The Female Beloved Disciple

Two Unnamed Disciples Named – and the Beloved One is a Woman!

A Look at John 21:2 and 24 in Greek and Aramaic


By James David Audlin.  The following text comprises material from: The Works of John Restored and Translated, published by Editores Volcán Barú. Copyright © 2014 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.


The two unnamed disciples in John 21:2 might be Andrew and Levi son of Hilphai; the only extant fragment we have of the Gospel of Peter breaks off with a reference to this fishing episode, and it mentions Peter, Andrew, and Levi as taking part. One of them could also be Philip, who like Andrew is mentioned in the gospel proper. But arguing against this view is the fact that Andrew at least and probably Philip too were associated with John the Presbyter (The Gospel of John, page 234), as surely were others as well who would have remembered who the unnamed two were, whom he could have asked to fill in any gaps in memory (his or Mary’s) on this point.

To arrive at the best understanding of these two unnamed disciples it is essential to recall the point that this letter was written to set the record straight as to what happened on that fateful morning; thus it would hardly begin by conceding faulty memory! And so I think the two disciples are identified, but rather than here they are identified in the last verse, which is an example of the Presbyter’s inclusio technique, since it also speaks of two disciples: one who “bears witness” as to what happened that day and one who has written it down. In fact, verse 24 is deliberately meant to identify the two disciples in verse 2: it begins ουτοςεστιν, “this is”, with the “this” clearly referring back to those two mentioned at the beginning. The first is of course the Beloved Disciple, who is being counted among the seven disciples present in this scene: she being on shore with Jesus, and the other six in the boat. The other can only be John himself, the Presbyter-to-be, having left the Temple priesthood to join this little band of Jesus followers. That the other, John, “knows that her (Mary’s) testimony is true” tells us that he was there with the disciples that morning, whether or not he was privy to the private conversation. The use of inclusio in the Gospel of John is so prominent that its appearance here also serves to confirm the authorship of the Presbyter.

In verse 21:24 we find both individuals responsible for this letter have in effect “signed their names” to it: The first phrase, “This is the disciple who bears witness concerning all this”, is the signature of Mary, the Beloved Disciple, the primary eyewitness. The second phrase, “…and (this is) the one who has written these things”, refers to John the Presbyter, the amanuensis and secondary eyewitness. Therefore, these phrases give us a picture of the working relationship between the two, as discussed in the Introduction. The third phrase refers to the two of them together: “…and we (both) know that her (Mary’s) testimony is true.” The gospel would later be given seven certifications of verity similar to this one; this is the first, and in it both Mary and John here certify their certainty that Mary’s testimony is true. The gospel makes references, such as at 8:13, to the requirement in the laws of the Torah (e.g., Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15) of at least two witnesses, and any first-century Jew reading this text would instantly think of this requirement, and so Mary and John present themselves here as the two witnesses.

These two disciples are the two unnamed disciples mentioned at the end of verse 2; by in effect saying who they are here at the end this short work has an A-B-A symmetry, which of course prefigures its monumental presence in the Gospel of John.

The Greek pronouns in this verse are inspecific as to gender: either disciple could be of either gender. But the Aramaic versions are quite different in this regard. Verse 24 in the early Codex Syriac Sinaiticus says:


ܗܢܘ ܬܠܡܝܕܐ ܕܐܣܗܕ ܥܠ ܗܠܝܢ ܘܟܬܒ ܐܢ̈ܝܢ ܘܝܕܥܝܢ ܐܢܚܢܢ ܕܫܪܝܪܐ ܗܝ ܣܗܕܘܬܗ


This disciple (is) the one who witnessed about these (things), and also (this is the disciple who) has written them. And we know that she, the first one, (has testified) true testimony.


The personal pronoun referring back to the disciple who giving the testimony, the Beloved Disciple, ܗܝ (), without question means “she”. And the somewhat later Peshitta reads:


ܗܢܘ ܬܠܡܝܕܐ ܕܐܣܗܕ ܥܠ ܗܠܝܢ ܟܠܗܝܢ ܘܐܦ ܟܬܒ ܐܢܝܢ ܘܝܕܥܝܢ ܚܢܢ ܕܫܪܝܪܐ ܗܝ ܣܗܕܘܬܗ


This disciple witnessed about all these (things); also (this is the disciple who) has written them. We know that she (has testified) true testimony.


