Friday, March 18, 2011

The Pope's Book

I recently finished reading Jesus of Nazareth: Part Two, the 2nd volume of Pope Benedict’s book about Jesus' life, words, and actions. These 2 volumes are, in the Pope’s own words, his attempt “to develop a way of observing and listening to the Jesus of the Gospels that can indeed lead to personal encounter and that, through collective listening with Jesus’ disciples across the ages, can indeed attain sure knowledge of the real historical figure of Jesus.” The book presupposes but “seeks to transcend” historical-critical exegesis “to arrive at a genuinely theological interpretation of the scriptural texts.”

For whatever reason – perhaps because this second book deals with the Passion narratives or perhaps for purely personal circumstantial factors – I found the second book both easier to read and more interesting. The Pope’s approach – alluding to and occasionally answering academic theories but always rooted in the text itself and in the ancient traditions of patristic interpretation – is engaging and clearly oriented toward its stated goal “to make possible a personal relationship with Jesus.”

It is always refreshing to read a work which takes the canonical text and the way it has been interpreted int he Church's life seriously as a fundamental point of departure. Since the book basically covers Holy Week and Easter, it offers some fresh insights for prayer and preaching as Holy Week approaches.

With their personal books, Pope Benedict and his soon-to-be-beatified predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have certainly raised the bar in terms of what will now be expected intellectually from contemporary popes!

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