Father Raymond Brown''s book is a short but interesing account about the status of the early Catholic Church. He wrote an interesting account about different interpretations of Christ, His teaching, the differences among the apostles, and the differences among the early...
Father Raymond Brown''s book is a short but interesing account about the status of the early Catholic Church. He wrote an interesting account about different interpretations of Christ, His teaching, the differences among the apostles, and the differences among the early Christian communities. This book is NOT for anyone who refueses to understand that there is a complex history during the first Christian century. Father Brown used biblical texts and comments from some of the very early Church Fathers to explain this complexity.
Father Brown began this book with a very clear statement that different churches and traditions existed by the year c. 100 AD. Some of these differences dealt with Christ''s status as man and/or God or Son of the God. For example, John''s Gospel and the Epistles attributed to John stress Christ''s divinity without eliminating Christ''s status as a flesh-and-blood Man.
Disputes arose between those early Christians who came from a Jewish tradition and the "gentiles." Among others, St. Paul argued for a universal (Catholic)Church, and "true believers" did not have to adhere to Jewish traditions. This led to another debate as to whether the early Christians fulfilled the Hebrew Bible(Old Testament)or should they abandon the Old Testament. Let the record show the early Catholic Church councils opted to include the Old Testament in the Biblical Canon.
Most of the early apostles disappeared by c. 67 AD, and the historical question is how the early Church survived. Some of these questions were settled by Catholic Church Councils such as the Nicene Council (325 AD)-the Holy Trinity. Other issues such as the status as the Vulgate Bible were settled at the Council of Carthage (393), Council of Hippo (397)and another Council of Carthage (419 AD). However the history of these councils are beyond the scope of Father Brown''s book. Yet, Father Brown could have further exploited the Council of Jerusalem which is described in the Book of Acts (chapter15). Father Brown made a good case that St. Paul was both a missionary and the pastor who battled "false teachers" and those who would assume too much about interpretation. Even during St. Paul''s lifetime, the early Church had structure and authority. Sts. Titus, Barnabus, and Timothy were bestowed with authroity and were early bishops. The problem for many early Christians was not new concepts but the danger of NO ideas or concepts. The bishops had authority of interpretation.
Father Brown made a good case that when there is little arguement, the issues of belief and the Faith were settled. Yet, the apostles wrote about conflicts both to get concepts correct and to avoid excessive conflict which was a delicate balence. Both Sts. Peter and Paul made appeals for careful interpretation and even went to Rome to reguister their appeals and interpretation in the capital of the Roman Empire. Added to the internal conflicts were the persecutions against the Early Church during the reigns of Nero, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, and later Diocletion.
As Father Brown noted, St. John effectively argued for a universal Church by emphasizing Christ''s divinity and the fact that ALL people were God''s children. St. John emphasized the Eucharist and the beginnings of the Sacraments. Not only John, but the other Gospel writers wrote about forgiveness of all including women whom some of the "heretics" stated had no souls and were simply doomed because of their gender. Christ''s teaching and Gospel accounts rejected such a view.
A cursory view may give readers that the New Testament authors, the apostles,and Christ Himself undermined the Old Testament. Father Brown made a good point that Christ and early apostles actually preserved the best of the Old Testament, and Christ alerted his audiences to exceed the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes in holiness by focusing on men and women becoming better people. Forgiveness exceeded the petty resrtictions and penalties that were in place.
Father Brown argued that biblical reading and interpretation should not focus on whom is right or wrong, but such careful reading should be done to may be missing re our understanding. "Battle lines" can undermine deep understanding and important insights.
Father Brown''s book should appeal to serious readers regardless of whether they are Catholic or Protestant. His book raises good questions and explains the different interpretations that have developed during the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church and Christianity. Father Brown could have elaborated on the DIDACHE which is very similar to the Catholic Mass and helpd preserve some unity. He should have included a more comprehensive bibliography. The one he used is weak and sparce. In spite of this fact, this book is informative and useful to those interested in Church History.
James E. Egolf