Again the same feminine pronoun. While the sense of the verse is on the whole identical to the Greek, no surviving Greek text has anything like a feminine pronoun here. Since the wording of these two Aramaic texts is slightly different but in nothing important, they have to be based on an earlier text that does not survive that specifically said the Beloved Disciple was a “she”. There are no specifically feminine pronouns in the Greek of this period, so no way to say she has testified true testimony or her testimony is true. This strongly suggests not a Greek but an Aramaic original behind the the two texts cited above, which were modified in slightly different ways by the copyists who prepared them.

Given the facts of the text, it is astonishing to me that every major translation of the Codex Syriac Sinaiticus and the Peshitta puts down “he” in the English instead of “she”. This is not just reading what the text clearly says through the soiled and distorting lenses of later dogma, this is irresponsible translating. Since most New Testament scholars rely on these translations, being unacquainted with the Aramaic language, the fact of this feminine pronoun has not been properly studied.



James David Audlin (89 Posts)

Born in the Thousand Islands. Retired; after decades as a pastor, newspaper editor, university professor, caregiver, musician, editor. Most recently lived in southern France; now lives in rural mountainous Panama; married to a Spanish-speaking local lady. Two children in Vermont. Author of 18+ books, with a dozen more on the way.

11 thoughts on “The Female Beloved Disciple

  1. With all due respect, I think you’re just not seeing it. John 21:24 and John 1:19 are in harmony, not at odds. They literally use the same words together, but you’re trying to claim one hy points to a female and the other hy points to a male.

    ‘Hy’ (feminine pronoun) refers to ‘shdwthh’ (feminine noun) in both John 1:19 and John 21:24. And it doesn’t render the witness a woman by itself. Any Aramaic student can confirm that. Indeed, you can find this same pattern repeated (the witness is clearly a man, and the pronoun hy in the sentence clearly refers to shdwthh) in John 5:32 and 19:35. So that’s four examples that rebut your theory on grammar alone. See Dukhrana Analytical Lexicon word 2:14074. Incidentally, note that the Peshitta of John 1:19 uses the pronoun hy, not hu (as you wrote with a typo in your reply).

    In any case, the definitive argument against your theory is the Peshitta of John 13:25 and John 21:7, where the beloved disciple amr (“speaks” masculine verb) rather than amra (“speaks” feminine verb) or amrth (“spoke” feminine verb). And this definitive argument is repeated in each verb reference to the beloved disciple in the Peshitta, because in each instance the verb tense is masculine. See also John 21:21 where we read hna (“this” masculine) rather than hda (“this” feminine”).

    In Aramaic, it is the verb that provides the definitive answer of gender. There are lots of fringe theories that try to twist pronouns and second nouns to fit some desired theory, but fortunately the verbs expose contradictions. But even the pronoun hna in John 21:21 exposes your theory as non-biblical (that is, not based on the literal text of the Peshitta).

    Sorry man, if you’re sticking to your theory then I would probably recommend that you post your article on a forum where people study and speak biblical Aramaic, as others will also be able to confirm the corrections I’m providing here.

    Bigger picture — I expect that all of Yahshua’s disciples were beloved in their own ways, but for the beloved disciple who authored the fourth gospel, the Peshitta grammar uses masculine verbs consistently to prove that he was male.

    • No, I’m not seeing dogma. I’m seeing the text. You strike me as someone who has a good deal of hubris, telling me to go to “any Aramaic student”. Talking down to people only makes you sound like a know-it-all. It’s not a good attitude if you want to learn, and, if you’re not open to learning, you know nothing. Please take your rather silly ideas about the text elsewhere.

      I recalled this evening where I’d seen your name before. I’ve looked at your “translations”, and they are riddled with sophomoric mistakes and plenty of notions that the text simply doesn’t support. But obviously you’ve convinced yourself that you have all the right, and therefore nobody else possibly can. So thanks, but no thanks. Good luck to you. 🙂

  2. John 21:24 does not refer to a woman. Rather ‘hy’ is utilized because the word shdwthh (“witness”) is simply a feminine noun, as you can see plainly in John 1:19 where the exact same words are used together (‘hy’ and ‘shdwthh’) to refer to John the Baptist (who was obviously male). Moreover, if the beloved disciple were female, then the verbs utilized throughout the fourth gospel referring to the beloved disciple should also be female (for example, where the beloved disciple speaks it would be amrTh rather than amr). But you don’t offer that evidence in your article because it is not in the Peshitta. Accordingly, your argument is not proper Aramaic. Sorry.

