Pope Benedict XVI: Jesus of Nazareth—Reading Scripture.


Continuing the series on Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth. Please view this video for great introduction on the book.

In the second part of Pope Benedict XVI’s forward ,(For the first part, on historicism, click here) Benedict explains how to examine scripture with the proper historicism saying, “In these words from the past, we can discern the question concerning their meaning for today; a voice greater than man’s echoes in Scripture’s human words; the individual writings of the Bible point somehow to the living process that shapes the one Scripture.”[1]

It’s certainly an interesting statement on Scripture; I believe what Pope Benedict is getting at the heart of is that we must examine Scripture as the incarnational word—the sacred and the profane or the divine and earthly. The idea, in many ways, demonstrates how Sola Scriptura is not a recognition of the incarnational, but rather, a more gnostic approach attempting only to find God through spiritualism. However, this is not how God came to us; rather he came through his Son, Jesus Christ in the flesh.  Isn’t this what is told to us in the introduction John’s Gospel, “14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,”?[2]

At the same time by Benedict connecting the Divine with the earthly, he explains that God cannot be found through empiricism stating, “This process is certainly not linear, and it is often dramatic, but when you watch it unfold in light of Jesus Christ,..you can see that the Old and New Testaments belong together. This Christological hermeneutic, which sees Jesus Christ as the key to the whole and learns from him how to understand the Bible as a unity, presupposes a prior act of faith. It cannot be the conclusion of a purely historical method.”[3]  (emphasis mine)


Pope Benedict here is telling us that if you desire to find God through empirical data, it is simply, impossible. For one to find God, one must have faith in his Son, this has always been the message of Christianity from the lips of the Christ himself. The empirical historian must understand the historicism of those who wrote in their own period of time. Benedict writes, “The author does not speak as a private, self-contained subject. He speaks in a living community, that is to say, in a living historical movement not created by him.”[4] Ultimately what this explains is that no author or historian operates in a vacuum. They are influenced by their own time and experiences that produce a metaphysical idealism which influences their writing.

Pope Benedict XVI admits his own bias, “The main implication of this portrayal of Jesus is that I trust the Gospels,”[5] and I believe that this Jesus—the Jesus of the Gospels—is historically plausible and convincing figure.”[6]

In the end, it requires faith.

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

[2] Jn. 1:14 RSV

[3] Pope Benedict XVI, xix.

[4] Ibid, xx.

[5] Ibid, xxi.

[6] Ibid, xxii.

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