Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This is a Great Book

Jesus healing the possessed.

I think with the release of this book (which I got yesterday and read straight through) the pope is positioning himself to be the St. Thomas Aquinas of our age. How or why do I say this? Because like St. Thomas who answered the objections to the Faith in his day, this pope is doing the same.
A few months ago someone asked me what book I would recommend that they give to their adult children who no longer practiced the faith, without hesitation I named this book as the one. At the time I had only read some excerpts available online from Germany and Italy. It was an act of faith then, now that I have the book I know that my recommendation was justified.
This is a great book, magisterial (even though the pope doesn't want it thought of in that way). It is not just another book about Jesus, it a revolutionary book about Jesus...in that it recaptures why people have had their lives changed by their belief in Jesus for over 2,000 years.
What makes this book so special? It is like a modern Summa (those who know St. Thomas Aquinas will understand me here) in that it answers modern questions of doubt, skepticism and even inquiry on not only who Jesus is, but why Jesus is the most important person anyone has ever or can ever know.
The pope's methodology is to take a scene from the Bible, like the Lord's baptism and then to draw on that scene from the entire Bible, to show what modern scholarship has done to help us to understand the historical context of the scene, tell us how the early Church fathers interpreted the scene, how would it have been viewed in Judaism (he uses the reflections of a Rabbi when discussing the Sermon on the Mount) and then to give the reader the meaning of this event for them. Along the way he answers questions to the many objections modern people bring to their encounter with Jesus.
As someone who has studied theology for a number of years and been exposed to every screwball theology out there, I found this book to be a corrective lens to refocus and correct my vision of who Jesus is and what following him means. What impresses me (and I'm not easily impressed) is that the Pope takes on the "screwball (my term, not his)" theologies in such a way as to making them seem silly (although he is incredibly charitable in his approach).
This book will have a great effect on renewing the Church and centering it on an image of Christ that is Biblical and credible, erasing years of poor and faulty preaching and teaching.
If you are not Catholic, but a Christian you will love this book too. In fact I predict you will be come a big fan of Joseph Ratzinger and will want to read his many published works to encounter someone rooted in Scripture and conversant with modern attacks on it. If you are a non Christian I think you will find in the book an excellent introduction to what Christians believe about the God-man from Nazareth. To all you parents out there who sent your kids to Catholic schools and now wish they would practice their faith, give them this book and reintroduce them to Jesus of Nazareth.


  1. I haven't finished it yet, but I was up to the wee hours reading it.

    This is a great book. I love his many insights and how he is willing to use the tools of modern scholarship, but not in the way that distorts so many modern readings of the life of Jesus. He has combine both a scholarly an a contemplative look at the life of Jesus.

  2. Amazon says they shipped it but it has yet to arrive at my California address. I can hardly wait.

  3. The first thing I notice is the book's size: having taken the time to write concisely, Ratzinger has authored a book of reasonable size. On my short bookshelf, I'm very reluctant to put a book that's bigger than the bibles I use. This book fits in the hand well and is meant to be read.

    By the way, I mean no disrespect by referring to Pope Benedict XVI as "Ratzinger" ... it seems to me the foreward even encourages that manner of reference with regard to this book.

  4. Re chapter on Jesus' Baptism, wonderful how inobtrusively the nature of Baptism for the believer is addressed while keeping the focus on Jesus' baptism.

    Further, the chapter is very useful wrt RCIA, where this topic often comes up (nature and significance of Jesus' baptism)..at our parish anyway.

  5. With chapter 3, the book becomes more complex. Ratzinger cites the tendency within 19th & 20th century Catholicism to identify the Kingdom of God and the Church (p 50). Ratzinger is in careful disagreement with that, in my opinion. However, the argument extends to page 146-147 and beyond.