Raymond Brown On God's Revelation

I ran across an interesting quote by R. E. Brown recently that stopped me in my tracks--mainly because I was surprised to hear it coming from him. Here it is:

"The most crucial difference between McHugh and me may lie in a judgment on whether God's revelation, given to us once and for all in Jesus Christ, had to be understood totally by first-century Christians. I think that it did not and that those Christians wrote the NT with only a partial understanding of the revelation they described. That is why I maintain the need for a church which through the Holy Spirit can enable later generations to see in Christ aspects that first Christians did not see when they wrote their text."

-R. E. Brown, Biblical Exegesis & Church Doctrine, 73.

I don't know about you but I have a bit of trouble employing this type of theology and reasoning. What thoughts do you have on this?


  1. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. What problem do you have with it? It is similar to you reading the Bible in your youth and reading it when you are old.

  2. Wieland,
    The trouble I have with it is that it is this type of argumentation that cessationists and hardcore biblical inerrantists use. it has nothing to do w/age...but rather, this type of things is what dispensationalism thrives on. for instance, the assert that the author of Rev. did not know much about what he was writing but rather, it is being revealed to us today. to me, that is terribly unreasonable...and that is a problem!

  3. I see your point with respect to Revelation, Michael, but I think it is significantly different from the cessationist approach, inasmuch as it presumes that God continues to guide and speak to and through the Church.

    This conviction, it ought to be noted, clearly freed up Brown to deal with the Bible in an impressively honest way. The "sola scriptura" approach places too much of a burden on the Bible, because it must provide sufficient basis for everything the church believes and does. Brown is acknowledging that the New Testament authors did not have the precise view of Jesus found in the Nicene Creed, and saying that that is OK.