    Personally, I think the best argument is that the fourth gospel was written by the one person actually called the beloved disciple in the gospel, Lazar. There are many proofs of Lazar authorship that you can find in books and articles. For example, it certainly helps explain John 21 where the rumor had gone out that the beloved disciple would not die (because Lazar had already died and been resurrected).

    • Thank you for your comment, Greg!

      I have no idea whether you are an expert or a novice with Syriac Aramaic, so my wording in the following should not be taken as discourteous either way.

      Granted, the noun for “witness”, more accurately “testimony”, because it refers to the statement made in testimony, not to the person giving it (the English word “witness” covers both) (ܣܗܕܐ) is feminine, but the problem with your theory above is that in neither the Old Syriac nor the Peshitta does that word appear until after the two times that ܗܝ appears. In neither case, given the position of this noun in the sentence, can it really be modifying the two times that ܗܝ appears, especially the first time, which is in a separate clause from the final clause of the sentence; the second time, it is referring not to the person but to what is being said, and in Aramaic that does not suffice to modify a preceding pronoun into the feminine form referring to the person saying the testimony; I’ve never seen that. The verb form (ܣܗܕ) appears, of course, but as declined it is presumably masculine third person singular or plural; I will discuss this last factor below.

      In Aramaic it is normally the closest antecedent noun that modifies a successive pronoun, and the ONLY antecedent noun for the person to which this pronoun could be associated, the ONLY possible antecedent noun in this entire passage, is the noun for “disciple” (ܬܠܡܝܕܐ), and that is a masculine noun, which won’t yield the feminine pronoun that we clearly have in the text.

      Of course the common assumption is that all of Jesus’s disciples were males, and it tends to blind scholars (especially those who are mentally Greek Textus Receptus based) and laypeople alike from being able to entertain the possibility of a female disciple. Therefore, in my view, the only way to explain away this feminine pronoun as referring to a male disciple is by contorting the facts about Aramaic. I realize this upsets people whose dogma about Jesus sees him as a good ole boy afraid of getting cooties from women so he couldn’t possibly have had a female disciple, but I am reporting the facts about the Aramaic text, not trying to defend a dogma. So, since the fact is that we are absent an antecedent feminine noun, I conclude that the only reason for a feminine pronoun here can be that the person in question is female.

      If you are not particularly familiar with the language, you can find a breakdown of the Peshitta version of the verse, providing a handy graph of the gender and declension properties of every word in the verse at — the Old Syriac (Syriac Sinaiticus) version is nearly identical, and you can find it at the CAL, with the only slight difference in wording being irrelevant to this matter we are discussing.

      Turning to your next topic (“disciple[s]” as masculine): In this short segment from a work of well over 1,000 pages I cannot explain everything in detail or the segment quickly becomes the entire book! But, since you ask, let me quote from the WOJ on this matter. To introduce the following you need to know that my theory, laid out throughout this two-volume work, is that two disciples of Jesus were involved in the composition of the gospel: the Beloved Disciple (whom as you know I identify as Mary) as primary eyewitness and the amanuensis (whom I identify as John the Presbyter) as secondary eyewitness and the actual writer; when a male and a female are referred to together, by Aramaic grammar, the word for “disciples” will be in the masculine plural, and that is how I read the Aramaic in the beginning of 21:24, as in the masculine plural third person, not the singular. That said, here are some relevant passages —

