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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 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 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 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 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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on 7 June 2007
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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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 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 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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