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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radical, readable, scholarly
A friend recommended I read this book. Although I was initially sceptical, as I had not always been keen on Josef Ratzinger's actions before he became Pope, I thought I'd suspend my prejudice and take my friend's advice. I am so grateful I did. Basically, this book takes the fruits of several decades of scientifically-rigorous 'historical-critical' exegesis and asks...
Published on 3 Aug 2008 by P. Younger

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not for the light reader
Indeed, not for any but the most serious reader. I gave this 3 stars only because I expected this to be a book that spoke clearly to the person with a strong interest in the life of Jesus Christ and hoped the writer would elucidate His life. But, I have to say, this is very thick stuff to wade through. Perhaps it is a clumsy translation, or perhaps the author is just...
Published on 19 Oct 2009 by Dr John N Sutherland


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radical, readable, scholarly, 3 Aug 2008
By 
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
A friend recommended I read this book. Although I was initially sceptical, as I had not always been keen on Josef Ratzinger's actions before he became Pope, I thought I'd suspend my prejudice and take my friend's advice. I am so grateful I did. Basically, this book takes the fruits of several decades of scientifically-rigorous 'historical-critical' exegesis and asks "What does all this scholarship mean for the understanding a person of faith might have of Jesus of Nazareth?". The answer is at once clearly presented and utterly radical. There are sections in this book - for instance the treatment of the temptation narratives - which cannot be read without bringing you face to face with the very challenges Jesus posed his contemporaries. I found myself forced to a critical self-examination many times, and absolutely 'wowed' at others. I've already recommended this book to other close friends. If you really want to be exposed to Jesus as he meant to present himself, this book is a great place to start. I do hope that the Pope delivers on his stated desire in the introduction to produce a second volume, extending the present coverage (on the public ministry of Jesus) to the infancy, passion and resurrection narratives. If this present work is anything to judge by, that future volume will be an immensely valuable contribution.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yeshua and the Pope, 30 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Paperback)
With me being a Jew, and Ratzinger being a Pope as well as a German, you can imagine I was slightly reluctant to acquire this book but... curiosity killed the cat!

My reluctance and bias were in fact killed by the sheer brilliance and luminous style of this work: if the Pope is Christ's representative on Earth, then the Pope has created a masterpiece "autobiography". His message is clear and goes straight to the heart, presenting the reader with a Jesus who is incredibly real and divinely human, the whole text compelling and inspirational.

No complicate theology is offered (for this you should read Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI), nor any sophisticate exegesis of biblical texts . His Holiness is lucid and crystal-clear in his exposition of facts and ideas, not at all homiletic or speaking ex-cathedra with the authority of his position. Actually, he states, in his foreword, "this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium, but is solely an expression of my personal search 'for the face of the Lord'"

I believe the author has excellently succeeded. You have a Jew's word!
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ratzinger at his utter best, 16 Feb 2008
By 
Aquinas "summa" (celestial heights, UK) - See all my reviews
This is a book to be read and re-read so that the reader can imbibe the fruits of Pope Benedict's extraordinary intelligence and palpable holiness. I will list just four reasons, although there are many more.

1. The Pope enabled me to see again the decisive radicality of Jesus of Nazareth, the new Moses, whose authority caused many in Israel to react with alarm. I was particularly taken by his use of the work of Jacob Neusner, an american Rabbi, who has written a notable work on Jesus. What is remarkable is that Jacob Neusner sees clearly the "problem" with Jesus, a man who claims to have divine authority and who proclaims himself as the new "Torah" in the sermon on the mount. The Pope himself acknowledges his indebtedness to Jacon Neusner for enabling him to see Jesus afresh through the lense of judaism.

2. The Pope's dialogue with modern exegetes is particularly illuminating in that he draws from their work those golden nuggets which enable one to see Jesus in his historic reality. He also dialogues with those exegetes who have lost sight of Jesus by erroneously seeing Jesus in the gospels as some sort of modern liberal rabbi and underlines how such views do not sit squarely with the gospel accounts.