      The Codex Syriac Sinaiticus begins with ܗܢܘ ܬܠܡܝܕܐ, which could grammatically be understood as being in the singular (“This is the disciple”) or the plural (“These are the disciples”). In this case it should be taken as plural, especially because it provides the antecedent plural to which the later phrase ܘܝܕܥܝܢ ܐܢܚܢܢ (“We know…”) refers, and because it identifies the two disciples unnamed at the beginning of this writing [John 21:2]. This plural frame, “These are…” and “We know…”, introduces the two phrases in the middle, which delineate singly the disciples who make up that plural: the one who gave the testimony and the one who wrote it down. Further, this verse forms part of an example of inclusio, or A-B-A symmetry. John the Presbyter makes great use throughout his writings of the technique, in which elements from the beginning of a work are reinvoked at its end – this technique is of course a most prominent feature in the gospel. The beginning of this letter mentions two other disciples as participating in this seaside event, but without naming them, and here at the end it is made clear who these “two other disciples” are. Moreover, this verse itself has an inclusio structure: it begins with the plural (“These are…”) followed by the singular descriptions of the two disciples, and ends with the plural (“We know…”) followed by the singular description of the one who gives witness. The Greek, based as I conclude on the Aramaic original, also refers to two different disciples, each introduced with the pronoun ο (ho, “the one”): ο μαρτυρων περι τουτων και ο γραψας ταυτα (“the one bearing witness about these things and the one having written these things”). The first disciple is the witness to the events described, the Beloved Disciple about whom Jesus and Simon have just spoken in the preceding verses. The Beloved Disciple, of course, is Mary, as is firmly established in The Gospel of John. The Aramaic of this verse confirms that it is Mary with the personal pronoun in the last phrase, the one that refers back to the disciple who gives the testimony, whom we know to be the Beloved Disciple. That pronoun is ܗܝ (hī). Even though it is pronounced like the English “he”, it means “she” – and the only woman in the Johannine literature it could possibly be is Mary. Indeed, though the Peshitta, a later Syriac Aramaic version to some degree edited to conform to the by-then-standard Greek text, contains some minor variations in wording that do not affect the meaning of the verse in the least, it too has the ܗܝ (“she”) very much in evidence. Thus the phrase describing the first disciple as the one “who has witnessed to all this” is in effect Mary the Beloved Disciple’s signature to this letter. The second phrase, “…and also (the one who) has written (about all this)”, is likewise the signature of John the Presbyter. … However, the Greek translator apparently misconstrued the two delineating phrases as describing one disciple who both gave the testimony and wrote it down. As a result he misread the first phrase in this verse as in the singular (“This is the disciple…”), and put it into Greek as ουτος εστιν ο μαθητης. As a result, the beginning of the last phrase, “We (both) know…”, loses its antecedent plural noun – a grammatical error frowned upon in Greek (and English) but wholly unacceptable in Aramaic, and yet it remains there for the careful reader to see. The Greek pronouns in this verse are inspecific as to gender, giving no hint that one of the disciples is female. Indeed, the Greek language of this period had no specifically feminine pronoun that would fit this context, so it had no way to say she has testified true testimony or her testimony is true. Indeed, most likely the scribe who prepared even the first Greek version, being in a later time in which Paul’s asexual Jesus was doctrine, believed all of the disciples were men and that Jesus had no intimate relations with women, and would never have even entertained the thought, let alone suggest, that the Beloved Disciple was female. It is likewise inconceivable, if the Aramaic was originally rendered from a Greek text (which I do not believe was the case), that the translator in that later time would put the Aramaic feminine pronoun for a Greek neuter pronoun. That could only be if he and his community believed the Beloved Disciple was female. That is possible, but unlikely except around Ephesus where John’s teachings survived for a while, but increasingly less likely as over the years the Pauline dogma of a spiritual-bodied sexless Jesus and Twelve male-only Disciples took increasing hold. How then is it that the Aramaic versions state her gender clearly? The philosophical term “elegant” refers to the simplest, likeliest, and most logical solution. Here, the most elegant conclusion is that John wrote this letter in Aramaic. He wrote the gospel itself in Greek, and the early Aramaic versions like the Syriac Sinaiticus and Curetonian are translations into Aramaic but translations from the Syriac Aramaic community in the area of Ephesus, perhaps even prepared with John’s help in his last years. But these versions would not have needed to translate chapter 21 into Aramaic if they had access to the original text as composed by John in that language! … Given the fact of the Syriac feminine pronoun, it is astonishing to me that every major translation of the Codex Syriac Sinaiticus and the Peshitta puts down “he” in the English instead of “she”. This is not just reading what the text clearly says through the soiled and distorting lenses of later dogma, this is irresponsible translating. Most New Testament scholars suffer from what I call græcomyopia litteratus, the inability to take seriously any early text unless it is in Greek, they are unacquainted with the Aramaic language and must rely on these translations. It pains me even more deeply when New Testament scholars who do study the early Aramaic texts are so blinded by the Textus Receptus that they put an obviously feminine pronoun into English and other modern languages with a masculine pronoun. As a result, the fact of this feminine pronoun has not been properly noticed by New Testament scholars, let alone studied, as it should be.

