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on 3 August 2008
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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on 30 January 2011
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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on 17 December 2010
This book takes the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, one of the world's great intellectuals and also a man obviously very close to God, and pairs them with an inspired selection of illustrations of artistic masterpieces.

The result is a most beautiful book that may take you years to fully digest. Benedict's writings, at times scholarly but always compassionate and deeply spiritual, reveal a personal knowledge of his subject.

The paintings and sculptures also provide endless scope for admiration or contemplation as the mood takes you. Almost all the works of art have a direct spiritual or religious theme, and as Christianity has provided the single biggest artistic inspiration the world has ever known, there are a lot of famous names here.

The book is printed on quality art paper and many of the artworks come from world-famous collections. For the paintings alone, the book would be impressive. Combined with Benedict's text, it's extraordinary. (Well done to the commissioning editor.) At £40, this book is a bargain; at the £34 Amazon is selling it for, it's enormous value for money. Most highly recommended
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on 16 February 2008
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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on 5 October 2009
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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on 10 July 2008
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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on 24 August 2007
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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on 8 April 2010
This book by the Pope was enjoyable and did contain some great insights.

It begins by outlining the Pope's hermeneutic, which is historical-critical. He explains why this is important and how this will influence his readings of the Gospels. He highlights that this book is the sum of his knowledge gained over his years of academic study for the true face of Jesus.

Chp 1: Begins with the Baptism and how historically this interacts with the symbols of the Jordan River and the forgiveness of sins as narrated in the Davidic literature.
Chp 2: The Temptations of Jesus. This section was thoroughly enjoyable and offered ideas such as the temptation being an allegorical play on Jesus' internal conflict on whether to become a loving lord or a war lord.
Chp 3: The Kingdom of God. Was about just that, the Kingdom of God on Earth and in Heaven. The Pope has agreed with many contemporary scholars when he writes that the Kingdom of God is what happens when one allows God into their heart.
Chp 4: The Sermon on the Mount. This basically included the ethical teachings of Jesus as detailed in Chp 5 of Matthew's Gospel.
Chp 5: The Lord's Prayer. This chapter broke down the prayer and detailed each line and offered suggestions of what each could have meant.
Chp 6: This chapter was basically about discipleship and it means to be a disciple.
Chp 7: The Parables. The ones picked were basically about how they portray Jesus as the Son of God, and also the God who would be rejected and yet still offer forgiveness to his abusers.
Chp 8: John's Gospel. This chapter offered a detailed breakdown of the allegorical symbolism used within John's narrative and why this was significant.
Chp 9: Peter's Confession and Transfiguration. This is basically about how the Gospels do contain many allegorical passages which specifically show that Jesus was thought of as the Son of God.
Chp 10: Is about the language Jesus used to declare his identity and why/how he also considered himself to be the Son of God.

On the whole the chapters I found the most beneficial were 2, 9 and 10. The ideas contained on the temptations of Jesus were unique and insightful. Also those taken aback by books such as Phillip Pullman's new book on Jesus would gain a lot by reading chapters 9 and 10 which clearly show how the Gospel is full of references which suggest the divinity of Jesus. This shows that this doctrine was a very early belief and not something that was simply invented by the Catholic Church in later centuries.

I didn't find chapter 4 and 5 particularly brilliant. I gained greater insights into both teachings from Kenneth Bailey's book - 'Jesus through middle Eastern Eyes'. Again I didn't find chapters 3 and 6 helpful, and once again gained greater insights into this area from Richard Burridge's book - 'Imitating Jesus'. Regarding chapter 8, I found Richard Burridge's book - 'Four Gospels, one Jesus?' more enjoyable and enlightening on this area.

Overall the book was a decent read. I really wanted to enjoy it more than I did being a massive fan of the Pope. Unfortunately I did find the writing style difficult to get on with at points and found it putting me to sleep more than captivating me. The size of the book is once again the same size as the Pope's other books - e.g. St Paul, the Fathers and the Apostles. Funnily it is also the same size as my Bible (NIV Hardback), so it looks nice and neat on the bookshelf.

Whilst enjoyable I would not recommend it to anyone after an easy read. This is not to say that I am unlettered, instead I am quite well read. I just found that the book did take a lot of concentration, not because of the complexity of the content but rather because of the writing style used.
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on 5 October 2007
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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on 1 June 2007
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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