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The Death of the Messiah, From Gethsemane to the Grave, Volume 1: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library) [Paperback]

By Raymond E. Brown (Author)
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Item description for The Death of the Messiah, From Gethsemane to the Grave, Volume 1: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library) by Raymond E. Brown...

In this monumental work, the late Raymond Brown explicated the Gospel narratives of Christ's passion and death, connecting each to its Old Testament antecedents, its function in the first-century church, and its place in current thought. This study also includes analysis of Old Testament traditions, comparative studies of the Gospels, literal translations of selected passages, extensive notes and commentary, and an extensive bibliography. A skilled, in-depth follow-up to his earlier work on the life of Christ, The Birth of the Messiah.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Yale University Press
Pages   877
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.2" Width: 6.1" Height: 1.9"
Weight:   1.96 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 1999
Publisher   Yale University Press
Series  Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library  
ISBN  0300140096  
ISBN13  9780300140095  

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More About Raymond E. Brown

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Raymond E. Brown, S.S., taught for many years at Saint Mary's Seminary in Baltimore and was Professor of Biblical Studies at the Union Theological Seminary for two decades. He was the author of three books in the Anchor Bible series on the Gospels and Epistles of John and wrote the classic Anchor Bible Reference Library volumes The Birth of the Messiah, The Death of the Messiah, and An Introduction to the New Testament. He died in 1998.

Francis J. Maloney, S.D.B., is Katherine Drexel Chair for Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Among his many distinguished books are The Gospel of John, A Hard Saying: The Gospel and Culture, and The Gospel of Mark.

Raymond E. Brown was born in 1935.

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Death of the Messiah, From Gethsemane to the Grave, Volume 1: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library)?

The Death of the Messiah  Apr 5, 2010
I purchased the books because they were recommended as being the authorative book on this subject. The preacher of the Pontifical Household,Fr. Cantalamessa in a homily in Rome said Father Raymond Brown is the authority on the Passion of Christ.
Like running a marathon (I think)  Aug 4, 2006
I don't run marathons, but people that do tell me that after finishing one the sense of accomplishment alone is exhilarating. I am not a fast reader and it took me several months to get through this 1,400-page book (between both volumes), every page of which is loaded with information. And that's not counting the equally absorbing and informative appendices which you will also feel compelled to read. Fortunately, the author had a gift for referring the reader back to key concepts mentioned previously in the book (with chapter section or page number!) at just the right time, which made it impossible to lose thread of the argument.

Moreover, this is a book to be savored slowly, like good wine. You will marvel at the ease with which this man navigated in and out of and through the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Talmud, Josephus, Philo, and even Islamic literature (let alone the Gospels themselves). Unlike more pretentious counterparts (Ehrman, anyone?), he was kind enough to transliterate Greek words, and confident enough that his doing so did not detract from the erudition of his work. There really is not a single aspect (actually, there isn't a single word) of the Passion Narratives which this book does not elaborate. His ability to explain the context in which each Gospel was written (period, intended audience, theological internal consistency) is illuminating.

If I were to fault the author for one thing, it would be that he gave too much exposition to viewpoints other than his. While this effort at evenhandedness is commendable, as you advance through the book you are so convinced of Fr. Brown's authority that you really don't care what the opposing positions might be.

Some more fundamentalist-minded readers seem to have a beef wih Fr. Brown. I have not read work from his early years when he may have taken more radical positions, but there is nothing in this book that detracts from Catholic dogma. He simply employed rigorous analytical tools to the study of the Gospels and stated when specific events are or are not corroborated by such investigation. On one hand, he unequivocally clarified that the Gospels were not written with the foreknowledge that they would be so scrutinized and any such failure would not invalidate them in any way. The cornerstone of the Gospels' authority lies in their early and continuous use in Church liturgy. On the other hand, you will be amazed by how much of them does stand such analysis.

When I was in Catholic school and we had a tough religious question that our teachers couldn't answer, they would say "I don't know, but our Holy Church has wise scholars who surely know the answer". I now know that such people do exist and Fr. Brown was one of them.
"Destroy This Temple, and I Will Raise It Up In Three Days."  Dec 12, 2004
Suffice to say that this two-volume work is the definitive English treatment of Biblical scholarship on the Passion Narratives. Prescinding a moment from the sacred matter of the study, one has to be impressed with the author's command of Biblical scholarship in several contemporary languages, not to mention the intricacies of ancient Greek, Latin, and Aramaic. He is well versed in the history of Biblical scholarship dating to Jerome and Augustine. Father Brown knows his academic peers, their methodologies, emphases, and biases. He is blunt in his praises and criticisms of others working the field. This work is a tribute to Father Brown's single-minded devotion to his field.

The first volume of 900 pages treats of the Gethsemanae events through the condemnation of Christ by Pilate. Brown poses the existence of one or possibly a few distinct and original oral Passion accounts. The Last Supper and the Resurrection accounts are both excluded from this study, as the author believes that the meal with the Twelve and the mysterious empty tomb/apparition accounts come from other distinct early Christian sources. The style is considerably more expository than inspirational, though for such a highly technical work the narrative flow is quite adequate. A reader with little time or theological background might do well to read Father Brown's "A Crucified Christ in Holy Week," a 70-page reflection on the author's study of the Passion.