3. Critically, the Pope announces that he personally trusts the gospels and rejects Bultmann's rejection of the historicity of John's gospel. He shows how John sits squarely within the ambit of the faith and feasts of Israel.

4. Above all, amidst the scholarly analysis, the Pope shows himself as a man of immense faith. At certain parts of the book, I felt myself movingly humbled by being, so to speak, at the feet of a man, who is himself a great teacher. Long may he live so that we can enjoy the fruits of his labours.
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66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jesus, 10 July 2008
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Paperback)
Most books that have been written about Jesus recently seem to have been written with the intention of shocking the religious community. This is the Popes book and so it stands to reason that he's obviously going to follow the Catholic line. However even in the early chapters he makes those other authors seem self indulgent and exposes Jeremy Bowen's dreadful BBC documentary Son of God for the lazy hatchet job that it was.

Ratzinger argues with ease that you cannot separate the historical Jesus from the religious figure because Jesus preached about God above all else. He includes enough historical detail to make the reader understand the context of Jesus said and what it meant to the Jews when he said it.

Ratzinger also clears up any misconceptions people have about Jesus' teaching. For example I never really properly understand his teaching about doing good on a Sunday until I read this book. The language Ratzinger uses isn't lofty or overly dramatic. He communicates his meaning clearly and you don't have to be a member of the clergy to get it. You really get the sense that Ratzinger is on his home turf here, he's not trying to argue his case, he doesn't need to, he's just explaining what he knows.

And so you a get clearer portrait of the Jesus that lived 2000 years ago. A figure that is more radical, life changing and shocking than perhaps any of those other authors can come up with.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 5 Oct 2009
By 
M. A. HUGHES (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Paperback)
Easy to read book, well written and gives good explanations of quite complex and deep points of Catholicism, in a plain speaking and easy to understand manner for someone like myself, who has not been trained in Theology. Really enjoyed reading about aspects of my faith that I have not really understood even after 60 years of being a cradle Catholic. Worth buying, you will enjoy it and will understand it, I am sure....a good informative and thought provoking read.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 24 Aug 2007
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This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
Although I'm a Christian, I am not religious, catholic or spiritual I prefer a quiet faith. I have never been a big fan of Christian literature. This book however, is a very refreshing read and Joseph Ratzinger approaches this account of explanation of Jesus' ministry and connection through the Torah in a very readable and understandable way. Whilst there are a few times that I have had to reread a section to command a greater understanding (specifically the Sermon on the Mount), the Pope's command and explanation is excellent - specifically The Lord's Prayer
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85 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joseph ratziger on top form, 1 Jun 2007
By 
Aquinas "summa" (celestial heights, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
This is a book to be read and re-read so that the reader can imbibe the fruits of Pope Benedict's extraordinary intelligence and palpable holiness. I will list just four reasons, although there are many more.

1. The Pope enabled me to see again the decisive radicality of Jesus of Nazareth, the new Moses, whose authority caused many in Israel to react with alarm. I was particularly taken by his use of the work of Jacob Neusner, an american Rabbi, who has written a notable work on Jesus. What is remarkable is that Jacob Neusner sees clearly the "problem" with Jesus, a man who claims to have divine authority and who proclaims himself as the new "Torah" in the sermon on the mount. The Pope himself acknowledges his indebtedness to Jacon Neusner for enabling him to see Jesus afresh through the lense of judaism.

2. The Pope's dialogue with modern exegetes is particularly illuminating in that he draws from their work those golden nuggets which enable one to see Jesus in his historic reality. He also dialogues with those exegetes who have lost sight of Jesus by erroneously seeing Jesus in the gospels as some sort of modern liberal rabbi and underlines how such views do not sit squarely with the gospel accounts.

