Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jim wants us to read all of Mark and then the first two chapters of John. He wants us to see all the stuff about Jesus John doesn't include. I think that Mark is Jim's favorite. It's many people's favorite. I have no idea why. Maybe reading it will give me a clue.

Nearly all of his handouts were from Brown's books, like Introduction to the New Testament. He'll probably have something from The Community of the Beloved Disciple next time. But he handed out a paper that appeared in Review & Expositor in 1965 by a Raymond Brown. He was prepared to use it as an example of how accepted and accepting Fr. Brown was within the larger community of Christian scholarship. But it immediately struck me as odd for that journal to publish anything by a Catholic. In '65 or ever.

As he talked, I checked the footnotes of the paper and looked for a blurb about the author. The author cites Dodd and Bultmann, Lightfoot and Jeremias ... all man Fr. Brown might cite and has cited. But then also Calvin. Really, though, I needn't have looked beyond the byline because this paper was published by Raymond Bryan Brown, not Raymond Edward Brown. I said,
This isn't by Fr. Brown. His middle initial is "E."
Jim thought a minute and said, "You're right." He hardly ever says that to me so I relished hearing it. Regardless, it should be interesting to read the article and see whether the Baptist slips in any reference to the pope being antichrist.

We were studying Matthew when Michele began seminary and I gave her a copy of a short paper from Brown's New Testament Essays. I've since bought the book from Amazon's Used Books but at the time it was a copy that I'd received in grad school, though I can't remember which class. It's an exegesis on the Lord's Prayer from Matthew with a little comparison to the prayer as preserved in Luke. I thought, if nothing else, the paper would give her some idea of how to prepare an exegetical paper for seminary, even if she didn't happen to agree with Fr. Brown's conclusions. I remember never being told how to do an exegetical paper except to look at published examples and imitate them.

So then, shortly after beginning seminary, she told me that they were reading a Raymond Brown in her class on the Gospels. I was delighted to hear that his work had finally been received even in conservative circles. But then she wasn't sure whether it was the same Raymond Brown and I became aware of another Raymond Brown.1

And now that I have Kostenberger's commentary on the Gospel of John, I can see that even though Michele may have been instructed to read Fr. Brown, it was only for the sake of seeing his supposed faults:
Popularized by J. Louis Martyn and his colleague Raymond E. Brown, this view holds that the Fourth Gospel was actually authored by a group that traced its origins to John the apostle and that used the gospel story to work through conflicts it experienced in its own day. It was conjectured that the members of this "Johannine community" had been expelled from their Jewish mother synagogue in the aftermath of the curses on the Christians allegedly imposed on Christians around A.D. 90 and that the Fourth Gospel represents an attempt either to recover from this traumatic event or to evangelize some of the members of this mother synagogue. For a while this view, though virtually unsupported by direct evidence, rose to astonishing prominence, achieving almost paradigmatic status. But recently scholars such as Martin Hengel and Richard Bauckham have decisively shown that there is no historic evidence even for the existence of such a "Johannine community" and that John's Gospel represents, not a sectarian document, but rather an apostolic Gospel aimed at a universal readership. Encountering John, Kostenberger, 212-213.
As this book is written for a popular audience, there aren't any arguments given and the interested reader is directed to other books for more detail.

Two things bother me about this. First, Scripture typically served the purpose of a smaller group before it was adapted to have a broader appeal. Why should the Fourth Gospel be any different? Second, when someone steeped in Brown's paradigm presents at a Bible study, Kostenberger's words essentially shut her down. She gets pigeonholed as a heretic from the get-go. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything.

I suppose I could be pigeonholed as a heretic whether anyone has read Kostenberger or not.

1 I think there is even another Raymond E. Brown but Fr. Brown is so prolific it's hard to google anyone else.


Matt said...

Our study has used Brown's book Community of the Beloved Disciple. (Handouts from the study leader).

The one problem I have with the community theory is that, if these people were supposedly expelled Jews from the Synagogue, why do common Jewish words get continually explained in the book?

Perhaps were they supposed to be later additions? But then if that is the theory we could make up any explanation for any theory as long as it sounded plausible. Just a thought.

I'm not that read up on Fr. Brown so maybe he already "solved" that problem.

Jim Bridges said...

I have thought you were right many times. You are one of the brightest people I know.