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Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Rich Leonardi

... he helped John Paul II crush the liberation theologists ...

Who are these "theologists"? Liberation theologians I've heard about, but not this new group.

/ snark

Nice post, Carl. I predict this book will be a smash hit in U.S.; the sense of anticipation is enormous. And to the extent its critics, both in and out of the Church, are forced to spend time reacting to it -- "This is only the Pope's personal opinion after all" -- they will have less time to peddle fanciful versions of Jesus.

Ed Peters

"Read the entire excert." Isn't that an oxymoron?

Ryan Browning

Who are these "modern historians"? I love it when they quote a group of people as if they are the ones who hold the key to truth and everyone else is stupid for not following along with the spirit of the age. Everyone knows how much smarter and sophisticated we are today than those Apostles and Early Church Fathers. How would they know what Jesus meant by His teachings I mean after all they were only fishermen, tax collectors, etc. Our "modern historians" know much better the mind of our Lord. Anyway!!

Wonderfully done as usual. I really enjoy these posts, keep up the great work.
God Bless

Jeff Miller

The irony is that the Pope has quite a lot of pointed barbs at those who use modern biblical exegesis to carve an image resembling themselves. Though he certainly is willing to use those tools of modern scholarship himself properly ordered.

I haven't finished the book yet, but I was up until the wee hours reading it and I am stunned by the Pope's achievement. I have read many of his books, but if there is one book he is remembered by - surely it it this one.


The Newsweek Newspeak continues....

"Jesus of Nazareth," then, will not bring unbelievers into the fold, but courting skeptics has never been Benedict's priority. (Habermas anyone,... anyone. Yeah and who was that agnostic journalist Seewald? Is it final then, will not bring - can not bring - tis a shame.)

Nor will his portrait join the lengthy list of Jesus biographies so eagerly consumed by the non-orthodox—the progressive Protestants and "cafeteria Catholics" who seek the truth about Jesus in noncanonical places like the Gnostic Gospels. (Another shame - his portrait, i.e. of Jesus, will not join the lengthly list of nonsense biographies - but wait - maybe that's a good thing)

Moderates may take "Jesus of Nazareth" as something of a corrective to fundamentalism because it sees the Bible as "true" without insisting on its being factual. (Nice dig at the fundamentalists - who apparently have given up reading your rag)

Mostly, though, "Jesus of Nazareth" will please a small group of Christians who are
able simultaneously to hold post-Enlightenment ideas about the value of rationality
and scientific inquiry together with the conviction that the events described in
the Gospels are real. (Whoa doggies ... since when is rationality
a post-Enlightenment virtue - I thought slaughtering poor people was the
post-Enlightment project- where was I when they changed horses.
Rationality is to the post-Enlightment dictator as New Clothes to the Emperor.)

Mark Brumley

Where to begin?

The Pope's book is an excellent beginning of a sketch of the life of Jesus. It is informed by good critical scholarship but it is not enslaved to the findings of particular scholars who claim to be or who are treated as if they were the mouthpiece for the Spirit of Scholarship.

Yes, there are historians with different assessments of certain events in the life of Jesus. Big revelation, that. There are also historians who agree with Benedict XVI's analysis. So what?

Let's not pretend that such historians represent independent, objective, critical thought, while the pope has an agenda to push. Those scholars also bring a set of presuppositions to bear on their historical analysis. In short, an agenda. The question is, when all relevant factors are taken into consideration, who gives the best reading of the data?

You don't have to take my word for it when I say that the Pope's interpretation is at least as historically sound as other scholarly views if not clearly superior to them. You can read the book for yourself and decide.

At least two other volumes seem to be anticipated--a volume on the birth of Jesus and a volume taking us from the Transfiguration to Jesus' death and resurrection. That said, it should be noted that Benedict occasionally wades into those topics in this book.

I hope to post a review of the book here in due course. We'll see how my schedule works out. Others may say what needs saying before I do, in which case I will happily defer.

Carl Olson

"Read the entire excert." Isn't that an oxymoron?

Actually, an excerpt of an excerpt is, I like to think, a mystery wrapped in an enigma and covered with a zesty secret sauce.


"These are things that actually happened. If they didn't happen, you might still have interesting ideas, but it wouldn't be Christianity at the end of the day."

But Miller thinks Benedict's book "...sees the Bible as 'true' without insisting on its being factual.'

How anyone *not* versed in theological discussions will be able to even begin to understand the difference in these two propositions is beyond me. 'Truth' in quotes is a curse of postmodernism. Once again, Newsweek 'reports' on religion with helpful commentary the obscures as much as it clarifies in key areas.


Carl, thanks for this post. I had read the Newsweek piece before I saw your post, and even though I place far greater trust in Pope Benedict than I do in Newsweek I was bothered by Ms. Miller's suggestion that Pope Benedict's interpretation of the preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven was not historically accurate. Your rebuttal relieved me of having the sense of an unanswered charge hanging over the book.

On a related topic, Zenit is publishing over the next three days a response written by Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, on the book "Inchiesta su Gesù" (An Investigation on Jesus) by Corrado Augias and Mauro Pesce. I read this response some time ago on Sandro Magister's blog, and it is excellent. It provides in summary form a sophisticated, and convincing, response to many of the "Jesus Seminar"-type claims.

I hope Pope Benedict's book brings more people to Christ. I hope it also brings more people to Joseph Ratzinger's other books. I tirelessly promote J. Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity." It is one of the most profound, maybe the most profound, 20th century book about Christianity that I have read. It is not an easy read but it is entirely accessible to non-theologians. (The discussion in "Introduction to Christianity" about what "faith" is, and what it means to have faith, is brilliant (as is the whole book). I have not read the Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens trilogy that attacks religion. But when I read about those books I wonder, "Do they address the arguments that Joseph Ratzinger advances in "Introduction to Christianity"? Are they as sophisticated?")

mark p

"Yeah, the Pope seems to be a smart guy, but he's so, like, mean"

Ha! I love it.

I'm anxiously awaiting my copy of this book. It's the first time I've ever pre-ordered a book :)


Excellent piece Carl.

With respect to the "kingdom of God" issue, what do these liberal scholars think all Christians after, say, A.D. 100 thought? If there was an apocalytpic understanding in the immediate years after Christ, why did the Faith persist beyond those early years of Christianity? I'm pretty sure the Apostles and Fathers of the early Church would have turned their minds to these issues. And I think they are far more trustworhty than Newsweek!

I think we should be always aware of Our Lord's words warning us that we don't know the time or the hour, both when we're going to die and when the Second Coming will be.

Adam Janke

I received my copy of the book in the mail today and have been reading it. It's finally brought some sense to why certain theologians and other "Catholics" are so upset. Pope Benedict has pinned their view for exactly what it is, and has eloquently destroyed their argument. And of course, when you know you are sunk, you simply complain irrationally about how "Ratzinger must be destroying the Catholic Church".

This book is a triumph.

John Blair

Has anyone done a serious study of religion writers (especially academic background) for major general public publications, such as Time, Newsweek, etc.?

george brown

As a Christian, I find it hard to imagine the Bible "true" without it also being "factual" (I'm not even sure what that could mean). One crosses the Jordan on dry ground or one does not. Fortunately for me, my source for spiritual insight, moral authority, or theological veracity does not come via Newsweek.

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