Writings of the Holy Father

Vatican expert previews Pope Benedict XVI’s new book

Sandro Magister says the Pope's new book will be a
Sandro Magister says the Pope's new book will be a

.- In an article titled, “The Next Battle For and Against Jesus Will Be Fought by the Book,” Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert who writes for the Italian weekly, L’espresso, has published in five languages the complete preface from Pope Benedict XVI’s new book, “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.”  The upcoming release will be the first of an anticipated two volume set, with the first slated go on sale sometime this spring.  Magister predicts the new book, “will be the best-seller of the year.”

Though the book will not be released for several months, Magister notes, “a week does not go by without Benedict XVI preaching about the book’s protagonist: Jesus ‘true God and true man.’”  

The Holy Father, Magister says, is setting out to propose a true image of Jesus, in contradistinction to the prevailing academic trends which obscure or reject Christ outright.  Magister noted especially the Holy Father’s General Audience on January 3rd, in which he pointed out that the rejection of Christ is “unfortunately manifested and expressed today in many different ways.”

“It may be that today’s forms of rejection of God are even more subtle and dangerous than in the past,” the Holy Father said, “from explicit rejection to indifference, from scientistic atheism to the presentation of a so-called ‘modernized’ or ‘postmodernized’ Jesus.  This is Jesus as a man, reduced in various ways to a mere man of his time, deprived of his divinity, or a Jesus so idealized as to seem sometimes a character in a fairy tale.”

In the face of such propositions of a false Jesus, Magister insists, Pope Benedict offers the “true Jesus of history,” a Jesus who is, “true God and true man, and does not weary of offering his Gospel to all.”

“The upcoming book,” the journalist concludes, “intends precisely to pose the authentic Jesus against the false ‘modernized or postmodernized’ Jesus,” found in several recent publications.  “The Pope,” he says, “has taken another step in the book’s release – and in the battle for and against Jesus.”

Magister then includes an English translation of the book’s preface.

The Pope begins his preface recalling his youth and the exhilarating experience he had in reading books about Jesus.  

However, Pope Benedict continues, in the middle of the 20th century “a rift between the ‘historical Jesus’ and the ‘Christ of faith’ became wider and wider,” leading to an, “impression that we know very little for sure about Jesus, and that it was only later that faith in His divinity shaped His image.”

The situation created by such Theological reconstructions of Christ has harmed the faith, the Holy Father continues, “because it renders uncertain its authentic point of reference: intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, threatens to become a groping around in the void.”

Thus, he continues, “For my presentation of Jesus, this means above all that I trust the Gospels.”

“Naturally,” he says, “I take for granted what the Council and modern exegesis say about the literary genres, about the intention of various expressions, about the communitarian context of the Gospels and the fact that they speak within this living context.”

“While accepting all this as much as possible, I wanted to make an effort to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the real Jesus, as the ‘historical Jesus’ in the real sense of the expression.”

The Pontiff emphasizes that the book is not written as an attack on modern exegesis, which has, “made us familiar with a great quantity of sources and conceptions through which the figure of Jesus can become present to us with a liveliness and depth that we couldn’t even imagine just a few decades ago.”

“Naturally,” he adds, “to believe that even as a man He was God, and made this known by concealing it within parables while nevertheless making it increasingly clear, goes beyond the possibilities of the historical method. On the contrary, if one begins from this conviction of faith and reads the texts with the historical method and with its openness to what is greater, the texts open up to reveal a way and a figure that are worthy of faith.”

“I have sought only to go beyond mere historical-critical interpretation, applying the new methodological criteria that allow us to make a properly theological interpretation of the Bible that naturally requires faith, without thereby wanting or being able in any way to renounce historical seriousness.”

The book is, “absolutely not a magisterial act,” Benedict clarifies, “but is only the expression of my personal search for the ‘face of the Lord’ (Psalm 27:8). So everyone is free to disagree with me. I ask only that my readers begin with that attitude of good will without which there is no understanding.”

For the full version of the preface and additional commentary from Sandro Magister please visit the following link http://www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=110941&eng=y

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