I would argue that John did not simply invent the disciple whom he describes as loved by Jesus; I take him to have been a relatively insignificant disciple when compared with those named in the common tradition, e.g., The Twelve, but one who achieved major importance within the confines of Johannine tradition, where his ongoing closeness to Jesus was perceived as the model for community behavior.
NT scholar, Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah, p. 1279
Gary: This may come as a surprise to some conservative Christians, but arch-conservative NT scholar Richard Bauckham agrees with Raymond Brown on this issue! Bauckham believes that the “Beloved Disciple” was the author of the Gospel of John but was not John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee. Rather, Bauckham believes that this unknown disciple of Jesus later became known as “John the Elder”, living in Ephesus.
Raymond Brown does not believe that any of the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses therefore he would not agree with Bauckham that the Beloved Disciple wrote the Gospel of John.
One more point: I don’t know if anyone else finds this odd, but why would Jesus “love” an unnamed disciple who did not merit being one of The Twelve? I find that really, really odd. And others have also found it odd. If one reads the non-canonical Gospel, The Secret Gospel of Mark, one will read passages that suggest that Jesus had a young male lover! Is this the same “beloved” that that author of John alludes to???
1 They come into Bethany, and there was a woman whose brother had died 2 and [she] approaches and bows down before Jesus and says to him, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” 3 But the disciples scolded her. 4 And Jesus got angry and went with her into the garden where the tomb was. 5 Right away there was a loud voice from the tomb. 6 Then Jesus went up and rolled the stone away from the opening of the tomb. 7 He went right in where the youth was, reached out a hand and raised him, taking hold of [his] hand. 8 The youth loved him at first sight and began to plead with him to stay. 9 And coming out of the tomb, they go to the young man’s home for he was rich. 10 And six days later Jesus called him. 11 And when evening came, the young man went to him wearing a shroud over his nude body. 12 And he stayed all night as Jesus taught him the secret of the kingdom of God. 13 From there he gets up and goes back across the Jordan.
Gary: I personally believe that the “Beloved Disciple” was most likely a fictional character invented by the author of John. This character is not mentioned in any of the canonical Gospels. I do not believe that Jesus had a male lover.