Press reports have tended to concentrate on the obvious 'headlines': Pope says Jesus not a revolutionary; Pope says "need for unity"; Pope says "Jews not to blame for crucifixion"; Pope says resurrection is real; and so on and so forth. All of these things you will certainly find in this book, but they are only part, and not I suspect, the most interesting and lasting thing about this book; so what is?
It is the technique.
For some years the Pope has been writing about what he (not terribly helpfully for most of us) calls the 'hermeneutic of continuity', or, reading the Bible according to the light of the tradition of Holy Mother Church. If you ever wondered what that means you'll find out by reading this book - the result is a whole new version of theological scholarship.
Since the Tubingen school in the early nineteenth century we have been used to the pace in Bible studies and theology being set by those outside the Church; form-criticism, redaction theory, the historical-critical method, and so on; all these have brought insights from the secular world of scholarship to bear on the Bible - often with results which have disturbed the faithful. Well, wait, for it - here the Church strikes back.
Here, one of the foremost theologians of the age, who just happens to have been the choice of the Holy Spirit for Pope (some coincidence!) brings the insights of religious scholarship into play to correct, modify and use aright the insights from other disciplines. He can do form-criticism and redaction theory with the best of them, but, as he shows triumphantly, these are merely instruments for understanding - if you want to understand fully, you need to bring the insights of the tradition of the Church to bear. The historical-critical method, with its claims to some kind of scientific accuracy, has led to many dead-ends - here the Pope shows how, when allied to the hermeneutic of continuity, it can yield results.
One example must suffice. Writing about St. Matthew's account of the trial of Christ where 'the Jews' say 'His blood be on us and on our children' (Mtt. 27:25), the Pope reminds us that for the Christian Jesus' bollod speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24); it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment - it is poured out 'for you and for many' in atonement and reconciliation. Read in the light of faith, Matthew means, the Pope tells us, that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is His blood; the words are not a curse - they offer the chance of redemption to those who will hear His word.
We have here a book which combines the insights of the Catholic tradition with those offered by secular scholarship, and which triumphantly shows us how reading in the light of faith gives us the deepest meaning of Scripture.
I read the book in the English translation, so whether the slightly bland prose-style is there in the original or is the result of the (excellent) translation I can't say. But, unlike parts of volume 1, this book reads easily enough for the general reader.
If you want something to read this week-end which will deepen your understanding of the mysteries of Holy Week, then go for it here.
The Pope has written a book which redefines theological methodology, and he's done it by showing how, read through the eyes of faith, the full and deepest message of the Scriptures can be properly read. So, thank you, Pope Benedict for showing us why your 'hermeneutic of continuity' matters.
In "Jesus of Nazareth Part Two" Pope Benedict sets out to finish his reflections on the life and significance of Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that this second and final book covers "just" the last week or so of Jesus' earthly ministry is the reflection of the impact and importance of that one week, which culminated in crucifixion that was followed by the glorious resurrection. The amount of space that is devoted to the Holy Week also reflects the fact that the Gospels themselves allocate a significant amount of space to it. The Passion narrative alone is by far the longest uninterrupted narrative of any event that has been described in the Bible. It is because of the events that took place during that week that there is Christianity to begin with - faith that is firmly grounded in the redemptive suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is no wonder then that many books have been written about that momentous week, and "Jesus of Nazareth Part Two" is another important contribution to our fuller understanding of the impact of the events that took place then.
People familiar with Pope Benedict's writing will know to expect a keen and refined intellect that is equally at ease at Biblical exegesis, theological reflection, and pastoral exhortations. Pope moves effortlessly between critical and insightful exegesis, highly developed theology, and effective and imminent preaching. Catholic Church is truly blessed to have in the person of Pope Benedict all the virtues and functions that it aspires to manifest and carry out corporally as an institution. Pope's writing is very lucid and accessible, but it demands a certain level of familiarity with the more nuanced details of the Gospel narratives. Even though there are numerous scriptural quotations throughout the book I find that having a copy of the Bible on the side to be very useful. Sometimes it is important to look up the entire passage or the chapter from which the quote is taken. The translation that is used in this book is RSV, but any other popular English translation will do.
