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35 of 36 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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11 of 13 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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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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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A homily in a book, 7 April 2011
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
I have been an avid reader of many books by Cardinal Ratzinger, now pope Benedict. His approach to theological, social, and cultural issues of today is very closely aligned with my own, and in his works I find a very insightful foundation for the intellectual exploration of those issues. However, compared to most other books that he authored, this one comes across very differently. This is a much more personal and accessible account of the person and life of Jesus of Nazareth. Scholarly understanding is still there, but it is somewhat pushed to the background and given way to the more immediate access to the founder of Christian faith. In the light of that, it is perhaps best to understand this book as an extended homily. One of the main themes of this homily is a reaffirmation of orthodox understanding of Jesus Christ. There is a whole cottage industry of books that try to undermine this view of Jesus, and the pope would have none of it.

This book was started before Benedict became the pope, and he continued the work on it during the first two years of his pontificate. It is inspiring and admirable to see such a sharpness of mind in an octogenarian. The book, however, has been without the inclusion of the passion and infancy narratives. The pope has expressed a hope to be able to finish those parts as the time permits. We can all hope that God gives him strength and good health in the years to come, so we can be enriched for yet another spiritual gem.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written, 21 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
This is a beautifully written book, accessible to the non-theologian yet requiring some solid concentration to take fully on board the theology. It has proved to me beyond doubt that Pope Benedict is an excellent communicator, his thoughts are lucid and he makes great effort to explain through numerous reference works the writings of the Church Fathers and other theologians through the ages on the subject of just who was Jesus of Nazareth. The particular highlights for me were the chapters on "The Lord's Prayer" and "The Message of the Parables", they were truly sublime.
I concur fully with an earlier reviewer who says that this book is one to be read and re-read again.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not for the light reader, 19 Oct. 2009
By 
Dr John N Sutherland (Skelmorlie, Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
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 too much of an academic used to negotiating truths with other deeply in-the-know academics in his field.

I must admit, at times light shines through and you see Pope Benedict as a true follower of Christ who knows The LORD Jesus as his personal saviour. This is not a book about the life of Jesus Christ in the way that another religious writer might write about the life of Mohammad, Moses or the Buddha. It is a book written by someone who has an intimate, living, personal relationship with the living Christ. As such it is so hopeful for this great church he leads.

But, perhaps I lack quiet times of enough intensity to sit down and make the most of this book. I am quite a serious reader, but this one has proven just a bit too hard for me to wade through, I confess.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jesus of Nazareth, 4 Mar. 2009
By 
Harry R. Bendelow (Pembroke Dock, Wales (UK) United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Paperback)
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger. One of the best books I have ever read. It clearly demonstrates that the Jesus of the synoptic gospels and the Jesus of the John gospel are one and the same. Pope Benedict shows that the claim to divinity is as overwhelming in the synoptics as in the John gospel. I looked again at the book and on one of the pages I had written in pencil `more wows per square inch than anything I have ever read'. My opinion has not changed since I wrote that. Read the last paragraph on page 44.
I am a protestant by birth but every time I think of Pope Benedict I smile.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A MAJOR THEOLOGICAL EVENT: "JESUS OF NAZARETH" BY POPE BENEDICT XVI, 7 Feb. 2014
By 
RBSProds "rbsprods" (Deep in the heart of Texas) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Paperback)
Five INSPIRATIONAL Stars! During his time as Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI brought decades of scholarly examinations of and meditations on Jesus Christ to fruition with this incredible book. Under his pen, the Catholic faith opens like a flower which can be clearly understood by any Christian. This book is not written from the standpoint of 'Papal Infallibility' or in concert with "the magisterium", but is "an expression of my personal search for the face of the Lord", said the Pope.

This is volume one, with the Pope giving a detailed examination of the periods from the Baptism of the Lord to Peter's confession of faith and the Transfiguration: His public ministry. At last, we have Jesus Christ as the Pope sees Him and explains Him to us! What a wonderful gift to the world from the new Pontiff ! And you may encounter some fascinating insights and lower order revelations herein that you may never have heard before. This book shows the pontiff not as someone closed off in his own world as sometimes rumored, but a person who is scripturally grounded, widely-read, intellectually astute and agile. He quotes the Bible continuously, uses tradition, as well as other theological sources and authors. Working with both the historical Jesus, as well as the biblical Jesus, the Pope informs us that we can't have one viewpoint of Jesus without the other and the historical Jesus is very crucial to the faith, actually underpining our faith. Without the historical viewpoint, he says, the faith would become something other than what we have.

