Monday, January 04, 2010

Internet Inquisition Goes After Distinguished Roman Catholic Scholar, 10 Years Too Late

Raymond Brown was the Auburn Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies at Union Theological Seminary, the first person to have been president of all three major biblical societies: The Catholic Biblical Association, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Society for New Testament Studies. From 1972 to 1978 he was the only American on the Roman Pontifical Biblical Commission, an appointment that Pope Paul VI said is only given to outstanding scholars.

That was then, this is now.

If anyone can identify the guy in the video, please let me know.

Recent choice tidbits from the Catholic Answers magisterium:

"I know many love the works of Fr. Raymond Brown S.S. but since his doctrine is just rehashed protestantism, doesn't it make more sense to study Catholic Doctrine as opposed to the contradictory theories of a man who has exceeded the epistomological certitude levels of his science."

"I made the mistake of buying the 'new jerome biblical commentary.' It looks scholarly, but it has Brown's biases overlaid in it. He even says in there someplace that no one should be reading the NJBC in a fundamentalist way (" hey, it says here that....").I say throw it out now, and save yourself some trouble."

And some old reheated comments from last year:

Robert Sungenis: "...Fr. Raymond Brown and Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, two of the most liberal Catholics in academia." [source]

Romanist apologist: "But we're all supposed to be good little Catholics and accept Fr. Raymond Brown as a fully orthodox 'one of our own" because the liberals say so and because to not do so would open us up to the horrifying, discussion-stifling charge of being "fundamentalists,' 'ultraconservatives,' 'reactionaries' and other 'shut up'-type epithets from the liberal overlord catalogue of censorship-and-evasion of the issues by-name-calling."[source]

Thanks for your opinions! Here's an opinion though, from a Catholic Answers participant, who makes a good point , and asks a very interesting question:

We don't follow Biblical scholars, we follow Jesus. Nevertheless, I fail to see the reason for attacking a man who's been dead for 10 years, who was a respected scholar and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission as well as a priest and religious.

Scholarly theories come and go. Some "stick" and become the basis of further study. Some fade away. Others join their fellows on the shelf, with adherants and opponents. Those who want to challenge Raymond Brown's scholarly work will continue to do so in academic forums, and their work will become part of the ongoing discussion. Outside of academia, those who find his views threatening are under no obligation to read them or agree with them.

If neither his superiors nor the Vatican believed it necessary to discipline Fr. Brown during his career, I don't know why anyone feels it's appropriate to do so now.

Now that indeed is a good question. If the Vatican doesn't care, why should Roman Catholics?


louis said...

What on earth was "protestant" about Raymond Brown?

James Swan said...

Take a listen to the video.

louis said...

The only two connections he made between Raymond Brown and Protestantism (unless I missed something), were:

i. Denying the immaculate conception; and

ii. Reading scripture apart from the tradition/teaching of the Roman church.

Is that all it takes to be a Protestant now?

Ken said...

Very interesting!

Louis - the priest was saying that Raymond Brown approached Scripture in a "Sola Scriptura" method, rather than through the lens of the RCC theology/dogma/magisterium, etc. (as you say in # 2) He doesn't mean he is a total protestant, but that he approached Scripture like a Protestant.

We would agree with this priest that the higher critical methods that go too far and deny miracles and deny that the Scriptures are infallible/inerrant and historically true is wrong and destroys faith. (Didn't Raymond Brown question the historicity of Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2?

Did R. Brown deny the virgin birth itself? (or imply it, by denying the history of Matthew 1-2?) I don't know, I am just asking.

Did he imply or suggest that it was the Christ of faith rather than the Christ of history?

Are there other doctrines he denied, not only the RC dogmas that we don't accept, but others that are clear in Scripture? (The Virgin Birth?; Herod seeking to kill the babies ?; Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead?)

The philosophy that separates the "Jesus of history vs. the Jesus of Faith" is clearly wrong; in that we would agree with the priest.

But beyond those 2 issues, there seems to be an implication that reading the plain text of Scripture and doing proper exegesis; it results in denying the Immaculate Conception of Mary, precisely because it is just not there in the text at all, even by implication.

What other RC dogmas did R. Brown deny? ( Purgatory?; PVM?; BAM?; Infallibility of the Pope? Transubstantiation?) or did he?
( I am just asking, if anyone knows.)

Why do many Roman Catholics think that Sola Scriptura leads to liberalism/higher critical methods?

Many of the debates/discussions I have had in the comboxes at RC sites have accused Sola Scriptura of that also; that it leads to liberalism. I don't get how. some guys over at David Waltz' blog made that claim.