Father Brown's work continues the tradition of "redaction criticism" of the New Testament, perhaps the predominant methodology of the past half-century. Redaction criticism contrasts the four stories of the Christ by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to discern a particular philosophy or theology of Christ unique to that author or his community. The Matthean Christ, for example, emerges as the New Moses; the Markan Christ as the unique prophet of a new age of forgiveness, etc. There is some subtle development of redaction conclusions in the work at hand. Father Brown does not believe it is possible to identify the Gospel authors with certainty. From a historical vantage point, the best one can say is that the nuclei of the Gospel accounts, including the Passion tradition[s], originated in early Christian circles, somewhere between 30-60 A.D. Father Brown's work tends to smooth or ameliorate what had been sharply defined boundaries between the evangelists. He tends throughout his treatment to pair Mark and Matthew, in gentle opposition to Luke. He even makes attempts to find common ground in Mark and John, something my professors of the early 1970's rarely attempted.

Father Brown puts more energy into finding bridges between the Gospel narratives and Hebrew Scripture accounts. Thus he underscores the remarkable cohesion of the Christian tradition of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemanae and the story of David's flight from Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 15ff. If the reader takes the time to examine the 2 Samuel text, the parallels are uncanny. The roots of the Judas character, a covey of conspirators, and a mental/spiritual agony on the Mount of Olives are compiled there. In fact, there are even traces of Jesus' warnings to the Apostles in 2 Samuel 15:14-15. The author concludes that the death of Jesus can be understood only in the context of Jewish history, and that the primitive oral account or accounts of the Passion were formulated with considerable influence from the Hebrew Scripture.

The centerpiece of this volume is the judicial action against Jesus. Father Brown establishes that the Sanhedrin owned its maximum responsibility for Jesus' fate, and that likewise Pilate owned his maximum responsibility as well. It was not the Romans who initiated charges against Jesus. Politically speaking, Roman-Jewish relations were as tranquil as they had ever been or ever would be. Any idea that Jesus was prosecuted for political subversion is dismantled. Pilate's condemnation was an unusual but not unheard of acquiescence to the wishes of the Sanhedrin.

On the contrary, Jesus died for religious reasons, specifically issues of Jewish theology and practice. The Sanhedrin did not wish to crucify Jesus for doing kindly deeds or attracting crowds. Rather, it was Jesus' powerful rebuke of the contemporary practice of temple-based Jewish life and worship that placed a cross upon the shoulders of the Christ. There is a progression of prophetic criticism from Jesus' lips of legalism, ritualism, casuistry, exclusivity, and spiritual malaise in all four Gospel biographies. Earlier in Jesus' ministry the rebukes seemed to hold forth the hope that current Jewish practice could be reformed. But on the eve of Passover, Jesus' prediction that he himself could destroy the Temple and raise it in three days constituted wholesale blasphemy as heard by Jewish elders. For as Father Brown implies, Jewish leaders who heard this declaration understood it more clearly than later Christians who interpreted it metaphorically. [Recall Matthew's remark that at the moment of his death the curtain of the Holy of Holies-the heart of the cult-was rent from top to bottom.] Jesus was indeed testifying that the Temple cult was dead. Obviously, this kind of thinking and preaching was untenable and demanded the strongest of responses.

Father Brown has never in his lengthy career felt restrained by Jewish sensitivities to water down his belief that the Sanhedrin is primarily responsible for Jesus' death. But neither has any scholar of my acquaintance gone to greater pains to underscore the existential nature of Jesus' condemnation: it was this Sanhedrin, at this point in time, in this political environment that condemned Jesus. The author sharply condemns any broader generalizations of an anti-Semitic nature. It is true, however, that the author's works on the community of the Evangelist John tend to elaborate sufferings of later Christian communities at the hands of their former Jewish comrades in faith. Does this point of view influence Father Brown's treatment of the Sanhedrin in this work? Good scholars may argue this point, but no one can disagree that Father Brown has done his homework. In spades.

The best resource on the 36 hours before the crucifixion  Feb 21, 2002
It's hard to believe that a guy could write 1500 some pages on 36 hours of a person's life. Yet it makes for fascinating reading, and Father Brown leaves few stones unturned in his penetrating look at the final hours of Jesus' earthly ministry. In volume one, he discusses the relationships between the first three gospels and the gospel of John, and then he proceesed on to a discussion of each gospel's passion narrative. Father Brown's main agenda is to get at the meaning of the biblical text as it stands. This is not to say that Brown shys away from discussing the historicity of a particular passage. Sometimes, he swims against the stream by leaving open the possibility of the historicity of a story (eg. that there really was a Jewish and a Roman trial of Jesus). And occasionally, he sees the passion stories as powerful metaphors rather than something that actually happened (cf John 18, when the crowd falls to the ground when Jesus says 'I am He.") Yet He is also rightfully skeptical about modern attempts to reconstruct what actually happened 1970 years ago. He prefers to let the text of scripture speak for itself.

This book is a huge, academic tome, and as rich and informative as it is, the reader better be prepared to make heavy weather of it. You could spend lots of extra time mining extra information out of all the footnotes and bibliographical references that Brown cites. But I could hardly recommend any other source for people who want to know more about the passion of Christ.

Serious contemplation of the passion of Christ  Feb 4, 2002
The late Ray Brown is one of the most highly respected Christian scholars of our time. Although he was Roman Catholic his work is regarded very highly among non-Catholic scholars and he was a passionate but fearlessly clear thinker with a lucid and beautiful writing style.

This work is the culmination of a lifetime of serious study and contemplation of the four canonical Gospels. In it he contrasts and compares in great detail the passion stories as they play out in the three so-called synoptic gospels and the fourth, the Gospel of John.

This two-volume work is certainly not an "easy read" but is indeed rewarding and manageable by any general layperson with the will to perservere in study. For example, unlike some works of no greater scholarly attainment, it does not presuppose a knowledge of ancient languages, and can be read in isolation (with occasional use of a Bible), not sending you round to find background studies to try to make sense of what you are reading. I would recommend this work highly to anyone seeking a better understanding of the Passion of Christ.


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