the disciples had come ashore and as they were cooking the fish, Yeshua has a confrontational conversation with Kepha. He restores him to fellowship and then indicates the type of death Kepha will die for his faith. Then,
Kepha turned and saw that the disciple whom Yeshua loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Yeshua at the supper and had said, "Master, who is going to betray you?") When Kepha saw him, he asked, "Master, what about him?" Yeshua answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." (4th Gospel 21:20-22)
Yeshua did not actually say that this disciple would not die, but that only Kepha should not concern himself with the way the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" would die.
And this is how the account ends. The author identifies himself here as one and the same with "the other disciple" and with the "disciple whom Yeshua loved":
This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (4th Gospel 21:24)
Upon reflection and analysis, the author of the 4th Gospel has a distinct pattern of referring to himself anonymously as either "the other disciple" or "another disciple" or "the disciple whom Yeshua loved." This is his way of putting himself in his rightful place in the story without bringing too much attention to himself. He is not trying to conceal his identity. Indeed, he had already explicitly identified himself. And so he places himself in the account of Yeshua's ministry exactly where he was in the mix.
To find out who the disciple is whom Yeshua loved, we can easily search the Four Gospels and make note of those people of whom it is said that Yeshua loved them. When we do this, surprisingly, we find that there are only two men recorded in the Four Gospels about whom it is emphatically stated that Yeshua loved him. One of those men is identified in Matthew, Mark and Luke as the rich young ruler. And it is only in Mark's Gospel that he is said to be loved by Yeshua. And the other man of whom it is said that Yeshua loved him is found in the Fourth Gospel.
Matthew's Gospel tells us of an encounter Yeshua had with a man who came up to him:
Now a man came up to Yahusha and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Yahusha replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." "Which ones?" the man inquired. Yahusha replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Yahusha answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19:16-22)
This account only identifies this man as being young and rich.
The Gospel of Mark indicates that this man who came to Yeshua was rich and that Yeshua loved him. The record says
As Yeshua started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Yeshua answered. "No one is good-- except Elohim alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Yeshua looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22)
So far, we know that this man was young, rich and that Yeshua loved him.
Luke's account adds another important detail and completes the testimony of Scripture about this man:
A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Yahusha answered. "No one is good-- except Elohim alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.
When Yahusha heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Yahusha looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of Elohim! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Elohim." (Luke 18:18-25)
Luke tells us that this man was a ruler and that he was rich.
Now we don't really know for sure who this rich young ruler was. The record indicates that he testified that he had been keeping the commandments since he was young. He must have been a Jew. The only position of leadership among the Jews was that of the Sanhedrin. So, where it says he was a ruler, this most likely means that he was a member of the Sanhedrin - a Pharisee or a Sadducee.
Most importantly to our study, the record does say that Yeshua loved him. Why? Likely because Yeshua saw in this rich, young member of the Sanhedrin a sincere follower of Yahuwah and a faithful commandment keeper who realized that Yeshua was something special, since he came to him seeking his approval. This young man seems to have been seeking to become a disciple of Yeshua.
Yet, the account says that the man walked away sad, because he was rich. But it doesn't say that this man had rejected the council of Yeshua. Though it is not important to our study going forward, it is possible that this rich young ruler whom Yeshua loved is the same man spoken of in the 4th Gospel as the "disciple whom Yeshua loved." Others think he may have been Sha'ul of Tarsus or someone else. This rich young ruler may have later become a disciple of Yeshua. But we don't know for sure.
The second person about whom it is said that Yeshua loved him is found in the 4th Gospel, chapter 11. This is the only man identified by name in the 4th Gospel as being loved by Yeshua. There, we find that the friend of Yeshua was sick:
Now a man named El‛azar (Lazarus) was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Miryam and her sister Martha. This Miryam, whose brother El‛azar now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Master and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Yeshua, "Master, the one you love is sick." (4th Gospel 11:1-3)
This is the first mention by name in the 4th Gospel of a person whom Yeshua loved. And this is the only male disciple about whom the 4th Gospel records that Yeshua loved.
