The Pope’s Book About Christmas | Thomas P. Harmon | Catholic World Report
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives emphasizes that the joy of Christmas is rooted in the revelation of God’s humility.
The shadow of the Cross, therefore, also lurks menacingly throughout the early life of Jesus: the gift of myrrh from the Magi, used to anoint a corpse; the prophecy of Simeon to Mary that her heart will be pierced by a sword; the rage of Herod and the slaughter of the Holy Innocents; and the deliberate juxtaposition of Christ and Caesar, which points to the inexorable conflict between the humble Christ, who does not grasp after equality with the Father and whose kingdom is not of this world and Caesar, whose presumption makes him grasp after divine prerogatives.
The book is divided into four chapters and an epilogue. The first chapter deals with general reflections on the origin of Jesus, the second chapter is about the annunciation stories of John the Baptist and Jesus, the third chapter reflects on the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the final chapter takes up the visit from the wise men and the flight into Egypt, and the epilogue considers the finding of Jesus in the Temple when he is twelve years old. The first chapter functions as a general introduction not only to the current volume, but to the whole of Jesus of Nazareth. After all, the question of Jesus’ identity is the one Benedict is most fundamentally trying to answer with his books. It is also a perfect entry point into the question for the modern reader.
It is very hard to get a clear vision of the figure of Jesus himself using the methods of exegesis that have been dominant in the Church and the academy in recent times. Twentieth century biblical scholars are notoriously divided about Jesus’ identity, a division which somewhat belies their claim to superior rigor or accuracy. Historical-critical scholarship was born of the marriage of theology with the methods of modern science in an attempt to produce more rigorous interpretations of biblical texts. Modern biblical exegesis brings to bear powerful historical and linguistic tools, allowing the reader almost unprecedented access to the environmental, political, linguistic, and cultural context of the Gospels. They ought to be able to sharpen our view of biblical characters and themes. Instead, Jesus too often tends to disappear into the weeds of the politics of the ancient near east, comparative religion, or the speculations of cultural anthropology.
Investigating Jesus with the historical-critical method can often be like trying to understand a human being through the use of an electron microscope