When John wrote the other disciple whom Jesus loved (John 20:2), does this single him out from the other disciples?

… to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved,… (John 20:2, ESV)

πρὸς Σίμωνα Πέτρον καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄλλον μαθητὴν ὃν ἐφίλει ὁ Ἰησοῦς (John 20:2, NA27)

The use of the other (τὸν ἄλλον, other of the same kind) seems to point toward saying Jesus loved the other disciples the same as John, and John was only stating this to avoid using his name. I'm not suggesting that one can argue this case based on this grammar, but am wondering if there is other evidence. Is there any way we can differentiate between this being the case versus Jesus having any special love for John?

Because John referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved to avoid using his name and drawing attention to himself, it makes more sense that John used the expression to point to who Jesus was rather than a unique relationship with Christ. However, is there evidence from such sources as the church fathers answering one way or the other.

  • I don't see how you make a case for it. 'Other' means 'other than Peter'. 'Loved' refers to 'the one'. John knows of the love, for it is love expressed to himself, privately. John is 'the one'. – Nigel J Mar 14 '19 at 0:26
  • Clarified question with edit. – Perry Webb Mar 14 '19 at 9:14

Note that the word used for "loved" in John 20:2 is φιλέω (phileó) and NOT ἀγαπάω (agapaó). Note the following uses:

  • φιλέω (phileó) is of Jesus' affection for a disciple in John 11:3 ("the one whom you love", ie, Lazarus), John 20:2 (John) and John 21:15-17 (Peter)
  • However, ἀγαπάω (agapaó) is also used in the phrase "the disciple whom Jesus loved" in John 19:26 (John), John 21:7 (John), John 21:20 (John); but also in a slightly different way of Peter (John 21:15).

The expression "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (either phileo or agapao) is only ever a reference to the disciple John. Just why he earned this self designation has been the subject of much discussion and debate. The usual conclusion is John's modesty and reticence to use his own name. I could find no discussion of this amongst the ante Nicaean fathers. (Perhaps someone else can??)

However, my personal view is more about the relationship more generally. More than any other evangelist, John plumbed the depths of the concept of love in his explanation of the life of Jesus. John discusses and uses this word more than anyone else in the NT. Therefore, I believe, John's designation of "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was the man who understood ἀγαπάω (agapaó) and wrote about it more than anyone else.

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