Numerous scholars attest that “the disciple that Jesus loved” of the Gospel of John is a literary creation.
Warren Carter, an American New Testament scholar, has also written extensively on the Gospel of John and the character of the “disciple whom Jesus loved”. In his book “John and Empire: Initial Explorations”, Carter argues that the “beloved disciple” is a literary creation intended to represent the ideal disciple, rather than a specific historical figure.
According to Carter, the character of the “beloved disciple” serves as a model for the Johannine community to follow, and represents the ideal way of following Jesus in a context of Roman imperial power. Carter suggests that the character of the “beloved disciple” was created to provide a counter-narrative to the Roman imperial ideology of power and domination, and to offer a vision of a different kind of community based on love, service, and mutual support.
Carter also suggests that the character of the “beloved disciple” was created as a way of highlighting the importance of the Johannine community's unique message and identity, and to distinguish it from other Christian groups of the time. According to Carter, the “beloved disciple” serves as a symbol of the Johannine community's distinctive beliefs and practices, rather than as a specific historical figure.
Overall, while Warren Carter does not argue that the “beloved disciple” is a purely fictional creation, he does suggest that the character was created for specific theological and literary purposes, and that its primary function is symbolic rather than historical.