I May Have Been Too Hard on Raymond Brown
Contrary to Newsweek's claim, Brown supports the virgin birth
In the blog I wrote yesterday about the latest news stories from Newsweek and Time trashing the account of the nativity, I quoted the following from Newsweek:
"Yet almost nothing in Luke's story stands up to close historical scrutiny; [Father Raymond] Brown[, author of Birth of the Messiah] finds it "dubious on almost every score."
I followed up this quote by quoting from an article from a Catholic author that questioned Father Brown's approach to scripture. Well, a friend of mine wrote and defended Father Brown, and I wanted to post what he said. After quoting the same portion of the Newsweek article I quote above, he said:
This is a misrepresentation of what Raymond Brown said in his massive work The Birth of The Messiah in which he is quoted entirely out of context. For example, Brown tells us that he considers the historicity of the virgin conception to have good supporting evidence."On purely exegetical grounds (in his 1976 edition of BBM) "I came to the conclusion that the scientifically controllable biblical evidence leaves historicity of the viginal conception unresloved"; yet there was better evidence for historicity than against." (R. Brown, BBB, 1993, pg. 698)
Considering Brown defends the histority of the MOST CONTENTIOUS PIECE IN THE ENTIRE INFANCY NARRATIVE, I think that his name is being both poorly used, and even trashed unfairly, by his critics. Moreover, the nuances of the arguments contained in a work that is over 700 pages long are missed entirely in an effort to make easy points on straw men building.
As to Brown's acceptance that Matthew and John were not written by eyewitnesses, this is true of GMatt (and it is certainly not a radical view, not to mention I believe that GMatt was not written by an eyewitness), but in the case of GJohn, Brown's argument is much more subtle and nuanced (AGAIN!!!), and includes an acceptance that much of GJohn was authored by an eyewitness, though not one of the Twelve.
Thus, I just wanted to mention my concern here, and to register a defence for the great work of this wonderful, and quite orthodox, Biblical scholar.
While I disagree with my friend about the identities of the authors of Matthew and John (I think that the evidence is sufficient to reasonably conclude that the two Apostles were, in fact, the authors), I found it interesting that even though Father Brown rejects Apostolic authorship, he found the account of the virgin birth to be more likely than not based on the evidence. Assuming my friend is right (and I have no reason to question him), I wonder how it is that Newsweek should highlight the idea that the account is "dubious" rather than the fact that there is "better evidence" for its historicity than against it.
Actually, I don't wonder at all. I feel pretty confident that I know.