THE NEW EDITION
New Testament Essays and the
Legacy of Raymond E. Brown
Ronald D. Witherup, S.S.
When this set of essays was first published in 1965, Roman Catholic biblical scholarship was on the verge of breaking into the mainstream scholarly discussion that had largely been dominated by Protestant scholars since the nineteenth century. Raymond E. Brown, S.S., was at the center of this new development and was already being hailed as one of the leading American Catholic biblical scholars. Renowned for his ability to address scholars and nonprofessionals alike, these fourteen essays illustrate what a fresh new outlook on biblical study had arrived on the scene.
Reissuing this collection more than forty years after its initial appearance is warranted for three reasons. First, they provide eloquent testimony to the impact Brown made on New Testament scholarship in the middle of the twentieth century. Among people interested in modern biblical scholarship, both Catholic and non-Catholic, Brown’s became a household name, someone to be reckoned with if you wanted to know more about the Bible. Second, these essays are an excellent example of the application of the historical critical method, an essentially modern scientific study of the Bible. As such, they continue to show the ongoing contribution that method can make to our comprehension of the Bible. Finally, these essays foreshadowed some of the issues that would linger into the twenty-first century.
This introduction has three goals: to present a synopsis of the life of the world-renowned biblical scholar Raymond E. Brown, S.S.; to offer a brief assessment of this collection of his early essays; and to offer some thoughts on where New Testament studies have gone since these essays originally appeared.
Raymond Edward Brown was born on May 22, 1928, in the Bronx, New York City, one of two sons born to Reuben H. and Loretta (Sullivan) Brown.1 He began his education in the Bronx, but his family relocated to Miami Shores, Florida, in 1944, where he completed high school.
He entered St. Charles College in Catonsville, Maryland, in 1945—a college seminary program run by the Society of St. Sulpice (the Sulpicians), the community of diocesan priest-educators he later joined (thus, the initials S.S.). Already a prodigious academic talent, Brown entered an
accelerated program of study and transferred to the Catholic University of America in 1946, where he became a Basselin Scholar and obtained both a B.A. (1948) and M.A. (1949) in philosophy. He then began advanced seminary studies at the Gregorian University in Rome (1949–50) but at the request of his bishop returned to the States the following year to complete studies for the priesthood at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland.
The oldest Roman Catholic seminary in the country, St. Mary’s was founded by the Sulpicians in 1791 at the invitation of Bishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States. There Brown completed his theological training for the priesthood, obtaining Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B., 1951) and Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L., 1953) degrees. He was ordained a priest on May 23, 1953, for the Diocese of St. Augustine (Florida) but was immediately released to the Sulpicians, since he was attracted to biblical studies and had become a Sulpician candidate in 1951. He entered the Society formally in 1955.
From a historical perspective, one should keep in mind when reading these essays that Brown entered Catholic biblical studies when it was in its infancy, a little over a decade after Pope Pius XII had issued a groundbreaking encyclical letter in 1943, titled Divino Affl ante Spiritu, which gave Catholic biblical scholars the green light to pursue their academic research publicly, something that had been pursued discreetly in the background for years. This allowed them to enter into wider scholarly discussions. The encyclical urged Catholic scholars to utilize every linguistic, archaeological, and literary tool available to enhance a contemporary understanding of the Bible, freeing these methods of study from the cloud of suspicion that had previously surrounded them.
Although Brown was not the only Sulpician biblical scholar to be engaged in signifi cant research projects, his unique abilities were quickly recognized and his name became associated with the historical-critical approach that was to dominate the latter half of the twentieth century.
After joining the Sulpicians, Brown was assigned to teach at St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville. This appointment also allowed him to complete a doctorate in sacred theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University (S.T.D.,1955) and to begin doctoral studies in Semitic languages at Johns Hopkins University, where he became a student of the world-renowned scholar William Foxwell Albright, known then as “the dean of biblical archaeologists.” Albright was recognized as the world’s leading expert on archaeology and the religion of ancient Israel, and he also understood the potential that archaeology held for expanding our understanding of the Bible. He trained a generation of important scholars, among them Raymond Brown.