3. Critically, the Pope announces that he personally trusts the gospels and rejects Bultmann's rejection of the historicity of John's gospel. He shows how John sits squarely within the ambit of the faith and feasts of Israel.

4. Above all, amidst the scholarly analysis, the Pope shows himself as a man of immense faith. At certain parts of the book, I felt myself movingly humbled by being, so to speak, at the feet of a man, who is himself a great teacher. Long may he live so that we can enjoy the fruits of his labours.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Academic Work, 5 Oct 2007
By 
M. A. Ramos (Florida USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
In this book, Pope Benedict XVI uses both the New and Old Testaments to confirm the Divinity of Christ, and gives us direction on how to increase our faith and expand our hope. He also confirms the catholicity of the Catholic Church and instills that our goal is to find salvation through Jesus. While he's speaking directly to academe, this book was also written for all people. Along with the Bible he reinforces his points with tradition and other theological sources.

We are able to benefit from His Holiness masterfully shows that Jesus revealed that he himself was God. You understand Jesus is Lord when you have finished this book, or have it reinforced if you already know the truth. This is a great textbook and though I do recommend that everyone read this book, be aware that it does seem to expect the reader to have a background in the Bible and to be familiar with the story of Jesus. This is the kind of book you would expect from the Church's leading theologian. I do recommend you get your own copy so you can read and re-read this.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jesus lives, 7 Jun 2007
By 
J. S. Pullen (cambridgeshire, england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
Careful study of the Gospels helps us to establish that Jesus of Nazareth existed and to establish certain key events in Jesus life and key elements in his teaching. Many scholars who purport to write about "The Historical Jesus" then set out to perform the impossible task of knowing a person who once lived in the past and to re-construct such a person. In the introduction to this book Pope Benedict lays bare the emptiness of the result. He shows how he results of such a fruitless reconstruction always ends in contradiction. For some Jesus is an intersting prophet whose teaching lies well within the limits of comtemporary Jewish thinking and therefore his rejection and murder are inexplicable. To others He is a revolutionary expecting the end of time in which case much of teaching is contradictory to that message and must be ignored only on those grounds even if on other grounds the sayings are clearly from him. In neither case is it possible to see why a "jesus movement" then arose and flourished.

Some people recognising this then revert to a very fundamentalist, pre-critical scholarship reading of the Gospels and thus fall into the same trap of wanting to believe in a figure from the past. Benedict's book is a refreshing, positive response which is written from today's knowledge. He writes about the way what had happened in Jesus life came to be understood by those who believed in his resurrection and knew him as a present Lord who had once lived. He uses the crafts of modern scholarship in order to deepen our understanding some of the key events in Jesus historical ministry.

This is honest work that takes on board the "unhistorical" nature of some of what is written (eg the details of temptation narratives in Matthew and Luke)but draws out of that the way the Gospel writers revealed the inner meaning of the key events

It is a beautifully written and a compelling work by a fine scholar of deep faith.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars But whom say ye that I am?, 29 Mar 2011
By 
Roderick Blyth (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Paperback)
In the middle of CXIX, a number of studies of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ began to appear in which liberal intellectuals sought to employ historical-critical methods establish what could be known about the `real Jesus.' The use of the term `real' naturally suggested that the figure presented in scripture was `unreal' , and these books were, indeed, based on the premise that the figure of Jesus portrayed in the gospels was not, in truth, the likeness of the man, but a sylised icon varnished with superstition and dirtied with prejudice. Once the varnish and the dirt was stripped and cleaned, the true Jesus would, it was thought, shine forth. Albert Schweitzer, who was the first to point a mocking finger at liberal critics admiring themselves in the resulting mirror, pretty well put a stop to this particular trend, and sought to define Jesus by reference to the eschatological character of his actual words. More recently, some important scholars, and some less important journalists, have written works which have used evidence of the milieu of first century Palestine to try and construct a picture of Jesus as a person who would have fitted appropriately into that milieu - notwithstanding his pronounced lack of success in actually doing so. Some have even gone as far as to `edit' the Gospels, so as to strike out as `inauthentic' any statement attributed to Jesus which is, in their view, incompatible with what a Jew in first century Palestine might reasonably be thought to have made - thereby leaving a pitiful collection of more or less edifying aphorisms.

