Above: John, in a detail from “Crucifixion” by Christopher Olwage.
Today is the feast day of John the Evangelist, commonly considered to be Jesus’ “Beloved Disciple.”
Over at the indispensable Q Spirit, Kittredge Cherry commemorates John with an insightful post that explores in both word and image the close bond he shared with Jesus – a bond which, as Kitt notes, “has been celebrated by artists since medieval times.” Furthermore, writes Kitt, “the idea that [Jesus and John] were homosexual lovers has been inspiring queer people and causing controversy at least since the 16th century.”
Following, with added links, is an excerpt from Kitt's informative article, “John the Evangelist: Beloved Disciple of Jesus – and Maybe His Lover.”
The idea that Jesus and his Beloved Disciple had a sexual relationship dates back at least to the early 16th century, when English playwright Christopher Marlowe was tried for blasphemy on the charge of claiming that “St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom, that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma.”
In 1550 Francesco Calcagno, a citizen of Venice, was investigated by the Inquisition for making the heretical claim that “St. John was Christ’s catamite,” which means a boy or young man in a pederastic sexual relationship with an older man.
Many modern scholars have expressed belief that Jesus and his Beloved Disciple shared a an erotic physical relationship. They include Hugh Montefiore, Robert Williams, Sjef van Tilborg, John McNeill, Rollan McCleary, Robert E. Goss and James Neill.
A thorough analysis is included in The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament by Theodore Jennings, Biblical theology professor at Chicago Theological Seminary. He finds the evidence “inconclusive” as to whether the beloved disciple was John, but it leaves no doubt that Jesus had a male lover.
“A close reading of the texts in which the beloved disciple appears supports the hypothesis that the relationship between him and Jesus may be understood as that of lovers," Jennings writes. "As it happens, both Jesus and the beloved are male, meaning that their relationship may be said to be, in modern terms, a ‘homosexual’ relationship” (p. 34).
An entire chapter is dedicated to John as the bride of Christ in the 2013 book Saintly Brides and Bridegrooms: The Mystic Marriage in Renaissance Art by Carolyn D. Muir, art professor at the University of Hong Kong.
After Jesus died, John went on to build a close, loving relationship with his younger disciple and scribe, Prochorus, bishop of Nicomedia. Tradition says that John was the only one of Christ’s original twelve apostles to live to old age, and the only one not killed for his faith. He died in Ephesus around 100 AD.
To read Kittredge Cherry's article “John the Evangelist: Beloved Disciple of Jesus – and Maybe His Lover” in its entirety, click here.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Remembering the Beloved Disciple: "We Love His Love for the Lovely One"
• Terence Weldon on the "Disciple Jesus Loved" as a Role Model for LGBT Christians
• Edward Sellner on the Archetype of the Double and Male Eros, Friendships and Mentoring
• The Sexuality of Jesus
• Why Jesus is My Man
• Jesus Was a Sissy
• Jesus and the Centurion (Part 1)
• Jesus and the Centurion (Part 2)
• Jesus and Homosexuality
Related Off-site Links:
Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love: An Interview with Author Will Roscoe – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, June 5, 2013).
Was Jesus Gay? Probably – Paul Oestreicher (The Guardian, April 20, 2012).
Saint John: The Man Jesus Loved? – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, December 27, 2010).