I was reading a book by Andreas Köstenberger and he points out that in the Fourth Gospel, the beloved disciple is depicted at least several times as having greater access to knowledge as compared specifically to Peter.

In John 13:24, Peter asks the beloved disciple to ask Jesus who he means. In 18:15-16, the other disciple provides Peter access to the high priest's courtyard. In 20:4, he outruns Peter and reaches the tomb first and in verse 8 while both went into the tomb, it is the other disciple who "believes". In 21:7, the beloved disciple identifies "the Lord" on the beach to Peter. Finally, in 21:18-21 the beloved disciple as the narrator is clearly privvy to Peter's future; but when Peter asks about the beloved disciple, Jesus turns away his question - "What is that to you?"

Hopefully this is not too speculative, but my question is why does the gospel writer show us these things?

  • 1
    "my question is why does the gospel writer show us these things?" Of course, he was inspired by God to do so is the principle reason. Still, these and other facts he recorded about himself help to prove he was not John, so the case against simply trusting man's tradition is good reason to carefully consider them.
    – user419
    Feb 10, 2012 at 14:49
  • Is there evidence that the other disciple is the beloved disciple?
    – Belinda
    Jul 10, 2016 at 16:46

5 Answers 5


There's significant discussion regarding the ending of John and how disjointed it seems (specifically, chapter 20). This has led some to hypothesize that John's gospel has been edited a few times. These could be insertions from the Johannine community revising an original document.

Take it for what it's worth. I've also heard that could be a form of self-reference that is not necessarily self-aggrandizing. We tend to read something like "the disciple whom Jesus loved more than any others" but that may be an anachronistic reading of our own culture into the text. After all, didn't Jesus love all of his disciples?

edit: Per John's request, here is a source that I could recall.

Craig L. Blomberg. Jesus and the Gospels 2nd Ed. (B&H: Nashville, 2009), 198.

There's a diagram that demonstrates a possible (thought not necessarily does the author indicate that it is firmly-established) path for production of the text which we currently have as The Gospel of John.

Hope that this helps.

2nd edit (to answer the question): Sorry, I got so into the whole redaction thing that I failed to show how it could be a potential answer.

If it is the result of a series of redactions by a Johannine community, it could be their way of referring to John and does not actually represent the way he would self-identify in written fashion and they are the ones choosing to show us these things.

Having said that, even if this is the case, I believe in the infallibility of Scripture and that whether this was the work of several revisions, or of one person, the Holy Spirit intended for us to hear it. John may have been somewhat wealthy and notable (given the access that he has to the priest's courtyard) and, while Peter could be seen as the leader (CEO ?), John could have been the spiritually stabilizing force within the group. The person to whom even Peter looked for deeper knowledge, understanding, and spiritual support (if such things are not anachronistic).


John appears to have been written later than the synoptic gospels. John may have written it specifically to bring to light other events that had not been documented by the other three. If that was his goal, the events to which John was a unique witness would naturally be high on that list.

  • Hi Remiel, there was a suggested edit from an anonymous user: was that you? Either way, it would be great if you could edit your thoughts into a more complete answer :) Jan 15, 2013 at 17:56
  • I don't recall suggesting an edit... Jan 15, 2013 at 20:17

Perhaps whoever composed the Gospel of John was pointing out that one can always grow further in one's relationship with the Lord. It could be that Peter, having been given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, was considered a model for the church. John could be saying that although Peter is certainly one whom we should follow, one can go beyond Peter's example to be like the beloved disciple.


The order of the gospels were written has been traditionally accepted as Mark, Matthew, Luke, John.

As time passed, they had the opportunity to examine the scriptures more closely as Jesus had taught them, and as the Bereans did, to see that Jesus fulfilled the hidden prophecies therein.

Each book in the order they were written demonstrates a deeper understanding of the hidden things exemplified in the treatment of John the Baptist. John as the last author, was able to link the circumstances of the life of Christ to the most hidden prophecies. The book of Revelation is a masterpiece of riddle based on the metaphoric prophecies of the Old Testament.

So the details 'revealed' in John are not necessarily because he knew the details at the time he observed them (some details possibly even collected afterward as the apostles shared their memories, such as the future of Peter) but he was able to tie the details to OT prophesies because of the greater amount of time he had to study the scriptures and reflect upon the detail. He records them because they have meaning when tied to the OT.

If we read the gospels as sermon notes (just the reminders of what Jesus did) and presume the audience knew the OT, we can tie the details to OT prophecies. Peter was a type of Christ being that he was a rock and Jesus was the rock.

The rock that was split in the OT is a picture of the cross as God is divided Father from Son. Peter as a type of Christ must also be 'split' from Jesus as he denied him three times. Why three times? because the rock was split three times. So John believed while Peter had not yet been reconciled with Jesus. The detail tells us more about Peter than the beloved disciple. This information is necessary to properly understand Peter's reconciliation on the beach.

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    Traditionally, the order is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Many modern academics put order them as Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.
    – Frank Luke
    Jan 15, 2013 at 19:18

Christopher W. Skinner ('Who Was the Beloved Disciple') says the beloved disciple stands in contrast to Simon Peter, who is characterised less positively. In each instance the beloved disciple responds to Jesus in a way that the narrator considers praiseworthy, while Peter expresses confusion, doubt, and misunderstanding before he denies that he knows Jesus.

In a sense, the beloved disciple gets everything right: twice he is found in a location that indicates his loyalty to Jesus (John 18:15-18, John 19:26-27); he responds appropriately by believing at the empty tomb, even when he does not understand (John 20:3-8); he also recognises the risen Jesus from afar while the other disciples do not (John 21:7). In what is probably the most important comment about the beloved disciple, the narrator depicts him as “leaning back on the chest of Jesus”. Each of these depictions reinforces the idea that the beloved disciple should be seen as an ideal follower of Jesus — one with whom any faithful reader can and should identify.

Arthur J. Droge ('The Status of Peter in the Fourth Gospel: A Note on John 18:10-11', republished on JSTOR) says a number of commentators have observed that the Fourth Gospel exhibits a marked tendency to exalt the Beloved Disciple at the expense of Peter, with frequent episodes in which the Beloved Disciple and Peter appear as rivals. Droge points out (page 308) that Simon's new name, Peter, is not symbolic of his potential for leadership, as in Matthew (16:18-19) but that Peter is a 'rock' because of his obtuseness and persistent inability to understand Jesus. Droge concludes (page 311) by saying that the considering the way Peter is characterised in the Fourth Gospel, it becomes apparent that he is a man who has come dangerously close to being placed beyond the Johannine pale.

Elaine Pagels (Beyond Belief) sees John's Gospel as seeking to downplay the role of Peter in theChristian movement. Perhaps by the time John was written, Peter was becoming the subject of excessive veneration.

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