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101 Questions and Answers on the Bible Paperback – September 1, 2003
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About the Author
Raymond E. Brown, S.S., (1928-1998) was the Auburn Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He was author of some forty books on the Bible and past president of three of the most important biblical societies in the world. By appointment of two popes (Paul VI in 1972, John Paul II in 1996) Brown was a member of the Roman Pontifical Biblical Commission. "Time" magazine called him "probably the premier Catholic Scripture scholar of the U.S."
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Top Customer Reviews
I disagree with several reviewers who claim that some of Brown's arguments are "convoluted." They miss the point. He is not trying to prove that Church teaching is correct based on reasoning from the Bible alone, but rather that the teaching is biblically grounded.
A great deal of the book is taken up with a subtle attack on the historical reliability of the New Testament. Nonetheless, Brown was a believing Catholic and in a number of instances accepts things on the authority of the Church that he cannot affirm as a Scripture scholar. It regularly reminded me of the child's Sunday School answer that "faith means believing things that you know aren't true."
Thus, Brown believes that a critical reading of the Gospels leaves the question of the virginal conception of Jesus up in the air, but he accepts it based on the teaching of his church. For Brown, the modern scholars are surely correct and Jesus was mistaken in giving a messianic interpretation to Psalm 110 (and if you have a problem with that, he implies that you may be a bit of a monophysite). For him, Jesus is not so much the fulfillment of the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc. as he is "heir of the virtues associated with" them.
Perhaps the most problematic element for me was his insistence on a sharp distinction between "Jesus" (the historical figure of the first century partially revealed and partially obscured in the Gospels) and "Christ" (the construct, perhaps legitimate and even authoritative, of the followers of Jesus over the next several generations). Thus, for Brown it is a stretch (though a legitimate one with qualification) to say that Jesus founded the Church. But you must not say that Jesus instituted the sacraments; that was done by Christ.
It is obvious throughout that his words were chosen with a great deal of care. Over and over you find answers that give a very problematic conclusion explained in words that, with a bit of effort, could be understood in an orthodox sense. It would take a book much longer and more technical (and therefore less popularly accessible) to respond point by point to the areas in which I think he is mistaken. As I said, a dangerous little book.