Even though he is an eminent theologian and leader of the over billion strong Catholic Church, Pope Benedict at no point uses his own eminent status to impose his views on the reader. He engages in a scholarly dialogue with other theologians and exegetes, and many of his statements are laced with qualifications. He comes across as someone who relishes intellectual vibrancy that may lead reasonable well-informed people to conclusions that are different from his own. He aims to persuade his readers by the reasonableness of his views, and not by the authority of his office or the scholarly accomplishments.
The book is not yet another attempt to write about the life of Jesus. This book, like all the good theology, aims to answer a couple of fundamental questions about the events in Jesus' life: What does this mean to me? What does it mean for my path as a human being? The over-intellectualized theology that loses touch with the lives and concerns of ordinary human beings is almost completely antithetical to the basic message of Christianity. Good theology brings God closer to us, and helps us become more integrated in the Church. The Church, on the other hand, is not just a "community of believers" - it is an entirely new and different mode of existence.
The book deals with several themes that Pope Benedict has reflected extensively upon, both in his previous books and in many of his public statements: the plausibility and validity of the orthodox Christian view of Jesus, the absolute nature of Truth, the reality of sin and evil, and the uniqueness of Jesus as the road to salvation.
The publishing of this book coincides with the beginning of Lent, and I cannot imagine a more appropriate book for this season of reflection and personal acts of penance. One does not have to use it only for those purposes, though: its messages, just like those of Jesus of Nazareth, are timeless.
There are some indications that this might be the last major book written by Pope Benedict XVI. I certainly hope that this is not the case. The World needs constant evangelization, and a person of his sensibility, intellect, and courage is an important and powerful voice.
In this second volume, which I read in the Italian translation, Pope Ratzinger discusses in nine chapters, the decisive episodes in the life of Jesus, those at the core of the Christian faith: the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
A pivotal work, therefore, especially with regard to Jesus' resurrection -- because: no resurrection, no Christianity. The author being one of the foremost theologians of the twentieth century, he set out to write JESUS OF NAZARETH as a final act of intellectual and scientific fulfillment, attempting an answer to the above question - a question St Paul clearly understood when he said: "If Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain."
Written in his scarce spare time (possibly during his summer vacation at Castel Gandolfo), this second volume is a passionate analysis of important gospel events: the Entry into Jerusalem, the Washing of the Feet, the Last Supper, Gethsemane, and more. The whole is crossed by a fundamental note in a constantly recurring background: the crucial quandary for student and believer alike -- is the Jesus in whom we trust also the Jesus that really existed? Is the picture the Gospels paint a historically sensible and convincing picture? Because, in fact, it's the only one we have.
The rest is wishful thinking.
Thus it becomes evident that in this book the author not only intends to engage in theological debate, but also to fulfill his priestly and episcopal task: with a compelling and immediately accessible language (skillfully translated from the original German, I must say) he accompanies the reader in an encounter with a man of flesh and blood who is more than a man - because his tomb was found empty.
I am a practising Catholic who has read a lot of work by 'Jesus Seminar' scholars, many of whom are not orthodox Christians, which has challenged me and expanded my knowledge without shaking my faith. However, when I have read works by Christian exegetes I have often been bored by their turgid styles of writing and inability to write a sentence without biblical referencing.
Pope Benedict's work however offers the best of both worlds. He writes as an open minded scholar, a Christian exegete, a pastor and most pleasingly as someone who can commmunicate accessibly.
As someone who values the debt owed to Judaism by Christianity, it is also great to see how Benedict puts the evangelists words into their historical perspective and brings to light numerous references to the prophets and messianic literature from his own store house of knowledge.
I am reading this book in the run up to holy week and would heartily recommend its purchase to anyone interested in Jesus regardless of their personal faith.
Since his visit to Britain I have revered Pope Benedict as a pastor, having read this book I cannot praise his writing highly enough.
Pope Benedict XVI in this volume covers the period from the entry of Christ into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. It is a truly masterful presentation. The aspect which was seminal for me came in the section dealing with the washing of the disciples' feet on Maundy Thursday. Pope Benedict explains that often Christianity is seen as a higher moral standard than the old dispensation. eg Thou shalt not kill becomes do not get angry. But the Pope says the idea that Christianity ammounts to greater moral gymnastics is a misconception. The Christian way is the way of allowing Christ to cleanse us and purify us enabling Christ to live within and through us. I see the appreciation of this one point within this book to be life changing and transformative. (Why has no-one told me this before? This is the work of a master!)