Although it was somewhat unusual for a Roman Catholic (and a priest) to study at a secular university, the Sulpicians were interested in the best possible training for their members who would be teaching in major seminaries around the world. At that time, the Catholic Church’s openness to other Christian denominations was growing, and Brown was able to benefi t from this development by studying with such a well-known scholar. Brown finished his dissertation (Ph.D. in Semitic languages) in 1958, writing on the Semitic background of the term “mystery” in the New Testament, a work that demonstrated his longstanding interest in combining Near Eastern and Old Testament studies with the study of the New Testament. (This influence is readily visible in New Testament Essays, for example when he discusses the Dead Sea Scrolls in relation to Church organization or to the Johannine literature.)
Later, Brown also completed a licentiate in sacred scripture from the Pontifical Biblical commission in Rome (S.S.L., 1963), to round out his biblical education from a Catholic perspective, where he had obtained an earlier baccalaureate in sacred scripture (S.S.B., 1959). At the end of his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins, Brown was fortunate to be invited to work on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the American School of Oriental Research (ASOR) in Jerusalem from 1958–59, where he helped create a preliminary concordance of those remarkable documents.
Discovered in 1947 in caves near the Dead Sea by a shepherd boy out tending his fl ock, these scrolls later became the focus of much intrigue and scholarly debate. Brown quickly recognized their importance as providing, if not direct infl uence on the New Testament, at least some of the crucial environment surrounding the teachings of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth and the traditions about them found in the New Testament. After this fruitful sojourn in the Middle East, which broadened his background and personal knowledge of the Holy Land, Brown returned to teach at his alma mater, St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, until 1971.
By that time, Brown had gained an international scholarly reputation because of the appearance of his monumental two-volume commentary on John’s Gospel in the Anchor Bible Commentary series (1966, 1970) that had been begun by his Johns Hopkins mentor, William F. Albright.
In fact, Brown’s two volumes virtually redirected the nature of that commentary series and raised the bar signifi cantly on both the quality and extent of the scholarship expected. With the permission of his Sulpician superiors, Brown moved to New York to accept a joint professorship at the Jesuit Woodstock College and Union Theological Seminary (1971–74). When Woodstock closed, he took a full-time position at Union, where he taught for twenty years, until his early retirement in 1990 as Auburn Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies. He then took up residence at the Sulpician-run St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, in order to continue his research and writing. He lived there until his untimely death by cardiac arrest on August 8, 1998, having been the author of some forty-seven books and hundreds of articles and book reviews.
The Old Testament: The Five Covenants Essay
1550 Words7 Pages
The word ‘covenant’ is, in the Old Testament, it is the Hebrew word ‘berith’ and is used many times in different texts. Some scholars my say that the word covenants is hard to find a true meaning. You will hear the word covenant throughout the Old Testament. I think sometimes when we hear the word covenant only one or two covenants come to mind. There are many covenants throughout the Bible. I will attempt to define and explain five covenants. These five covenants are: Noahic Covenant, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, Davidic Covenant and the Fifth Covenant or the (New Covenant). In these particular covenants we will find the promises God made with his people. In this paper I will attempted to answer questions which of these…show more content…
Genesis 9: 12 of the New King James Bible go on to say And God said:
“This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generation: generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creatures of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth” (NKJV). I think that it is safe to say that after the flood and the covenant that God made with Noah, it was the start of a new beginning for man. The covenant that God made with Noah is one that is unconditional. Bob Deffinbaugh writes in his article, The Noahic Covenant-A New Beginning that, “Some covenants were contingent upon both parties carrying out certain stipulations”. “Such was the case of the Mosaic covenant”. “If Israel kept the law of God, they would experience the blessings and prosperity of God”. “If not, they would be expelled from the land (Deuteronomy 28)”. “The blessings of the Noahic covenant were not conditional”. “God would give regularity of seasons and would not destroy the earth by a flood simply because He said so”. “While certain commands