Pope Benedict XVI: Jesus of Nazareth

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If you have never had the opportunity to read this book, I implore you to get it and read it. I am refreshed in a living spring of Christ’s message through the word’s of Pope Benedict XVI. It’s an excellent book to read during your Lenten journey this year.  I believe I’m going to begin a new series of posts covering the themes of the chapters. Some of the chapters are quite lengthy, so I will have to break up parts of the chapters into subcategories and just deal with the specific theme; however, the book is broken up in this way as well, so it will work out just fine.

Pope Benedict articulated in the forward his desire to write a book on Jesus of Nazareth was due to the many ‘historical’ books that had been written about Christ during the 20th century that attempted to present the ‘historical’ Jesus.[1] Benedict writes that “If you read a number of these reconstructions one after the other, you see at once that far from uncovering an icon that has become obscured over time, they are much like photographs of their authors and the ideals they hold.”[2]

However, Benedict explains that history is important to Christianity as a religion of faith. He says, “The first point is that the historical-critical method—specifically because of the intrinsic nature of theology and faith—is and remains an indispensable dimension of exegetical work. For it is of the very essence of biblical faith to be about real historical events…Et incarnates est—when we say these words, we acknowledge God’s actual entry into real history.”[3] Benedict goes on to explain that Christians cannot push history away from their faith because “Christian faith such disappears and is recast as some other religion…then faith must expose itself to the historical method—indeed, faith itself demands this.”[4]

Benedict, having a great understanding of historicism in the academic field of history, stresses the importance that for Jesus and faith to be properly exposed to the historical method, it must tested “in the context of the mentality and events of the time.”[5] Benedict understands that 1st-century Jewish people thought and lived in a particular way that was very different from 21st-century people. Therefore, when looking at events and the people, we must present them as they are not as we would have them to be, because “the one thing it (the historical method) cannot do is make it into something present today.”[6]

Benedict sums up his view of history writing, “We have to keep in mind the limit of all efforts to know the past: We can never go beyond the domain of hypothesis because we simply cannot bring the past into the present.”[7]

Later in the forward, he presents his views on how to read scripture with the proper historical lens of the era. I will explain this in an upcoming post. I will like to stress the importance of how much this book has positively affected my faith in Christ. I see the world through the lens of Christ’s temptations in the desert, I know that his baptism was his acceptance of his mission to the cross. The sermon on the mount was his fulfillment of Moses and the Torah—Christ becomes the living Torah! I have never prayed the Our Father with such connection to God, Christ, and my fellow Christians before reading this book.

Again, I implore you to read it!

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), xi.

[2] Ibid, xii.

[3] Ibid, xv.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, xvi

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, xvii.

5 Comments

    1. Absolutely, Pope Benedict gives such insight, that is indeed my favorite section!
      It has given me such a spiritual connection to the prayer.

      I also enjoy his comments on the Temptation of Christ and The Discourse on the Shepherd –most importantly “I am the Door.”

      Liked by 1 person

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