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Yeshua in Context » Disciples & Named Characters, Discipleship - Formation, Eyewitnesses, Preachable Points » The Beloved Disciple in Relation to Peter

The Beloved Disciple in Relation to Peter

*Note: At the bottom you will find a printable PDF, a Sermon Series Starter page from this blog post.

In the Gospel of John, how do Peter and the Beloved Disciple compare and contrast? There is a definite theme running through the fourth gospel about this. In some verses it becomes rather obvious. For example, at the Last Supper table, you have to notice that Peter is not as close to Yeshua and has to whisper to the Beloved Disciple to get information about what Yeshua is saying.

What is the relationship between these two disciples? What does their relationship say about discipleship and the different personalities of disciples? Do they represent two contrasting, though both legitimate, ways of being a disciple?

You’ll find the Beloved Disciple in the following places: John 1:35-40; 13:23-26; 19:25-27; 19:35; 20:2-10; 21:2; 21:7; 21:20-24; and possibly 18:15-16.

You find out some things about Peter in the fourth gospel:
(1) He was a second-round disciple (see 1:35-42).
(2) He was not as close to Yeshua as the Beloved Disciple (13:23-26).
(3) He was slower at both running and understanding (20:1-10).
(4) He was more active, impulsive (21:7).
(5) He was not there in the dark time, but hiding (19:26-27, 35).

Meanwhile, the Beloved Disciple:
(1) Sought Yeshua out from the beginning (1:35-42).
(2) Was the closest to him (13:23-26).
(3) Ran faster and came to believe more quickly (20:1-10).
(4) Notices, observes, waits (21:7).
(5) Faces the dark times (19:26-27, 35).

Peter: speaks out, volunteers, claims loyalty, assumes leadership, one of the Twelve.

The Beloved Disciple: intimate with Yeshua, present in the dark times, scenes including him have more detail, he seems to take in more of the significance of the events rather than speaking or acting.

As Richard Bauckham says in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, the Beloved Disciple is the perceptive witness while Peter is the active disciple. It’s more than a little like the contrast between Martha and Mary.

And ultimately, both kinds of discipleship are affirmed. Peter may seem less favored, but in the end it is Peter who is given great leadership.

And, if Bauckham is right, the Beloved Disciple is the author of the Gospel of John. Furthermore, it is possible to identify the Beloved Disciple. Who is he? As I hinted before: not John the son of Zebedee (of the Twelve) and not Lazarus.

Meanwhile, we might think to ourselves about the balance we should find that fits our own personalities as disciples. How much of Peter (active disciple) do we possess and how much of the Beloved Disciple (perceptive witness)? Should we increase in one area or the other? How can we be of value to others as with our particular blend of the two styles of discipleship?

SERMON SERIES STARTER (a printable PDF file, 1 page): Peter & the Beloved Disciple

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Filed under: Disciples & Named Characters, Discipleship - Formation, Eyewitnesses, Preachable Points

2 Responses to "The Beloved Disciple in Relation to Peter"

  1. Randy Olds says:

    Good points on the contrast between Peter and the beloved disciple. I particularly like your comparison with Mary and Martha.

    As to the identity of the beloved disciple, I’ll wait for you to reveal since I have the inside scoop (I’m currently reading Bauckman’s “The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple). I will be interested on your take on Bauckman’s views.

    1. yeshuain says:


      Thanks and — from one insider to another — I agree with Bauckham and find his work compelling.

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