Monday, May 21, 2007

Some English speaking Reviews of "Jesus of Nazareth"

The Times carries a review of the Pope`s new book "JESUS OF NAZARETH: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration" (Bloomsbury £14.99 pp374 ) now published in English in Britain.

Wilson finds the book remarkable and "a startling break with Catholic tradition":

"Older Roman Catholic scholars will be wistful as they read: “I take for granted everything that...modern exegesis tells us about literary genres, about authorial intention, and about the fact that the Gospels were written in the context, and speak within the living milieu, of communities.” Any theologian who wrote those words during the pontificate of Pius X (1903-14) could easily have been branded a modernist, and excluded from a teaching office. Until the mid-20th century, any scholarly critical exegesis of the Scriptures was forbidden by Rome. Most Roman Catholic priests, until the last 20 years, would not have read the books quoted in this work for a simple reason: the pope of the day had forbidden them to do so. "

Wilson finds the purpose of the book a simple message:

"From the supposed “Rottweiler Pope” comes this gentle exposition of a simple idea: namely, that the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith are one and the same, and that faith in Jesus Christ is reasonable. ...

[The Pope] sets out in this book to demonstrate that the central contention of the Catholic faith – Jesus was both God and man – was told to the disciples by the Man of Nazareth himself. "

Wilson does not find that the Book answers all the difficulties which he might encounter in trying to understand Jesus but:

"If this book will not satisfy every puzzled reader, it will explain why the book of the Gospels is carried so reverently at Catholic and Orthodox services – half as if it were a vulnerable child, half as if it were a time bomb that might explode.

One of the best passages in the Pope’s book defines the word Gospel, the saving message, as “not just informative speech, but performative – not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters the world to save and transform”.

Overall the review is favourable and also enlightening if perhaps at times not unduly respectful towards the Pope. His conclusion is summed up thus:

"[T]here is a dogged impressiveness about the Pope’s exposition of scene after scene from the Gospel, a reading that finds it more logical to worship the Christ of Faith in the Gospels than to invent the vestiges of some Jewish prophet who had his words distorted by some later theological genius. Jesus was the genius....

Wordy as the old German can be, this reader at least felt that he had repeatedly identified what was haunting, indeed frightening about the Gospels. No amount of reasonable liberal “explanation” can evade the voice that comes through them – calling the reader not to a set of propositions, nor to a theory, but to a Person, who is at one with God. "

I wonder what The Times Literary Supplement will have to say about the book.

Newsweek carries a number of reviews and articles on the book by the Pope including an excerpt in English.

They are

A Portrait of Faith subtitled: "With 'Jesus of Nazareth,' Pope Benedict XVI fights back against 'the dictatorship of relativism' by showing the world his vision of the definitive truth of Christ." which gives you an idea that the reviewer looks at the book in political terms rather than evaluating the book as a work of scholarship;

A Jesus Beyond Politics subtitled "Pope Benedict becomes the teacher he always wanted to be." and by George Weigel. A very sympathetic review perhaps summed up by the following passage:

"Jesus of Nazareth (and its promised successor volume) is a great summing-up of a lifetime of learning, refined into insight and understanding by a lifetime of praying the New Testament as well as studying it. If, amidst some familiar Ratzingerian themes, there is a new chord struck with particular force, it is Benedict XVI’s insistence, repeated several times, that a Christian Church faithful to its Lord cannot be a Church of power. Benedict does not quite describe Christianity’s alliance with state power as a Babylonian captivity. Still, he comes very close when he writes that “the temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again in various forms throughout the centuries, and again and again faith has risked being suffocated in the embrace of power. The struggle for the freedom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus’ Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century. For the fusion of faith and political power always comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria.” "; and

Book Excerpt: John wonders why Jesus has come down to the river. The answer is in the Cross and the salvation of the world..