18 July 2012

Review: The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved by J Phillips

I usually steer clear of books that debate or discuss theology, and I can't really remember why I selected The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved (although I have a hunch that the selection of review books on offer was not inspiring, and this may have been the best available). This book basically argues that the fourth gospel was actually written by Lazarus, not John, and that Lazarus was therefore the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’.

I am sceptical of any author who claims to bring a new interpretation of the Bible. After all, there is a long tradition of this–Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy spring to mind–and these new interpretations generally contradict mainstream Christian theology. If John really didn’t write the fourth gospel, why has this ‘error’ persisted?

If I had read to the end of the book, I might be able to answer these questions. But I didn’t, partly because I felt there were gaps in the author’s logic. As an example, one of the author’s early pieces of ‘evidence’ is that when John is referred to by Jesus in the other three gospels, it is as one of the ‘sons of thunder’, which contradicts the idea that John didn’t name himself as the author of the gospel because he was too humble. The fourth gospel was not (obviously) written during Jesus' lifetime, and one of the central beliefs of Christianity is the power of God to change hearts and minds, as He did with Saul/Paul. Is it too much to believe that John, son of thunder, could have learned humility later in life? Equally, it is possible that John was always a humble man and that the ‘son of thunder’ refers to his father, Zebedee, as being like thunder.

However, the main reason I couldn’t finish the book was that in reading it, I felt what can only be described as a check in my spirit, the feeling I get when something is wrong.

So, I stopped reading, and went to look at the other reviews on Amazon. There were a lot of five-star reviews, including one by the author (which is a big no-no on Amazon), and the author was refuting some of the one-star reviews (which, in my opinion, is another no-no). Many of the five-star reviews have an unusually large number of ‘helpful’ votes, the reviewers have no other reviews (which is often the sign of a fake review), and several of these reviewers referred to themselves as ‘Bereans’, making me wonder who the Bereans are.

Out of curiosity, I Googled the term. Apparently, there are two separate Berean denominations. One, the Berean Fellowship, appears to be a Baptist denomination.

But this is not the one that the author is aligned with. Instead, it appears that he is a Berean Christadelphian. Christadelphians seem to place the teaching of two early leaders ahead of the teachings of the Bible and may reject the doctrine of the Trinity. although this is not universally believed. Phillips appears to be a Berean Christadephian, placing the Bible above the teachings of the early leaders, but I am not convinced that this author represents mainstream Christian thinking, so would not recommend this book.

Thanks to BookCrash for providing a free ebook for review.


  1. I wonder what literary or religious credentials you might have earned in order to have written so many reviews? I have a Masters degree, am an English teacher and have degrees in both English Lit and Philosophy;I'd like to share a few thoughts with you. A literary review should not reveal the plot. If you enjoy restating your version of the action, as you repeatedly do, perhaps you should attempt to write a book yourself. Based on the number of reviews you've pumped out, you certainly enjoy hearing your own words. Consider Pope's admonition: "Let him censor who has written well."
    As to the danger in contradicting "mainstream" Christianity by bringing new interpretations of the Bible, here's a thought. Every Christian minister in every church in the world brings his own interpretation to the allegorical stories in the Bible. The "word" has been constantly re-interpreted for 2000 years. That's why there are so many different sects - all reading the same words, all believing something a little different. There is no "traditional" view - except perhaps in your head. And that a personal interpretation. Lastly, it's highly unprofessional and insulting to write a review of a book you haven't finished. Say it stinks if you feel that way, but have the courtesy to finish it or you can't really claim to have reviewed it. Call it a quick response but don't call your opinionated rant a review.

  2. What an incredibly rude and arrogant comment — must be from the author.

  3. I know the author personally and he is most certainly NOT a Berean Christadelphian.

  4. Well I am with you on this one brother, my spirit was disturbed and I also could not finish reading the book. The text seemed to be on a pointless merry go round and no where could I see where or how this book drew one closer to the Lord or glorified Him in any way.
    Time is short and we just need to be reading His word and living by it. Thanks for your comments.

  5. Hello. My name is Mary, and I just finished reading "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved". I honestly think this book is a very good one. I am a Believer in the Word Of God defining the Word of God. Too often, man takes liberty in defining what things mean by his own interpretations or standards, and if you truly believe that God's Word is the standard, then this book/author actually encourages you to dig in and read/search/study for yourself. J. Phillips, the author, does repeat himself a lot, and that may bother some, but it didn't bother me. I would encourage you to read the Bible and find the proof of whether the author of the fourth gospel IS or IS NOT John. That's the best place to start. Then, if you feel led, read J.Phillips' book. You can read it for free online: http://www.thedisciplewhomjesusloved.com