As Pope Benedict XIV points out in his Foreword to this, the first part of this, his study of Jesus of Nazareth, the trends outlined in the last paragraph have had a paradoxical effect. Far from making the figure of Jesus more real and more present, they have rendered him less so.

The curious thing is that the historical evidence for Jesus is really pretty good. If you consider the texts on which our understanding of the history of the ancient world is based, you will be struck by the fact that the accounts of contemporary eyewitnesses are actually somewhat the exception.. We know, for example, that there were numerous contemporary accounts of Alexander the Great, but none have survived. Yet few people question that the accounts written by Dio, Arrian and Quintus Curtius Rufus - centuries later - are substantially redactions of the eyewitness accounts, or that they can be substantially relied upon. It is well known that the polished `speeches' attributed to their protagonists by ancient historians are confections, partly designed to display the writer's rhetorical skills, and partly to serve as commentaries on events themselves. It is not just Thucydides' Pericles of whom it can be said that `Une oraison funèbre dit exactement ce que le mort aurait dû être.' So accounts of eyewitnesses rendered into prose within decades of the extraordinary events which they purport to describe and quoting utterances quite outside the conventional experience of those contemporary with them might seem to merit a lot more serious consideration than it has become common to accord them.

The real problem, of course, is with the modern mindset which finds it difficult enough to accept miracle cures, let alone bringing someone back from the dead. The idea that a man should walk on water, or that he should be endorsed by two prophets returned from the dead, or that that he should be hailed by a voice from a cloud, or that he should rise from the dead and ascend into heaven is not to be taken seriously. We know, or think we know, that such things simply do not happen, and if the y do not happen, they cannot happen - anywhere, ever: and this is what, in the end, distinguishes our attitude between Jesus Christ and Alexander of Macedon, for the latters achievements, though stupendous, were well within the scope of what we can bring ourselves to accept. It is, very simply, a question of belief, and many people, including many people who call thesmelves Christians don't accept it, despite the difficulties in adopting that course, so baldly stated by Saint Paul (1 Cor.15.12-18).

Pope Benedict xvi nevertheless invites the reader to take a long, hard look at what Jesus of Nazareth is reported to have said about himself; how what he said about himself is to be read within the context of scripture as a whole; and how what he said about himself must have struck his contemporaries. For the Pope, the matter is infused from start to finish by faith: as in the case of St.Peter, Benedict's xvi's acceptance of Jesus as the human face of God is utterly without qualification. But the Pope makes it equally clear that his faith rests on reason - that it is arguable He knows perfectly well what the arguments are; he has considered them; and he is well-equipped to deal with them. But for those who lack faith, this is a powerful statement of the case for it, and what will be fascinating about this book for the open-minded sceptic is the extraordinary weight of intellect, erudition and experience which its author applies to the matter in hand. Benedict xvi brings to his task forcefully analytic powers which have at their command a profound understanding of the Latin, the Greek, and the Hebrew texts; an acquaintance with the biblical corpus so profound that he can make synaptic connections between widely scattered verses to convincing effect; an almost equally thorough acquaintance with the Fathers, the Doctors and the Saints of the Church; and a magisterial discrimination in his assessment of modern scholarship and exegesis - whether expressed in English, German, French or Italian. What the Pope also has, and what perhaps most distinguishes him from so many of his peers, is a deep love of his subject, and a missionary zeal to communicate that love to the reader of this book. Pope Benedict is, to my mind, one of the greatest theologians ever to have occupied the chair of St. Peter, but as he makes absolutely clear, theology is nothing unless it is argued within the framework of a living faith animated by compassion and love.