His name comes from the Greek word La,zaroj, Lazarus, which corresponds to the Hebrew rz"[.l; [pronounced Lazar], apparently the same as rz"['l.a,, (El‛azar or more commonly Eleazar) which means "whom Elohim helps." This El‛azar is the one whom the writer of the 4th Gospel identifies by name as the one whom Yeshua loved! There is no other person mentioned in the 4th Gospel about whom is says that Yeshua loved him.
The writer of the 4th Gospel has clearly identified Lazarus as the one whom Yeshua loved! There is no one else named in the entire 4th Gospel as one whom Yeshua loved. John the apostle is never named in the 4th Gospel, let alone that Yeshua loved him. But Lazarus is called out by name as the one whom Yeshua loved.
If just this once Lazarus was identified as the one whom Yeshua loved, that would be enough evidence to identify the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" as Lazarus. But he doesn't say it just one time. Two verses later it says the same thing again:
When he heard this, Yeshua said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for Elohim's glory so that Elohim's Son may be glorified through it." Yeshua loved Martha and her sister and El‛azar. (4th Gospel 11:4-5)
The author of the 4th Gospel emphasized again that Yeshua loved El‛azar. Here, in addition, he notes that Yeshua also loved Miryam and Martha, his sisters. So, twice now, the 4th Gospel has clearly stated that El‛azar is the one whom Yeshua loved.
The Torah requires two or three witnesses to establish a matter:
A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15)
Here in the 4th Gospel, we have two witnesses that Yeshua loved Lazarus (El‛azar). These two witnesses establish the fact that Yeshua loved Lazarus and they establish that the writer of the 4th Gospel is identifying himself with Lazarus. First, Mary and Martha testified that Yeshua loved Lazarus. Then in verse 5, the author himself testifies that Yeshua loved Lazarus.
After waiting for several more days, Yeshua tells his disciples that they are headed back to Yehudah to the town of Bethany to see their friend El‛azar:
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend El‛azar has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." (4th Gospel 11:11)
It is interesting to note that by calling El‛azar "our friend," the author is indicating that El‛azar was known by Yeshua and his disciples. They were not just acquainted, but they were well known to each other. They had spent some time together. Yeshua had a personal relationship with El‛azar. He was his friend and He loved him.
More to the point, the Greek word employed here translated friend is fi,loj (philos). From the same root as the word file,w (phile-o, to love), philos is usually translated friend, but literally means loved one. Yeshua is actually calling Lazarus "the one whom we love." As if we needed more evidence that Lazarus was the one whom Yeshua loved, Yeshua literally calls Lazarus this. This is now the third witness in the 4th Gospel that it was Lazarus whom the writer of the 4th Gospel refers to as the one whom Yeshua loved.
Following this, Yeshua goes to Bethany and meets with and talks to Miryam and Martha, and is then brought to the tomb of El‛azar, who had already been dead and buried for four days. As Yeshua weeps over the demise of his friend whom he loved, the Yehudim took notice of Yeshua's attachment to El‛azar:
Yeshua wept. Then the Yehudim said, "See how he loved him!" (11:35-36)
This is an amazing statement. Some translations render this, "Behold, how he loved him." There were many Jews at the tomb, many of whom where Pharisees and Sadducees. They were murmuring to one another about Yeshua's great love for El‛azar. To paraphrase, the text is saying, "Stop and take notice how much Yeshua loved El‛azar"!
So, the author of the 4th Gospel notes for the fourth time in this narrative that Yeshua loved this disciple El‛azar! Until this time, there was no mention anywhere in the 4th Gospel of anyone specifically identified as having been loved by Yeshua. But here, we find it written four times that Yeshua loved El‛azar. And this fourth time it is done with great emphasis. It's as if the writer is telling us to stop and take notice of who it is whom Yeshua loved!
So again, the author of the 4th Gospel tells us four different times in chapter 11 that Yeshua loved El‛azar. They are as follows:
These four witnesses testify that Yeshua loved El‛azar. Three times the Greek word file,w is used and the other time the word agapa-o is employed. Both words mean the same thing and refer to Yeshua's love for El‛azar. Thus we can see that these words are used interchangeably by the writer of the 4th Gospel.
If we allow the testimony of the writer of the 4th Gospel to inform us about his own identity, then it should be rather clear and no longer in doubt that the author, who always designates himself as the "disciple whom Yeshua loved," is none other than El‛azar, the friend of Yeshua who makes great efforts to inform us that Yeshua loved none other than El‛azar himself and raised him from the dead.
