The Beloved Disciple

27 Dec

Over 20 years ago I attended St. John (the Evangelist) Seminary in Southern California. On the parking circle there was a huge statue of St. John holding a pen in his hand. And that makes sense, since John wrote five of the 27 books of the New Testament: his Gospel, three letters, and the Book of Revelation. But the seminarians jokingly suggested that St. John was actually holding a dart that was aimed at the office of the rector of the seminary.

So much for private interpretation!

The Church has always identified the Apostle John as the author of the fourth Gospel and as the “beloved disciple” described in that Gospel. This common belief is richly reflected in the Church’s liturgy.

That’s why the universal Church celebrates today the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. The readings, prayers, and antiphons unmistakably reflect the belief of the Church concerning these issues. For example, one of the antiphons for morning prayer on this feast day provides: “John, the apostle and evangelist, a virgin chosen by the Lord, was loved by the Lord above the others.”

There are sound biblical and historical arguments as well for the identification of St. John as the author of the fourth Gospel and the “beloved disciple.” CUF’s Faith Fact on this subject, written by my colleague, friend, and skilled apologist Tom Nash of EWTN, sets forth these arguments very effectively.

Similar support is found in the Ignatius Study Bible by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, published by Ignatius Press. In the volume on the Gospel of John, p. 13, the commentary says that “the combined weight of textual and traditional evidence suggests that this [beloved] disciple is the Apostle John, one of the sons of Zebedee.” Hahn and Mitch then provide six soundly reasoned considerations that support this conclusion.

All this might be very useful to any of our readers who might hear someone dispute or flat out contradict this tradition.

Beyond the larger issue of the reliability of Scripture and the Church’s tradition, this matters to me on a personal level: My son Samuel John’s middle name was chosen because my desire for him is that he become a beloved disciple like St. John. My prayer for him has always been that like St. John he will welcome our Blessed Mother into his heart and into his home (John 19:26-27).

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