There are plenty of Protestants (both Reformed and non-Reformed) that follow Sola Scriptura and do not become liberal.

louis said...

"that he approached Scripture like a Protestant...and doing proper exegesis..."

Therein lies the problem. I've only read a little of Raymond Brown, but from what I've seen he did not approach scripture like a protestant, and certainly did not do proper exegesis. He was a liberal text-critic who concocted all sorts of fanciful garbage out of his reading of the bible.

That is not sola scriptura, and making that connection between sola scriptura and text-criticism is exactly why they can say that sola scriptura leads to liberalism. Roman Catholics are right to distance themselves from this man's "scholarship", but we should not let them for a minute make a protestant out of him.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the priest - "liberalism is compartible with protestantism...modernists are protestants to their logical conclusion"

Ken said...

There is some textual criticism that is honest with the textual variants in Greek manuscripts, good and balanced, like Dr. James White's The King James Version Only Controversy; but, I agree with you, that Sola Scriptura and proper exegesis do not result or cause liberalism and deny the historicity of the text.

I don't understand how Roman Catholics claim that Sola Scriptura leads to liberalism.

GeneMBridges said...

"liberalism is compartible with protestantism...modernists are protestants to their logical conclusion"

Then by Catholic logic, Dozie, since the Vatican doesn't care, why should you be bothered by this?

I, for one,think it's hilarious that the average Catholic in the pew is more conservative than the Magisterium and throws the Magiterium under the bus while telling us how much superior having a Magisterium and a"living Voice" is to the Protestant rule of faith.

GeneMBridges said...

I don't understand how Roman Catholics claim that Sola Scriptura leads to liberalism.

Indeed,for at its root the essence of liberalism is looking outside of Scripture for an equal and/or superior authority. That,in turn,is precisely the Catholic rule of faith at its heart.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Indeed, sola Scriptura, when properly practised, always leads us back to the inspired Scriptures. It's when we reject the Scriptures as authentically the Word of God that cults and the like spring up because they always have an ultimate authority to which the Bible is subservient.

I'll never buy this argument that sola Scriptura leads to chaos. It's really not thought through well but is used in a caricature form as a rhetorical hammer with which to bludgeon one's theological opponent.

History and common sense demonstrate otherwise.

Edward Reiss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alex said...

It is really depressing after all this time you folks continue to carelessly sling the term "Magisterium" (and in Edward's case he can't even spell it correctly) around, indicating that you still do not know what it is much less how it is used. This all makes for a big waste of time. Meanwhile, you get furious over Catholics confusing your (Reformed) conception of sola scriptura with that of the Evangelical/Fundamentalists.

The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church, whose task is to give us an authentic interpretation of the Word of God. Perhaps the term "office" is what throws you if you can call the Vatican and press <3> for the extension to the Magisterium.

It certainly seems that sola scriptura as the rule of faith does give way to liberalism due to the examples of Reformed Protestants continual struggle with profound moral issues like masturbation (Steve Hays) and contraception, not to mention other issues. If Scripture is silent about the issue, then Protestants seemingly have great difficulty in forming conclusions.

Edward Reiss said...


None the less, there was a liberal, prominent scholar in good standing with the Magisterium (he he) who other RCs call a protestant and a liberal. IOW, Fr. Brown was a "liberal" in full communion with the RCC despite the alleged "protestantism" of his views. Indeed, he was honored as a biblical scholar. This basically invalidates all the charges by DA and others as to Fr. Brown's "liberal protestantism". As a brute fact he was neither, but well within the mainstream of RC theology and exegesis.

And you guys need to stop usurping the authority you are always talking about, it makes your claims riung very hollow.

GeneMBridges said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Churchmouse said...

Jim, you asked about the priest. I believe he is the one who is posting the videos and calls himself "CathPresbyter." I don't know if he is one and the same as the "CathPresbyter" on YouTube, and if that is the case, he is aware of Dr. Oakley and subscribes to his channel:

As for those who question Raymond Brown, just remember, he was never censured, excommunicated, defrocked, or anathamatized. If anything, many of his works received the Nihil Obstat, declared by a censor to be free from anything damaging to the faith, and the Imprimatur, thus declared to be free from error in regards to RC doctrine. Sure, you can call him a "protestant", a "modernist" and vilify him incessantly, the man certainly isn't around to defend himself, but remember that your own authorities have deemed him "orthodox" and that speaks volumes. Can anyone say "unity of doctrine" three times and in three seconds ;)