Following the raising of El‛azar from the dead, some of the Yehudim believed in Yeshua as the promised Messiah. But others among the Sanhedrin were angered and they plotted to take Yeshua to put him to death.
Therefore Yeshua no longer moved about publicly among the Yehudim. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
Then, as the season of the Pesach was nearing, Yeshua and his disciples did return to Yehudah:
Six days before the Pesach, Yeshua arrived at Bethany, where El‛azar lived, whom Yeshua had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Yeshua's honor. Martha served, while El‛azar was among those reclining at the table with him. (12:1-2)
It was at this dinner that Miryam took expensive oil and anointed the Master's feet.
Then the Yehudim discovered that Yeshua was in town at El‛azar's home:
Meanwhile a large crowd of Yehudim found out that Yeshua was there and came, not only because of him but also to see El‛azar, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill El‛azar as well, for on account of him many of the Yehudim were going over to Yeshua and putting their faith in him. (12:9-11)
So, El‛azar had now become another focus of the plot of the Yehudim. Not only did they want to kill Yeshua, they wanted to kill El‛azar also, because his being raised from the dead brought many into believing that Yeshua is the promised Messiah.
The fame of El‛azar on account of his being raised from the dead was becoming widespread:
Now the crowd that was with him when he called El‛azar from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. (12:17-18)
Though El‛azar is not mentioned by name any more in the 4th Gospel, we should be careful not to conclude that he is no longer part of what is going on. Such a conclusion would be foolish. After all, El‛azar had experienced a resurrection from the dead by the power of Yeshua. Anyone in his shoes would likely cling to the Master wherever he went. And this is evidenced by El‛azar's testimony throughout the rest of the 4th Gospel account.
The final mention of El‛azar by name is in 12:17 of the 4th Gospel. El‛azar appears in chapter 11 where he is the subject whom Yeshua raised from the dead and the one who is emphatically named as the "one whom Yeshua loved." His name is placed into the record of the 4th Gospel a total of 13 times in chapters 11 and 12. And then after chapter 12, he seems to disappear. Where did he go? What happened to him?
After El‛azar, who was loved by Yeshua, seems to disappear from the narrative after chapter 12, one who is designated by the title "the disciple whom Yeshua loved" mysteriously appears out of nowhere in chapter 13 and finds himself imbedded into the narrative all the way to the end of the Gospel. Then, the writer's final commentary is to identify himself with this "disciple whom Yeshua loved." Did El‛azar really disappear after chapter 12? Of course not! He is this "disciple whom Yeshua loved."
Those explicit references to the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" are listed in table form:
Note again that agapa-o is used four of the five times, but phile-o is also used, and both have the same meaning. Again we must conclude that in the 4th Gospel, there is no difference in meaning between those two Greek words translated love.
Looking back at the accounts of the appearances of the "disciple whom Yeshua loved," we see several events that take on new meaning and relevance, now that we have identified this disciple as El‛azar (Lazarus).
First, the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" was at the last supper.
One of them, the disciple whom Yahusha loved, was reclining next to him. Shimon Kepha motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." Leaning back against Yahusha, he asked him, "Master, who is it?" (4th Gospel 13:23-25)
This is the only reference of this disciple at the dinner. Yet, it should not surprise us that Lazarus is at the last supper, because a very short time earlier he was at another dinner with Yeshua:
Six days before the Pesach, Yahusha arrived at Bethany, where El'azar lived, whom Yahusha had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Yahusha's honor. Martha served, while El'azar was among those reclining at the table with him. (4th Gospel 12:1-2)
Now it doesn't say that this dinner took place at Lazarus' home. But it well may have. The significant point to make note of is that Lazarus places himself at this dinner with Yeshua, and then later places himself at the Last Supper with Yeshua (actually only a few days later). It seems like this is El‛azar's way of indicating that he accompanied Yeshua everywhere after his own resurrection. And making note of this indicates that Lazarus wants us to know that he was there.
Also, we note that the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" was leaning on Yeshua's breast at the last supper. It never made much sense to me that John, who was nicknamed one of the "sons of thunder" - a man's man in his own right - would have been leaning against Yeshua at that dinner with all those present, demonstrating such personal affection for the Master. While not completely out of the question, this behavior does not much fit what we do know for sure about Yochanan (John).
