Publication of Benedict XVI’s book, Jesus of Nazareth

Source: FSSPX News

Claudio Rossi, director of the Vatican Publishing House announced that the first book by Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, would be in bookstores on Monday, April 16, the Holy Father’s 80th birthday. 

The book was presented to the press on April 13 in the Synod Hall at the Vatican by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, by Daniele Garrone, dean of the Waldensian Faculty of Theology in Rome, and by Massimo Cacciari, professor of Esthetics at the Saint-Raphael University in Milan. The book, already available in Italy (350,000 copies), in Germany (250,000 copies) and in Poland, will be translated into 20 languages and will be published on May 15 by Doubleday in North America, and by Bloomsbury in the U.K. It is the first part of a two-volume set and deals with the public life of Christ, from his baptism in the River Jordan up to the Transfiguration. The second volume will be devoted to the childhood of Jesus.

Cardinal Schönborn stressed that “in a public market ruled by the media, there is a constant promotion of ‘new discoveries’ which supposedly reveal a completely different life-story of Jesus of Nazareth.” Because the biblical and ecclesial representation of the figure of Jesus might be no more than “a hoax made up by priests and by the Church”, and the truth about Jesus might be “stifled by obscure conspirators located, preferably, in the Vatican.” “The innumerable imaginary pictures of Jesus as a revolutionary, a social revolutionary myth, the secret lover of Mary Magdalene, etc. can safely be put away in the great ossuary of history. However, the eminent abiding question still remains: ‘Is Jesus consistent?’ Isn’t the understanding He has of Himself, and of His identity a huge error by which Christianity has been living for 2000 years? It is this claim exactly which scandalized Judaism and Islam. To give an answer to this, is the real challenge today for the Successor of Peter (and of Paul) in the present public Areopagus.” Now, Jesus of Nazareth has been written precisely by someone who is completely “familiar” with biblical science and who is inspired by the conviction that he “can have confidence in the Gospels”, and who, consequently, can present Jesus of Nazareth as “a figure who historically speaking makes sense and is convincing.”

In the preface, published last December, the pope specified that: “From the fifties onwards, the situation changed. The gap between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of the Faith” became increasingly wider, they moved away from one another before our very eyes. But what significance can faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, have, if after all, the man Jesus was so different from the way He is presented by the Evangelists and from the way in which the Church, according to the Gospels, presents Him? The progress of historical and critical research led to ever more subtle distinctions between the various strata of tradition. Behind these, the figure of Jesus, upon which the faith rests, became ever more indistinct, and its features ever more blurred.

“At the same time, the attempts at reconstructing the Jesus who must be searched for behind the traditions of the Evangelists and their sources, became ever more contradictory: they start from the revolutionary enemy of the Romans who opposed the established power and naturally fell into an easy-going and all permissive morality, and then, unaccountably, ended up by provoking his own ruin. Anyone who reads some of these reconstructions one after the other, will notice immediately that they are much more the portraits of their own authors and their ideals, than the dusting up of a blurred picture. Meanwhile, distrust for these representations of Jesus grew, and yet the very figure of Jesus became even more remote from us. At any rate, all these attempts left behind them, as a common denominator, the impression that we know very little for certain about Jesus, and that it is only later that faith in His divinity fashioned his image. This impression went deep into the common conscience of Christianity. Such a situation is tragic for the faith because it makes its authentic reference point uncertain: the intimate friendship with Jesus, upon which everything depends, runs the risk of meeting with the void. (…)

“I wanted to try to present the Jesus of the Gospel as the real Jesus, as the ‘historical Jesus’ in the true sense of the word. I am convinced - and I hope that the reader will be too -, that this figure is much more logical and from the historical viewpoint also more understandable than the reconstructions we have been confronted with during these last decades. And I consider that this Jesus – of the Gospels – is precisely a figure which makes sense historically and is convincing. The crucifixion and its efficacy can be explained only if something really extraordinary happened, only if the figure and the words of Jesus went radically beyond all the hopes and expectations of his time.”

“I have simply tried to go beyond the purely historical and critical interpretation, applying the new methodological criteria which allow a properly theological interpretation of the Bible, and which naturally demand the faith, without for all that wanting or being able to entirely relinquish historical seriousness. Certainly, it goes without saying that this book is not an act of the magisterium but only the expression of my personal quest for the “face of the Lord” (Ps. 27, 8). Thus, everyone is free to contradict me. I only ask of my readers a benevolent approach without which no understanding is possible.”

In his book, dotted with quotes from Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Socrates, Confucius, Dante…, the Sovereign Pontiff inveighs against the “temptation” of wanting to “interpret Christianity as a recipe for progress and to consider the quest for universal well-being as the true objective of any religion.” He warns categorically against “the worst books which destroy the figure of Jesus and the faith, and are full of the supposed results of exegesis.” “Bible interpretation can become an instrument of the Antichrist” if it is erroneous. “Jesus is not a myth. He is a man of flesh and blood, and a presence entirely real in history.” When “we declare God to be dead, then are we also God! And men are no longer the property of another, but their own masters and the owners of the world. Now,” continues the pope, “where God is considered of secondary importance, which can temporarily or definitively be set aside in the name of more important things, then these supposedly more important things fail.” “The negative experience of Marxism is not the only proof of this.”

The daily Corriere della Sera of April 4 published excerpts from the Pope’s commentary on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and on the universality of the notion of neighbor, in which Benedict XVI speaks about “globalized society” and the “populations of Africa being stolen and plundered” materially and spiritually by the “lifestyle” of Western societies. The pope explains the correct analysis of Karl Marx who “ described forcefully man’s alienation” yet “did not perceive the true depth of this alienation because he reasoned only in material terms.”

Die Zeit also published excerpts from the commentary on the Parable of the Prodigal Son in which the pope expounds upon “the present rebellion against God and against God’s law.” “The man who understands freedom as the possibility of doing radically whatever he pleases, (…) is living a lie.” “A false autonomy leads to slavery: history has clearly demonstrated this.”