The book takes its way from the prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-20 in which the Patriarch predicted that God would 'raise up up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy bretheren, like unto me; unto him ye shall listen'. For the Jews, this prophecy cannot be regarded as having been fulfilled; islam regards it as having been fulfilled in person of Mohammed. Christians regard it as fulfilled in Jeus Christ, and through a series of meditations on the Baptism, the Temptations, the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, the Parables, and the Transfiguration Pope Benedict argues through the parallels between the rôles of Jesus and Moses; closely meshed textual references between the Old Testament and the New; and the impression made on his Jewish contemporaries that Jesus was, indeed, regarded in his own time, and increasingly, as a teacher who claimed to be the human face of God. Central to the argument is a dmonstration that the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes should be read as analogous to the Torah delivered to Moses by he Lord on Mount Sinai: so Jesus substititutes for formulae graven on stone a dispensation that is to shape the human heart.

In what I found the most extraordinary passage in the book, Pope Benedict engages in a dialogue with Rabbi Jacob Neusner , the author of a study of the relationship between Jesus and Judaism (A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal, 2000). The dialogue on both sides is profoundly respectful, and even loving - but in the end what divides the two men is openly, and unequivocally stated. Both agree that Jesus claimed to be God; that it was this claim that - for brtter or worse - electrified his Jewish contemporaries; and that the acceptance of that claim is, to all intents and purposes, quite incompatible with all that Judaism means for a member of that national family - whilst rejecting that claim is, for a Christian, wholly incompatible with everything Jesus said about himself, and would make nonsense of any significant claims as to the salvific nature of his passion, death and resurrection. Never have I seen the issues argued with such honesty, clarity and compassion: if you want a real measure of the magnanimity of this Pope then the section headed `The Torah of the Messiah' (pps.99-122) is indispensible.

Whilst the argument that Jesus was indeed God; that the Old Testament is, in nearly every aspect, his prefiguration and promise; and that the New Testament is his presentation as God in Man - is at the centre of the book, there is a great deal more to it along the way. The section on the Beatitudes is a compelling presentation of what it means to live the Christian life; the Lord's Prayer, whilst used, characteristically, to describe both the nature and purposes of God, is a wonderful introduction to prayer itself- as indeed one might expect, given the circumstances in which that Prayer originated; the true meaning of 'the Kingdom' - as Jesus himself -is cogently presented; the Pope's analysis of three great Parables from Luke (the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and Dives and Lazarus) combines spiritual penetration with significant reflections on the contemporary scene; an analysis of the theology of Saint John binds together the Old and New Testament, and redefines the relatiionship between God and his People; an examination of the the ways in which Jesus referred to himself (as 'The Son', the 'Son of Man' and as 'I am') provides the reader with a profound analysis of how Jesus understoood himself, and how we are to understand him. At the same time, the Pope deals with 'the world', and the way in which it is regarded in the gospels, and particularly in the context of the Temptation in the Desert. If you have ever wondered why we live in an imperfect world; why God has not 'done more' to demonstrate his presence; why the salvation which he has brought seems unrealized in practical terms, you will find that these issues are central to the relationship between God and Man: they were dramatised continually in the Old Testament; and their resolution is the central to the culminating drama of the thrial, the passion, the crucifixion and the resurrection. You will also find in the Pope's book a shrewd evaluation of the society in which we live; its relations with good and evil; its relations with the divine; its distinguishing sins; and its corrupting effect on a `third world' which it has, itself, created.

Above all, the book is an astonishing testament to a life lived in humble self-dedication to the first and greatest of the Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy - 6:5); It would be difficult to read the book and not conclude that the Pope is a man who 'knows what he loves, and loves what he knows'. It is a book to which I shall return again and again.
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Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration
Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration by Pope Benedict XVI (Paperback - 7 April 2008)
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