However, Lazarus had a very different experience. Once dead, Yeshua raised him to life, giving him a second chance. I can't imagine that anyone in his position would not want to cling to the Master and love him deeply. Thus, it makes perfect sense that Lazarus would be not only next to Yeshua, but leaning on him with a great show of affection, love and attachment.
The second narrative that changes when we understand the true identity of the writer of the 4th Gospel is the account of the arrest of Yeshua. Shimon Kepha and another disciple were following Yeshua. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Yeshua into the high priest's courtyard, but Kepha had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Kepha in. (4th Gospel 18:15-16).
Now why was that "other disciple" known to the high priest? Peter wasn't even known by the High Priest even though Kepha was the prominent one of the apostles. But El‛azar was a wealthy and prominent member of the community as witnessed by the fact that there were so many Jews, including members of the Sanhedrin, at his lengthy funeral. Thus, the High Priest would have known him because of his prominent position. Furthermore, on account of his being raised from the tomb after being dead for four days, El‛azar was a target of the Yehudim (by orders of the High Priest?) for death. Thus, El‛azar fits the profile of one who definitely was known by the High Priest.
So, if Lazarus was known by the high priest because of his resurrection, and since the high priest sent out orders to arrest Lazarus too, why would he risk going in to the courtyard of the high priest? Simple. Yeshua had been arrested and was in the custody of the Jewish authorities. Then no longer needed to capture Lazarus. They could quell the interest in Yeshua by putting Yeshua to death. They didn't need Lazarus anymore.
A third passage which takes on new meaning is that of Yeshua on the cross and his mother and that other disciple, the one whom Yeshua loved, looking on.
Near the cross of Yahusha stood his mother, his mother's sister, Miryam the wife of Clopas, and Miryam of Magdala. When Yahusha saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (4th Gospel 19:25-27)
Once again, it makes no sense whatsoever that John would have taken Yeshua's mother into his own home. Yochanan was a sent one, an apostle. His ministry would be in taking the Gospel to the world, not in staying home to take care of old people. So why would Yeshua give his mother to John when Yeshua had already appointed him an apostle?
But Lazarus' ministry was a "home ministry." He was never appointed to be an apostle - a sent one. As a probable member of the Sanhedrin and a wealthy home owner, his place would be ideal for Miriam the mother of Yeshua to abide. His sisters were believers, friends and followers of Yeshua, so Miriam would fit right in.
The fourth account that changes in meaning is when Peter and that other disciple raced to the tomb to see for themselves whether the body of Yeshua was gone, as Mary had reported to them. It reports that the "other disciple" outran Kepha. It says that he reached the empty tomb first, looked into the tomb and waited outside. Then Peter went in and saw the empty tomb. Finally, the "other disciple" went in and the narrative tells us that when he looked that he "saw and believed" when he gazed into the empty tomb and saw the grave clothes laying on the ground folded up.
The testimony of Mark's gospel excluded the apostle John as being identified as this one who "saw and believed." Yeshua later scolded all eleven disciples for not believing:
Later Yeshua appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen (Mark 16:14).
John, along with the other called out apostles of the Master, didn't believe the women. The Master Himself upbraided John and all of the Eleven because of their unbelief of his resurrection. So, the "other disciple" who did believe must be someone who was not of the Eleven.
Why it is that the other disciple El‛azar "saw and believed"? This El‛azar had a similar experience of resurrection that predisposed him to believe in Messiah's resurrection. The experience of having been bound in those same type of grave clothes after his death, and then at his resurrection, to have had those grave clothes and linen removed from him, would have made an indelible memory in the mind of El‛azar who woke up with those same type of grave clothes bound around him. When he saw the Master's grave clothes laying in the tomb without the body of Yeshua in them, he was reminded of the power of resurrection that Yeshua wielded on him, and he believed that Yeshua himself had been raised from the dead, just as he had said. Thus, "he saw and believed."
And the fifth episode that takes on new meaning now that we know El‛azar is the author of the 4th Gospel is that of the post resurrection statement about him.
