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Among the paradigm-making contributions in Johannine studies over the last half century, one of the most significant is the sketching of “the community of the Beloved Disciple” by Raymond E. Brown (Brown 1979). Extending beyond Johannine studies, Brown’s work on the history of early Christianity and “the churches the apostles left behind” (Brown 1984) is also among the most practical and interesting of his 47 books.1 Here, Brown’s analyses of the unity and diversity of early Christians’ approaches to leadership and community organization2 have extensive implications, not only to historical and sociological understandings of the first-century Christian movement, but also for approaches to Christian leadership in later generations.3 In reviewing the impact of the Johannine community that Raymond Brown left behind, this paper will assess the perdurance (to use one of his terms) of Brown’s overall theory, suggesting also new constructs worthy of consideration by biblical interpreters into the twenty-first century. These issues are especially important in service to interpreting the Johannine writings meaningfully—especially the Epistles.


Originally published in The Bible and Interpretation, (September 2013)