      As regards your final topic: Like you, I thought for many years that the Beloved Disciple was Lazarus, and the first published edition of the GOJ concluded with this identification, but I changed my mind a number of years ago, and lay out the rationale in the subsequent editions of the GOJ and also in the WOJ. You can find a blog on the identification of the BD as MM elsewhere on this website, culled from the GOJ, or else over at

      Again, thanks for commenting!

      –James David Audlin

      • P.S. I neglected to explain — in 1:19, ܗܘ is specifically referring to the testimony (feminine) of John, not to John. I appreciate your efforts at Aramaic, but it’s not an easy language, as perhaps you can see.

    • I don’t want my readers or my past and present students to be confused on this matter. In Aramaic grammar, as in Abjad languages in general and most if not all Western languages (I am only familiar with some 15 Indo-European languages), a feminine noun takes a feminine pronoun (and a masculine noun a masculine pronoun), and does not make nouns/pronouns related to masculine persons or things into feminine ones. Notwithstanding Greg’s contentions, a feminine noun does not convert masculine people mentioned in the same phrase into feminine people requiring feminine pronouns.

      Greg’s example of John 1:19 suffices to demonstrate this. The feminine pronoun in the sentence refers to the Aramaic word for “testimony”, which is feminine, not to John the Baptist (as he contends), and John remains constantly masculine, grammatically speaking, in the sentence.

      Take Matthew 8:16 for another example. Here Jesus expels the demons by a word — the word for “word” is feminine in Aramaic, but Jesus is referred to with the masculine pronoun and masculine suffixes – i.e., he remains masculine grammatically speaking, and does not somehow become feminine in the pronouns. Therefore, back to my original statement. In John 21:24 the two feminine pronouns are not related to the word for “testimony”, but to the disciple in question. They do not refer to a male disciple who becomes because of the appearance of a feminine noun “grammatically female” as Greg contends; rather, they refer to a disciple who has his/her own gender, and in this case the gender is being specified as feminine.

      And now I really must return my attention to this Bible scholars’ conference, since it is conducted in Spanish, not English. Later!

      • Readers here can see plainly that you’re twisting my words, probably because you’re upset. It is plain as day from my words above that I never said hy converts feminine to masculine – that’s simply not credible. Why would you accuse me of that error? What slight of hand could you possibly gain from that accusation? But what have you just lost? Seriously, I feel I need you to call you out on your arguments man. I’m stunned you would accuse me of such an error, when my words are plainly saying the opposite. Simply read what I wrote above – hy is a feminine pronoun that agrees with the feminine noun shdwthh. It does not by itself render the subject of the sentence a male or a female person.

        Incidentally, the reason for this in Aramaic is because of the root concept (not root word) of shdwthh, which is ruKha, a feminine noun for spirit unless referring to the spirit of YHVH. It’s an interesting topic and provides important reminders to keep pronouns in their place rather than inferring beyond their capacity.

        In any case, I have made three points that negate your theory, and you have rebutted none of them. I’ll summarize:

        1. hy and shdwthh are required to agree with one another as feminine nouns. Therefore, by themselves they do not specify the gender of the witness to which they refer, such as the beloved disciple in John 21:21, or John the Baptist in John 1:19.

        2. The male gender of the beloved disciple is conclusively proved by the verb usage in verses like John 13:25 and John 21:7, where the beloved disciple amr (“speaks” masculine verb) rather than amra (“speaks” feminine verb) or amrth (“spoke” feminine verb). And this definitive argument is repeated in each verb reference to the beloved disciple in the Peshitta, because in each instance the verb tense is masculine.

        3. In John 21:21 we read hna (“this” masculine) rather than hda (“this” feminine”).

        Let’s make this easy for any readers here… please admit or deny the conclusion of part 1, “by themselves [hy and shdwthh] do not specify the gender of the beloved disciple.” Your article above failed to admit this, and indeed your article suggest the very opposite. Next, please admit or deny that you have not attempted to rebut parts 2 or 3. And then finally, please admit or deny that parts 2 and 3 are credible statements in Aramaic study. If you are not able to admit these 3 matters, I would recommend that you try to test your denials in an open forum where people actually study and speak Aramaic, so you can receive correction from others as well.

        Lastly, I do not appreciate your personal attacks. I take care to post my Aramaic studies online at forums where students and native Aramaic speakers review and comment publicly on my work. And I think it has been received very well, and published. I am not claiming to be great, or a teacher. No one has ever accused me like you have here. Your comment above is the meanest comment I have ever received from anyone in my Aramaic studies.

