[John_Lit] Re: Gospels for all Christians
- I hope no one will object to my bringing up old (very old!) subject matter, but I am reading through the earliest posts and came across this quotation:
"... anybody proposing to undermine the distinctiveness of the
Johannine community, must confront the late Raymond E. Brown's masterful reconstruction of that community's life, loves and struggles, in his Community of the Beloved Disciple>, all firmly grounded in the text of 4th Gospel and the joh. epistles."
When I read the book, it struck me as very speculative. I'm wondering what I'm missing from the argument that is so persuasive. Perhaps a starting point would be to define what makes a distinct community. As I understand it, Brown argues that originall the Gospel contained a low-Christology, like the Synoptics, but that this was layered later on in response to theological developments experienced by the community (assumed to be itinerant). His main arguments appear to be:
That 4G doesn't use the word 'church' or 'apostle', and that therefore the community is made up of individualists(pp. 13-14)
That the community saw itself as distinct from the world
The acceptance of the Gospel by Gnostic sects by the second century (15).
Brown nonetheless acknowledges the speculative nature of other suggestions, such as a possible anti-sacramental or anti-authoritarian slant (16).
Admittedly I read the book in a hurry, and perhaps there were more substantial arguments that I failed to make note of (Ehrman of course brings out some source critical reasons, such as the apparent added material between chapters 14 and 18).
Brown's view is based on the assumption that the 4G tells the history of a community. But is it really necessary to conclude that John didn't just settle within the community in which Paul labored? In light of the relative unity among the orthodox churches of the second century (witnessed to by Irenaeus, who noted that one could go from one end of the empire to the other, east to west, north to south, and hear the same faith expounded), can we really believe there was an empire-wide coalescing, with apparently no record left to bear witness to it? Since there was no centralized hierarchy, I would expect the churches to slowly develop separately, into a myriad of sects, (much like the history of Protestantism). But instead I see a church that was quite tenacious in maintaining unity, in large part I think because of the strong aversion to innovation - but this requires, as Irenaeus points out, that the churches all received the same faith at the outset, when they were founded. This certainly does lead to other issues and problems, such as the low Christology of the Synoptics - this I readily admit. But historically I can't see any other explanation.