Jose A. Pagola, a Roman Catholic priest is a learned man, who has also a long pastoral experience in the very difficult Basque setting. A place crossed by nationalist conflict (Basque nationalism, but also forms of Spanish intransigence), terrorist nationalist violence, eclesial dissent and a rapidly changing world. Remeber that Franco died in 1975, a dire economic crisis worked havoc in society, ETA killed about 800 people.
In the middle of it all, Pagola has sustained an outstanding literary production both of learned (as this book) and more practical, pastoral matters. He has also been part of the privy council of the Bishop of San Sebastian, the very polemical JM Setien.
This book is an outstanding intent to understand the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the man who was also God, the man who was "equal to us in all, but in sin". The man who "walked the world doing good". Who resurected.
Pagola brings us back 2000 years, to the Palestine where Jesus lived and walked, to his culture, his traditions, the politics, the economics. Based on that research and information, Jesus - person shines in another light, more human, more divine. All those layers of senseless tradition, of actually dressing Him in other clothes are taken away. After reading his comment on the "Our Father", that prayer is said in a more sincere, authentic way; women are given their true place in revelation, the miracles are ripped of their magical connotations and seen in a more powerful, faith based light... As the Church, as christians.
This is a very readable book, but written with passion and learning. Pagola doesn't pretend to make things softer, or more complicated. As a matter of fact, through this work one can understand the insistence of the Church Fathers on the true human nature of Jesus, against other more sublime, literate schools of thought, who in the end belittle Jesus' work, life, love and sacrifice. The last chapter of the book is called "Looking for names for the Resurrected", and tries to renew the experience of the early Church and of the disciples in today's life and today's church.
This book has not been gladly received by the Spanish bishops, intellectually nearer of the Inquisition than of Enlightment. The initial permit given by the bishop for printing the book as a Roman Catholic book has been retired, something that had never been seen before. Pagola is suffering now an internal strangement in his own Church. This should encourage you to read this, because the book is extremely pious.
There are only two MINOR drawbacks:
- Pagola doesn't mention the case of Jesus' love and sexual life. I don't particularly mind about it, because the Gospel writers considered them uninteresting, but much of the sexual doctrine of the Church is based on Jesus' celibacy, and that has had dramatic consequences when applied to the sexual life of christians. Pagola simply accepts the fact that Jesus had no wife, nor children, that's that. I think that this time he tried to avoid conflict with the "upper ranks".
- There are some minor editinig problems with the book. It has been translated from Spanish into English, and translation sometimes incoherent. Then this kind of book can't have a very large budget.
All in all, a very moving book for christians and non christians alike. Jesus came to shock people with goodness, 'to gather all the lost ewes of the flock", and the book achieves that. A good buy, a god read, and a good prayer.