John was a common Jewish name in the 1st cent. CE—a shortened form of Johanan. It was borne by the grandfather and brother of Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. n 1; 2: 2). John son of Zebedee (Mark 10: 35) became with Peter and his brother James one of the group especially close to Jesus.

Traditionally he has been identified with the Beloved Disciple of the fourth gospel (John 13: 23; 19: 26; 20: 2 and 21: 7, 20. He could also be the unnamed disciple of 1: 35 and perhaps 18: 15 f. and 19: 35).