The Passion Narrative proceeds from arrest through trial to condemnation, execution, and burial. In each Gospel, it records the longest consecutive action of Jesus. It has captured the attention and imagination of dramatists and artists, and it has inspired the poetry and music of the church for two thousand years. Alongside “born of the Virgin Mary,” the other phrase that made its way into the creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” has become a marker anchoring Christian belief about the Son of God to a Jesus who was a human figure of actual history.
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“Let me express in one clause (with no pretension that it is elegantly enunciated or philosophically profound) the primary aim of this book: to explain in detail what the evangelists intended and conveyed to their audiences by their narratives of the passion and death of Jesus.” (Page 4)
“First, we should keep clear that there is a difference between history and tradition.” (Page 22)
“The risen Jesus going before (proagein) the disciples into Galilee is a reversal of the scattering, as suggested by the Marcan ‘However’ (alla). In Mark 10:32, on his way to die, Jesus went before (proagein) the disciples and they walked behind him as a group going up to Jerusalem; after the resurrection he will resume the role of leading, a shepherding role that will reconstitute the flock.” (Pages 130–131)
“In part this Lucan portrait is colored by the desire to have Jesus in his passion revealed as a model to Christian sufferers and martyrs.” (Page 157)
“In the tragic drama of the Mark/Matt PN Jesus has been abandoned by his disciples and mocked by all who have come to the cross. Darkness has covered the earth; there is nothing that shows God acting on Jesus’ side. How appropriate that Jesus feel forsaken! His ‘Why?’ is that of someone who has plumbed the depths of the abyss, and feels enveloped by the power of darkness. Jesus is not questioning the existence of God or the power of God to do something about what is happening; he is questioning the silence of the one whom he calls ‘My God.’” (Page 1046)
Historically, Jesus’ death was the most public event of his life. Theologically, Christians have interpreted the death of Jesus on the cross as a key element of God’s plan for the justification, redemption, and salvation of all. Spiritually, the Jesus of the Passion has been the focus of Christian meditation for countless would-be disciples who take seriously the command of the Master to take up the cross and follow him. Pastorally, the passion is the centerpiece of Lent and Holy Week, and the most sacred time in the liturgical calendar. From every point of view, the Passion is the central narrative in the Christian story.
The massive amount of material written on the Passion Narrative creates a need for a work that brings together the scattered views, proposals, and interpretations. In this work, Raymond Brown sifts through the material to offer a full-scale commentary on the Passion Narratives of the Gospels. Volume 1 covers the scenes of Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus before the Jewish authorities, and Jesus before Pilate. This volume contains translation, commentary, and analysis of each passage. In Volume 2, Brown’s project of commentary continues and analizes the Passion Narrative, covering the scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. This volume also contains nine appendices on non-canonical passion narratives, historicity, views of Judas Iscariot, Old Testament background, and Jesus’ predictions of his death. Volume 2 concludes with a detailed bibliography and a 25-page subject index.
The Death of the Messiah serves a variety of audiences: scholars, pastors, students of the religion and theology of the Bible, interested Christians, and those of any persuasion who seek knowledge about the passion and death of Jesus. Brown treats subjects in a readable way, even when it requires greater length or exposition.
Once again Raymond Brown has written a magnum opus. A stunning array of fresh insights into how the passion stories came into being and what—scene by scene—the four Evangelists really say about the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.
Father Raymond Brown has a strong claim to be the most distinguished of American New Testament scholars, and he has few competitors worldwide.
—New York Times
The Death of the Messiah is first of all a scholarly work, but it is also enjoyably readable and accessible to the interested layman.
Breathtaking! Raymond E. Brown’s The Death of the Messiah crowns two millennia of Christian scholarship pondering the ‘scandal of the crucifixion.’ Brown has once again demonstrated his position as Father, Rabbi, and Teacher to us all.
—Burton L. Visotzky, professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary
The supreme achievement of a deeply pastoral scholar.
—Sandra M. Schneiders, professor of New Testament studies and christian spirituality, Jesuit School of Theology and Graduate Theological Union
The benchmark by which any future study of the Passion Narratives will be measured.
—John P. Meier, professor of New Testament, University of Notre Dame
These volumes are a treasure that spans the ages.
—Phyllis Trible, professor, Wake Forest University Divinity School
Raymond E. Brown taught for many years at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and was a professor of biblical studies at the Union Theological Seminary for two decades. He was the author of three books in the Anchor Yale Bible series on the Gospels and Epistles of John. He died in 1998.