Jesus of Nazareth
In this rich, sophisticated introduction to the life of Jesus, the pope argues that Jesus brought to the world neither universal prosperity nor peace, but God. Indeed, Jesus cannot be understood outside of his relationship with God the Father, “which is the true center of his personality.” Ratzinger explores the meaning of key moments in the Gospels, such as the temptations of Jesus, the Transfiguration, and the Sermon on the Mount, and points to passages in which Jesus adumbrates Pauline theology. He underscores Jesus being rooted in the Old Testament, showing, for example, that the Beatitudes participate in a long tradition of blessings, exemplified in Psalms and Jeremiah. Ratzinger draws on historical-critical scholarship of the New Testament, but cautions that the usefulness of strictly historical readings of Scripture is limited: one must also read Scripture theologically, and view each passage of the Bible as part of a larger canonical whole. This learned book cannot be read casuallyRatzinger draws on a vast array of scholarship, and he assumes familiarity with theological categories such as “Christology.” But for those who are willing to work through Ratzingers text slowly, virtually every page will yield fruitful insights.
*Starred Review* Begun before his election to the papacy, this is the first volume of a work that Benedict intimates he may not live long enough to complete. Its 10 chapters—on, respectively, Jesus’ baptism, his temptation in the desert, the nature of the kingdom of God, the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, the disciples, the parables, the principal images of John’s Gospel, Peter’s confession and Jesus’ Transfiguration, and Jesus’ two self-descriptions, “Son of Man” and “Son”—are masterfully cogent and accessible essays in orthodox Christian exegesis. Canonical exegesis, to be precise; that is, the passages discussed in each chapter are interpreted within the prophetic context of the continuous document that contains them, the Bible. The meanings of Jesus’ words, deeds, and person are always educed with the aid and understanding of the religious thought and practice of the preceding Hebrew Scriptures. While he aims to respond to the twentieth-century torrent of historical Jesus literature that in general makes Jesus a man of his time and place in Roman Palestine, Benedict doesn’t repudiate or even much criticize that literature. Indeed, he accepts and looks forward to more of what archaeological and historical anthropological and sociological research has discovered about Jesus’ milieu. As tender as it is erudite and brilliant, this is a book for every religion collection. Olson, Ray
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Pope Benedict XVI’s iconic life of Jesus, a rich, compelling, flesh-and-blood portrait of the central figure of the Christian faith.