This is an ongoing review of New Testament scholar Raymond Brown’s book, in two volumes, The Death of the Messiah (copyright, 1994). In the introduction, Brown states that the primary aim of the book is: to explain in detail what the evangelists intended and conveyed to their audiences by their narratives of the passion and death of Jesus. Brown states he intends to do this by examining the four gospels in parallel rather than vertically, the historically preferred pattern of study.
Most scholars (liberal and conservative) consider Brown a moderate. He was a Roman Catholic. His views were considered compatible with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, an institution not known for a liberal bias under Pope John Paul II, the time period in which this book was written. I find Raymond Brown’s work to be refreshingly honest. Devoid of bias. In my view, Brown has only one agenda: the truth. He does not attempt to proselytize the reader to his point of view. If the evidence supports the traditional Christian position, fine. If the evidence does not support the traditional Christian position, that is fine too. As a devout Catholic, Brown most definitely believed in the supernatural. Therefore, the popular apologist charge that the majority of NT scholars are biased against the supernatural cannot be made against the work of Raymond Brown.
Most major episodes of the Lucan passion narrative have a parallel in Mark with the notable exceptions of Jesus before Herod, the women on the way to the place of crucifixion, and the “penitent thief”. Nevertheless, both in structure and tone Luke diverges far more from Mark than does Matthew. I mentioned above that Mark/Matthew are characterized (in varying degrees) by the isolation of Jesus and the failure of the disciples. Not so Luke. Absent from the episode on the Mount of Olives are the Marcan references to Jesus’ being troubled and sorrowful unto death; indeed his prayer to his Father receives a strengthening angelic response. Readers are given the sense that Jesus is in communion with the Father throughout, so that appropriately the last words of the crucified are not an anguished cry to his God by one who feels forsaken, but a tranquil “Father, into your hands I place my Spirit”.
Gary: Good grief!
Jesus is sorrowful unto death in one gospel, throwing himself on the ground, but he is just anxious while kneeling in prayer in another. An angel, an ANGEL, comforts Jesus in one gospel, but no mention of this heavenly being in the other gospel. One gospel has Jesus crying out in despair asking God why he has forsaken him, as his last words on the cross, but in the other gospel, Jesus serenely commends his soul into the hands of the Father.
Give me a break!
If this isn’t the most blatant evidence that the authors of the Gospels were inventing stories right and left, I don’t know what is! Look, folks. According to the Gospels, there was no one else present with Jesus when he prayed to his Father on the Mount of Olives, having removed himself some distance from the sleeping disciples. So how do we know the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ prayer to the Father? Answer: There are only two possibilities: Either Jesus (God) told someone in the forty day period after his resurrection, or, we have an omniscient narrator (God) dictating what happened in this scene directly to the gospel authors.
Problem is: The stories in Mark and Luke are irreconcilable! Jesus was either very agitated and sorrowful unto death about his impending crucifixion or he was just anxious. In one version there is an angel in the other the angel is absent. Someone got this scene wrong!!! And it was either…Jesus (God) or the omniscient narrator (God)! So God made a mistake in one of these stories!
But how about another explanation: At least one author, and maybe both, completely fabricated this scene/story in the Passion Narrative! So how much more of the four Gospel narratives are complete fabrication???
Jesus prayer on the Mount of Olives in Mark:
“They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba,[h] Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[i] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Jesus prayer on the Mount of Olives in Luke:
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”[a] 41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [[43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]]b
b: Other ancient authorities lack verses 43 and 44
Gary: Are verses 43 and 44 scribal additions? Maybe the original author of Luke didn’t have Jesus “anxious” at all!