        And lest you think I came here to attack you personally, the only reason I decided to even post anything here is because I was taken aback by the accusatory hubris toward Aramaic scholars in your original article where you wrote, “This is not just reading what the text clearly says through the soiled and distorting lenses of later dogma, this is irresponsible translating.” In that statement, you accused every translator who disagrees with you of error (including native Aramaic speakers of error in their own language). Yet, when I pointed out the impossibility of your own translation, you attacked me personally rather than rebut the evidence. Accordingly, please just answer the three points above, and leave the personal attacks to your own constitution.

        • 1) You, Greg, are on my page, not your own. Please remember you are in effect a guest here. You don’t know a thing about me, apparently, So you know, I have been studying and teaching Biblical languages, including Aramaic, for about 45 years. I think I’ve learned a thing or two in that period of time. You did come off in your first posting or two quite superciliously, and I advise you that this is not the best idea, if ever, especially when you are introducing yourself. Your subsequent remarks have been less supercilious, except for “accusatory hubris”, which I’ll assume was a bit of a slip on your part. Let us you speak to me with basic courtesy such that I do not feel offended, and we will get along fine.

          2) I am not confused. And I am not offering a theory, but fact. Your theory — and it is a theory — is, if I understand it correctly, founded on a series of mistaken assumptions. Let me see if I can go very slowly through this, so you can follow me step by step. The word ܣܗܕܘܬܗ literally means “testimony”, and yes, in English the word “witness” is in one of its primary meanings a synonym for “testimony”, but its other primary meaning, “a person who gives testimony”, is not covered by ܣܗܕܘܬܗ. (If you don’t believe me, you can confirm this in Jennings’s dictionary here ( You seem however to be taking ܣܗܕܘܬܗ with this meaning of “a person who gives testimony”, and then explaining the feminine pronoun ܗܝ referring to the disciple as agreeing in gender with the feminine noun. There is, as a matter of fact, a related noun, ܣܗܕܐ, which does mean “a person who gives testimony”, i.e., a “witness” in the sense of a person rather than the testimony itself, but this word is masculine, and would never change the masculine pronoun referring to a masculine disciple to a feminine pronoun. So, once again, the pronoun ܗܝ refers to the disciple, and the noun ܣܗܕܘܬܗ refers to the testimony given by that disciple. A feminine noun referring to one thing (the testimony) is not, by Aramaic grammar, going to change a masculine pronoun referring to another thing (the disciple, as you understand the disciple to be masculine) to a feminine pronoun. Period. The only way the noun can change the pronoun is if the noun and the pronoun refer to the same thing — either to the testimony or the disciple. Since, as I note, this word specifically refers only to testimony and not to the person giving it, which is a separate word (again, see Jennings), the only possibility remaining is that the disciple is female.

          3) As regards 13:25 and 21:21, you are reading from the Peshitta, which as you know was to a large degree made to conform the Aramaic text to the by-then-official Greek Textus Receptus. In 21:24, as I pointed out to you above, the only difference between the Peshitta and the Old Syriac is moot to the discussion we are having. However in these two verses you cite the difference is acute. To wit, the pronoun in the Old Syriac, ܗܘܐ, is inspecific as to gender, as again you can confirm in Jennings, beginning at the very bottom of the second column on this page referenced, and continuing on the subsequent page ( — that is to say, the pronoun can mean “he” or “she” in this context. It is in this sense equivalent to αυτου in Greek as being gender-inspecific. The verb ܐܡܪ is in the masculine form, yes, but that is because it is agreeing with ܬܠܡܝܕܐ (“disciple”), which is a masculine noun; it does not, therefore, necessarily tell us about the gender of the person here named as a disciple.

          4) Finally, 21:21 — You will notice first in the preceding verse ܗܘ, which is again gender inspecific. In verse 21, you are assuming, and indeed a lot of people do, that the ܠܗܢܐ and ܘܗܢܐ refer to the disciple. If it does, it is again referring to the person, whatever the gender, as a disciple, and since ܬܠܡܝܕܐ is masculine, this pronoun is masculine. However, in my own commentaries (Volume II of the GOJ), I take these two incidences of “this” as referring not necessarily or not only to the disciple, but also or instead to the situation — i.e., of this particular disciple following Jesus. Jesus’s words to Simon, telling him what he wants the Beloved Disciple to do is of no concern to Simon; it is just for Simon likewise to follow him — supports this alternative.

