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Musings -- A Continuing Series of Comments on Specific Translation Issues within the International Standard Version New Testament

by Dr. David Alan Black

"So great is the force of established usage that even acknowledged corruptions please the greater part, for they prefer to have their copies pretty rather than accurate."


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Dr. David Alan Black
Associate Editor

The Disciple Whom Jesus Kept on Loving (and Loving and Loving...)

It is only the apostle John who calls himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:20). Actually, John uses a tense that emphasizes a process— something like "the disciple whom Jesus kept on loving." The implication is almost, "he kept on loving me despite myself."

And little wonder.

Do not think of John as some kind of soft, sentimental, wishy-washy weakling. He was a "son of thunder" (Hebrew for a person with a boisterous personality). He wanted to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans. He sought the place of prominence at the right (or, if need be, at the left) hand of Jesus in the kingdom.

John the weakling? Hardly.

And now, writing many years later at the end of his long life (John outlived all the other apostles), he has one chance to describe himself to his audience. He could have done this in several different ways, each with its own emphasis. I might introduce myself, depending on the occasion, as Becky’s husband, Nathan’s dad, a surfer from Hawaii, a Greek teacher, a Baptist preacher, and so forth.

And John? Did he write "apostle of Jesus Christ," or "first bishop of the church at Ephesus," or "author of the Book of Revelation"? He could have, but he wrote none of these. Thinking back to his impetuous relationship with the Lord, to his unworthiness even to be called a follower of Christ, he simply wrote, "the disciple whom Jesus kept on loving."

The description implies, not arrogance (as if he meant "the disciple whom Jesus loved more than the others"), but a profound sense of divine grace.

Is that not your identity and mine—we who know the Lord Jesus as our Savior and Lord and who also know our own weaknesses and shortcomings? We are but disciples whom Jesus keeps on loving, and loving, and loving.

Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know,
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so!

O this full and perfect peace!
O this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am his and he is mine.

G. W. Robinson (1838-77)

Introduction Poetry Lettuce? Press on? Good Giving Good Citizens Can Faith Save? On Poets & Liars An Ode to Love The Disciple Teachable? Sloppy Agape Mustering Mystery Alliteration Whom Sweet Whom Conclusion

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