This article challenges the historical existence of the ‘Johannine community’ – a hypothesized group of ancient churches sharing a distinctive theological outlook. Scholars posit such a community to explain the similarities of John to 1, 2 and 3 John as well as the epistles’ witness to a network of churches. Against this view, this article calls attention to evidence of literary contact between the four texts and the presence of dubious authorial claims in each. Taken together, these features cast John, 1 John, 2 John and 3 John as unreliable bases for historical reconstruction, whose implied audiences and situations are probably fabrications. The article proceeds to develop a new history of the Johannine texts. Those texts represent a chain of literary forgeries, in which authors of different extractions cast and recast a single invented character – an eyewitness to Jesus’ life – as the mouthpiece of different theological viewpoints.