Kepha turned and saw that the disciple whom Yeshua loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Yeshua at the supper and had said, "Master, who is going to betray you?") When Kepha saw him, he asked, "Master, what about him?" Yeshua answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Yeshua did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (4th Gospel 21:20-24)
Why did the other disciples think that this disciple whom Yeshua loved would not die? Certainly because the Master seemed to say as much. But why did they all jump to that conclusion?
All of the disciples were aware that this disciple El‛azar, whom Yeshua loved, had already died and was raised to life. This would lend legitimacy to the idea that he would not die again. So, this is what the other disciples thought the Master was indicating - that he would not have to die again. Yet, as the author points out, this is not what Yeshua said. But the disciples certainly thought that he would not die again!
Isn't it patently obvious that the author of the 4th Gospel - the "disciple whom Yeshua loved" - is his friend El‛azar, who is emphatically described as being loved by the Master and the one who was raised from the dead? As it turns out, El‛azar was a part of the story from chapter 11 all the way to the end of his account of the life and ministry of Yeshua.
Many have probably wondered why the writer of the 4th Gospel was so careful to mask his identity. The reality, however, is that the author clearly revealed his identity. He placed himself into the story of the life and ministry of Yeshua by dramatically telling what Yeshua had done for him. By explaining quite emphatically that El‛azar was the one whom Yeshua loved, and then thereafter referring to himself by this designation of the "disciple whom Yeshua loved," the author was forthcoming about his name and identity.
What is probably more puzzling is that for all the millions of people who have read and studied this Gospel record, the author's clear revelation of himself went unnoticed. Even the early church fathers missed the obvious references the author made of himself. And their proclamation and propagation of the false information of insisting that the apostle Yochanan (John) was the writer has led to a blinding of many eyes over the centuries.
The remarkable power of persuasion that tradition holds over people cannot be overstated. Once a tradition is established, such as the one that identifies Yochanan as the author of the 4th Gospel, these traditions become entrenched in the psyche and thinking of people for many generations. Rarely does anyone come along who is willing to challenge the existing norms which tradition establishes.
Concerning El‛azar's relative anonymity, we may reasonably assume that his humility is likely a major factor for not explicitly using his name in his signature at the end of the book. He didn't need to place his name at the end. He had already made it perfectly clear who he is. J. Phillips suggests that another motive for the relative concealment of his identity is that he did not want to outshine the Master in fame. As we noted earlier, many people came to see El‛azar after Yeshua had raised him from the dead, and he was the reason many came to faith in Yeshua. So El‛azar revealed his identity as the writer without emphasizing himself in the narrative - to leave place for the glory and honor to be placed in the Master Yeshua.
Another reason for the author's relative anonymity is that this is only apparent. The reality is that he never intended to hide his identity. Those of that generation who knew El‛azar certainly knew him as the "one whom Yeshua loved." Thus, they understood his role and place in the 4th Gospel's account of the life of the Master. But later generations who didn't personally know him must not have known that this was his name for himself - "the one whom Yeshua loved" and a designation that those who knew him were familiar with. In my opinion, it was never El‛azar's intention to hide his identity. He quite plainly revealed himself as the one whom Yeshua loved and raised from the dead.
I must acknowledge where I came into this understanding of the real author of the 4th Gospel. This analysis of the authorship of the 4th Gospel was not due to my own scouring of the text. Hats off to J. Phillips for his carefully thought out insights into the true understanding of its authorship. His book, entitled, The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved, can be read in its entirety at his website, www.TheDiscipleWhomJesusLoved.com.
The 4th Gospel was written by a man who describes himself as the "disciple whom Yeshua loved." The early church fathers began a tradition that attributes the writing of the 4th Gospel to the apostle Yochanan. But the internal evidence of the writing indicates that the author identifies himself by placing himself into the narrative of the life and ministry of Yeshua Messiah.
The disciple named El‛azar (Lazarus) became the subject of the story in chapter 11. The raising of said El‛azar, who is emphatically described to be "loved by Yeshua" made El‛azar very famous because it was on account of his rising from the dead that many came to believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah. El‛azar did not disappear from the scene after his being raised, but he remained with Yeshua and was an eye-witness of the last days of Yeshua leading up to his death.
The writer of the 4th Gospel did not intend for his identity to be a mystery. He quite clearly revealed his identity by indicating that he was loved by Yeshua and thereafter referring to himself as the "disciple whom Yeshua loved."