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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 (1979). Extending beyond Johannine studies, Brown’s (1984) work on the history of early Christianity and “the churches the apostles left behind” is also among the most practical and interesting of his forty-seven books. Here, Brown’s analysis of the unity and diversity of early Christian approaches to leadership and community organization have extensive implications, not only for historical and sociological understandings of the first-century Christian movement, but also for approaches to Christian leadership in later generations. In reviewing the impact of the Johannine community that 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 of interpreting the Johannine writings meaningfully—especially the Epistles.


Originally published in Communities in Dispute : Current Scholarship on the Johannine Epistles by Paul N. Anderson, R. Alan Culpepper in 2014, SBL Press

ISBN 978-1-62837-015-7

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