Was John son of Zebedee Known to the High Priest?

John 18 relates that the “other disciple” who was “known to the high priest” was given access by a maid girl to the palace of the high priest. It is commonly thought that this disciple was John the son of Zebedee, but this seems inconsistent with the account of that John being brought, together with Peter, before the high priest and his relatives.

The account in Acts concerning Peter and John, son of Zebedee, reads as follows:

“And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. … Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

Acts 4: 5-6, 13 (NKJV).

This perceiving of the educational background of the two apostles happened on the occasion. It was as they witnessed the courage of Peter and John that they perceived that they were uneducated.

Had John been well known to the high priest, then the high priest could not have perceived this on that occasion as it would have been known already. Perhaps this refers only to the rulers and elders, and those with the high priest, rather than to the high priest himself, but it is difficult to imagine that someone who was close to the high priest wouldn’t have also been known to those with whom the high priest conducted daily business.

At the very least, if John son of Zebedee were “well known” (for this is what the Greek in Jn 18 means) to the high priest, then he would have been known to the high priest’s family as well. Yet apparently none of them knew him.

Yet the Beloved Disciple was well-enough known to the high priest to have been recognized by a palace attendant and to have been granted access to the palace grounds, no questions asked.

The profile of the Beloved Disciple seems unlikely, therefore, to match what is said of John son of Zebedee in the Acts narrative.

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