This is the Pope's second book on Jesus of Nazareth. It is perhaps a fitting book for Easter given that it focuses on the passion narratives.
A brief summary of each chapter is as follows:
1. Considers Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the `temple' incident. Most noticeably it considers how this narrative fits the Davidic prophetic narratives. 2. Jesus' eschatology - i.e. the destruction of the temple, and the new temple in his body. 3. The washing of the feet - i.e. how Jesus becomes the servant of everyone. This is considered in the light of the parable of the suffering servant. 4. Chapter 17 of John's Gospel, i.e. the prayer of forgiveness. This is the moment when Jesus finally says, `my time has come'. This chapter considers what this meant and what Jesus saw his mission as being. 5. Considers the last supper and the Eucharist rite which was given through it. It then considers how this rite has been passed on and has evolved throughout the church's history. 6. Considers the garden of Gethsemane narratives - i.e. that in the garden suffering, God becomes one with man's suffering. This chapter really focuses on the suffering of Jesus, knowing that he was approaching his final hours. In this way he comes to share in everyone's `fear' of dying. 7. The trial of Jesus - i.e. that the crime was not political and therefore Jesus was not just a failed political leader, but rather that the crime was religious, i.e. one of blasphemy. The blasphemy was that Jesus alluded to himself being God and his anti-temple talk. 8. Crucifixion and burial - i.e. the prayers which Jesus offers during his crucifixion. For example, `my God, my god, why have you forsaken me', is psalm 22, which is the prayer for Israel's forgiveness. Even in his final hours he still offers himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. 9. Considers resurrection - i.e. if it's just bodily resuscitation then it's not that impressive. This chapter argues that the resurrection was an `evolutionary leap' in which something wholly new occurred. 10. The second coming - is this in the future, or does has it already happened, daily... this chapter is actually truly and wholly heart warmly inspiring. Its focus is on how Jesus indwells in the individual and lights their heart with his presence. In this way he becomes the bridge between God and man.
In the intro the Pope specifically says that his book is intended to offer a new historico-theological, rather than strictly historical, look at the passion narratives. The outcome is frankly amazing. I have read a lot of books on theology and actually this book ranks up there in the top brackets. Rarely do I sit back and think: this book makes me think completely different about Jesus, this book has really deepened my understanding - well, this book did it, and more than once. Usually I would offer a word of criticism on a book but in this books case it's positively difficult to do this - it really is that good a book.
I terms of the book itself; it's possibly one of the Pope's better written books. The language style is easy to read and the print is nicely spaced not being too small or close together. The cover is a nice white cover with the papal crescent imprinted on the front - obviously it has a dust jacket which goes over this also.
In total I couldn't recommend this book enough. It made me think in a new way and deepened my understanding of the last days of Jesus. I can only thank the Pope for actually taking the time to write this book because it truly was a great pleasure and experience to read. Overall, I couldn't recommend it enough.
At the time of writing, Easter fast approaches and I would highly recommend this book to deepen your understanding of Easter and what it's deeper meaning is.
This is beautiful meditation on the events which occupied a few weeks in real time but to which each of the Gospels devote about half of their material.The Pope can be quite radical in his acceptance of questions raised by scholarship - for example over the dating of the Entrance into Jerusalem or the Last Supper - but his approach is that of a believer entering more deeply into the events rather than some neutral observer. A book to be read and re-read
Pope Benedict set out to explain in detail the events of the holy week, that is Christ's suffering and crucifixion and his resurrection. The book addresses the historical events in their theological interpretation and links them up with the Scriptures. It resolves all issues concerning the coming of the Word to take onto Himself the sins of the world, and what it means to mankind. The book also emphasizes the Lord's resurrection, what it actually means in terms of a physical event, and how those events not just fulfill the Scriptures but also prove the christian faith and all its foundations, and more so the reaching out of God the Creator to mankind through his manifested Word. Pope Benedict' book is an enlightment to all christians and a must have for strengthening the christian faith and message.