Book review: The Gospel and Epistles of John

by Raymond E. Brown


This book is now 23 years old, but it is one that every Bible scholar must read. Raymond Brown is considered by many to be the premier Johannine scholar of the 20th century, and is widely acknowledged by both the Church and by academia. Brown began writing about John and the Johannine community in 1960, culminating a quarter-century later in an exhaustive, 800-page tome on the epistles in 1982. This book brings it all together in one concise commentary. If you fancy yourself a Bible scholar but you don’t have time to study all of Brown’s works, you must at least read this short book.

You’ll find in this book no comprehensive discussion of the Johannine community, of the development and authorship of the Gospel, or even of Johannine theology in general. You’ll find very little about Brown’s contributions to understanding Johannine eschatology or to the identification of the “beloved disciple.” What you will get is a concise verse-by-verse commentary of the Gospel and epistles, which in itself provides a taste of Brown’s thinking.

Scripture from the Revised New Testament is printed on the top of each page, with Brown’s commentary on the bottom half. Because it’s a summary only, providing nothing new or provocative, I have a hard time granting it more than three stars, yet it is a must-read.