The Pope's initial consideration of the figure of Jesus begins with a discussion of Moses and the limitations of his very close relationship with God. Then he gets right to the main point: Jesus as the Son "lives before the face of God" and "in the most intimate unity with the Father". And, Benedict says, we who walk with Jesus are in communion with God the Father because of it. That is the capstone of everything a believer needs as a jumping off point to becoming a believer of Christ. The rest, from the genealogical breakdown of the "three groups of fourteen generations", the true meaning and place of Israel for the rest of us believers, the emergence of the Trinitarian God, 'refuting' the Baptism event as an "evocational experience" where Jesus suddenly realizes who He is, the true meaning of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, why He was tempted, the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, the Synoptic Gospels and John's Gospel, are all beautifully examined and explained. And it does not end as a book drawing summary conclusions, but as a volume, with more to come. This is an essential book for all Catholics and a great resource for all who believe in Jesus. It's a wonderful read by a man who was the Church's leading theologian before he became Pope. My Highest Recommendation! Five EXCELLENT Stars!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Christ centred, 26 Feb. 2013
By 
Mr. P. G. Mccarthy (Southampton, 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)
Here we have the pope's book on Jesus of Nazareth. It is quite brilliant I think. He strikes a nice balance between the scholarly and pastoral as befitting his office, and seems to have both a strong understanding of his subject as well as some fascinating and probably important insights. He goes off at tangents and that makes the book a little precarious; but the book reveals the wisdom of age. Several chapters in and it is clear that Ratzinger has a different agenda to many other writers on Jesus. He is wise I think to avoid modernising trends and quests for the historical Jesus. Dominic Crossan, in contrast, is an iconoclast as is really punching the air in the dark, really trying to make Jesus so human as to be only of meagre interest. Tom Wright is critical of this but is utilising similar tools. Ratzinger, on the other hand, is a pastor and this may account for his high Christology. This involves a slight leap of faith but is otherwise refreshing really (and Ratzinger gives plenty of compelling reasons for taking the position he does). But this is not simply the `Christ of faith', it is Christ's work and words as revealed in the Gospels understood in a particular way. He pretty much resolves the tension between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith by arguing that Jesus' sources needn't be sought in ways other than his closeness to the Father (this is explained rather cleverly by showing Jesus to be the prophet to come spoken of by Moses; the prophet who sees not God's back, but his face). And here again we are involved in the leap-of-faith. Some of the teachings of Jesus are likely to yield to scholarship; there will be sayings, perhaps, that others have used. But there is an overall coherence that will not resemble the messages of other sages. The required leap therefore is not a huge one.

The downside to Ratzinger's approach might be that we don't feel we are there in the pages of a history book, hearing the sounds, smelling the smells, so to speak (Crossan does a lot of this); rather we will feel that there is a Theology at work in this life, a life with quiet yet cosmic significance for those that can accept it.

His exposition of the Beatitudes is very moving. I've always found them a little unintelligible, but he just opens them up. I feel like Keats reading Chapman's Homer: `Then felt I like some watcher of the skies...'. His message is challenging and he emphasises the believer's utter reliance on God through Christ. I have never seen it expressed so clearly. We would need to be very careful when we accuse Catholicism of `salvation by works' as that is a long way off what is happening in Ratzinger's book. He strikes me as deeply evangelical but with a rich and thought through spirituality.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 1st excellent elaboration on Jesus in a series of 3 by Pope Benedict, 8 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Paperback)
First there was "Crossing the thresshold of hope" by Pope John Paul II. Now there are already 2 volumes in a series of 3 by Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, on the central key teachings of the church. This first volume, "Jesus of Nazareth", describing Jesus from His Baptism to the Transfiguration, is just marvelous. Dogmatic, theological, yet at the same time pastoral and easily accessible, and full of love for the Saviour. The book achieves just what it's author had in mind: in searching though Biblical teachings, one gets drawn into his or her own personal search in order to know Christ, to know more about Jesus, to appreciate Him more and more for the salvation He gave us, and thus becoming more and more His own, and just live in awe in all the encounters to the central figure of the Christian faith.
Though the English translation is good, one notices that the book was not originally written in English, and one may long to get to know the books on Jesus of Nazareth in it's original non-translated version.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful without being wordy..., 7 Jun. 2007
By 
Mr. A. Boycott "Alan" (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
This work is insightful without being wordy or indeed requiring its reader to be an academic. There are of course the usual theological challenges here and there that require prayer and a little bit more effort from the reader, but this effort brings rewards.

The prose is very devotional and the language is exquisite, which is surprising since this is an American English translation. Nevertheless buy it, read and re-read it, it is worth the endeavour and good value for money.
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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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