          And yes, I’m very sorry, but I looked at some of your efforts — especially the Revelation — and I found a lot of suggestions that simply are untenable — it has been a couple years or so, so my memory isn’t photographic at this point, but one example that really stands out in my memory is your finding clues that for you point to swords and crosses (I’m not sure at this moment exactly what images; it’s been a couple years since I’ve looked at your work) on a modern map of the Levant. You’re welcome to find these if you wish, but I’ve never run into any such kind of superimposition; in any case, maps in those days, when there were maps as opposed to people using their memories or the point-to-point guidance provided by others, were extremely rudimentary. I remember other ways in which I saw you impressing into the text a rather modern evangelical perspective; again, I have no objections whatsoever to the shape of your faith, of course — I am a person of faith myself — but I strive extremely hard to look at the texts in their own right, and not superimpose my personal faith thereupon. We must be extremely careful to let the texts guide us, and not drag the texts to conclusions we prefer. Needless to say we are all human, but this is a goal toward which anyone who is trying to present a fair, unbiased translation must strive.

          Finally, as to my remarks which — again slipping into a supercilious tone you brand as “accusatory hubris” — I stand by them. As you can see, I am quite certain as regards the pronouns in 21:24, that they refer to the person in question as “she”, and that this is not the result of any feminine noun (see above), and therefore I indeed am appalled at how all translations of which I am aware — Etheridge, Murdock, and even Lamsa — put down “he” in their English translations. I do indeed think that is irresponsible, and that it is based on an assumption that all of the disciples must have been male, and not even one of them might have been female. That is later dogma distorting a clear reading of the actual text.

          • Respectfully, those are not acceptable rebuttals to me because your conclusions go against the textbook Aramaic grammar I’ve learned and that I see consistently in the Peshitta. Indeed, reading your latest reply brought to mind yet another independent reason rebutting your theory, namely, that John 21:24 does not read ThlmydTha (feminine). See e.g., Acts 9:36.

            Regardless, I suppose we shall just have to agree to disagree.

            Going forward, if you can find a native Aramaic speaker (ie., at or an Aramaic scholar who can agree with your grammatical reading, please post a link in reply where they confirm in their own words.

            Again, your conclusions go against the Aramaic grammar I’ve learned. Sorry. I wish you well though of course, and I’m sure you have a ton of insights to offer in this field of Aramaic study.

          • Yes, quite so, ܬܠܡܝܕܐ is indeed masculine. I guess you’ve forgotten — I discussed it way back in my original post, and in subsequent explanations to you — the male noun is clear, but it can be taken in this grammatical context as either singular or plural, and I see it as referring to the disciple who gives the testimony and the the disciple who wrote it down — this is just to bring it back to your memory, but please do go up top to read the entire explanation.

            Certainly you’re free to accept or not as you wish. It’s a free world and all that. But my explanations do conform to the “textbook Aramaic grammar” I’ve studied and taught. If you want to think the word for “testimony” refers to a person giving testimony, you can do so, but I’ve given you links to Jennings to show this is wrong, and that really should end the discussion. There is no feminine noun here that directly refers to the disciple that can be construed as switching a masculine pronoun to feminine.

            Of course, any student (of any subject!) should always remain open to new learning, and I too still encounter some fascinating new wrinkle in the Aramaic language. Still, everything I’ve said to you is standard stuff. I don’t know what textbooks you’re referencing, since you do not name them. But, to be honest, I really doubt any textbook is going to say a feminine noun for “testimony” causes pronouns referring to the person giving the testimony to change to the feminine form.

            I’ve taken far too much time on this discussion with you as it is. I’m on the road, at a second conference, and really strapped for time, meaning no disrespect; I’m trying to give you reasonably coherent replies but I am typing them at lightning speed. If when I’m home I have the time, maybe I’ll find another scholar who may care to comment, but I can’t promise because really I am seriously occupied these days. But, if further scholarly backup is what you want, I have a hunch you did not read my explanations with care and check the Jennings references — Jennings is an undeniable expert in the language. If you go to the Dukhrana website, other dictionaries are available, and I am sure without checking that they too back me up in my reading of 21:24. That should do you fine for Aramaic scholars backing me up.

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