Pope Benedict XVI: Jesus of Nazareth—Reading Scripture.


Continuing the series on Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth. Please view this video for great introduction on the book.

In the second part of Pope Benedict XVI’s forward ,(For the first part, on historicism, click here) Benedict explains how to examine scripture with the proper historicism saying, “In these words from the past, we can discern the question concerning their meaning for today; a voice greater than man’s echoes in Scripture’s human words; the individual writings of the Bible point somehow to the living process that shapes the one Scripture.”[1]

It’s certainly an interesting statement on Scripture; I believe what Pope Benedict is getting at the heart of is that we must examine Scripture as the incarnational word—the sacred and the profane or the divine and earthly. The idea, in many ways, demonstrates how Sola Scriptura is not a recognition of the incarnational, but rather, a more gnostic approach attempting only to find God through spiritualism. However, this is not how God came to us; rather he came through his Son, Jesus Christ in the flesh.  Isn’t this what is told to us in the introduction John’s Gospel, “14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,”?[2]

At the same time by Benedict connecting the Divine with the earthly, he explains that God cannot be found through empiricism stating, “This process is certainly not linear, and it is often dramatic, but when you watch it unfold in light of Jesus Christ,..you can see that the Old and New Testaments belong together. This Christological hermeneutic, which sees Jesus Christ as the key to the whole and learns from him how to understand the Bible as a unity, presupposes a prior act of faith. It cannot be the conclusion of a purely historical method.”[3]  (emphasis mine)


Pope Benedict here is telling us that if you desire to find God through empirical data, it is simply, impossible. For one to find God, one must have faith in his Son, this has always been the message of Christianity from the lips of the Christ himself. The empirical historian must understand the historicism of those who wrote in their own period of time. Benedict writes, “The author does not speak as a private, self-contained subject. He speaks in a living community, that is to say, in a living historical movement not created by him.”[4] Ultimately what this explains is that no author or historian operates in a vacuum. They are influenced by their own time and experiences that produce a metaphysical idealism which influences their writing.

Pope Benedict XVI admits his own bias, “The main implication of this portrayal of Jesus is that I trust the Gospels,”[5] and I believe that this Jesus—the Jesus of the Gospels—is historically plausible and convincing figure.”[6]

In the end, it requires faith.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), xviii.

[2] Jn. 1:14 RSV

[3] Pope Benedict XVI, xix.

[4] Ibid, xx.

[5] Ibid, xxi.

[6] Ibid, xxii.

A Great Introduction to Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth.”


I really enjoyed some parts of this video which really get at the heart of the message of Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth. The video will introduce potential readers to an upcoming series where I have invited a few other writers to give their take on a chapter or theme of this book. If you haven’t read my previous post on  Pope Benedict’s book please click here for an explanation on his historical approach to writing his book.


Pope Benedict XVI: Jesus of Nazareth


If you have never had the opportunity to read this book, I implore you to get it and read it. I am refreshed in a living spring of Christ’s message through the word’s of Pope Benedict XVI. It’s an excellent book to read during your Lenten journey this year.  I believe I’m going to begin a new series of posts covering the themes of the chapters. Some of the chapters are quite lengthy, so I will have to break up parts of the chapters into subcategories and just deal with the specific theme; however, the book is broken up in this way as well, so it will work out just fine.

Pope Benedict articulated in the forward his desire to write a book on Jesus of Nazareth was due to the many ‘historical’ books that had been written about Christ during the 20th century that attempted to present the ‘historical’ Jesus.[1] Benedict writes that “If you read a number of these reconstructions one after the other, you see at once that far from uncovering an icon that has become obscured over time, they are much like photographs of their authors and the ideals they hold.”[2]

However, Benedict explains that history is important to Christianity as a religion of faith. He says, “The first point is that the historical-critical method—specifically because of the intrinsic nature of theology and faith—is and remains an indispensable dimension of exegetical work. For it is of the very essence of biblical faith to be about real historical events…Et incarnates est—when we say these words, we acknowledge God’s actual entry into real history.”[3] Benedict goes on to explain that Christians cannot push history away from their faith because “Christian faith such disappears and is recast as some other religion…then faith must expose itself to the historical method—indeed, faith itself demands this.”[4]

Benedict, having a great understanding of historicism in the academic field of history, stresses the importance that for Jesus and faith to be properly exposed to the historical method, it must tested “in the context of the mentality and events of the time.”[5] Benedict understands that 1st-century Jewish people thought and lived in a particular way that was very different from 21st-century people. Therefore, when looking at events and the people, we must present them as they are not as we would have them to be, because “the one thing it (the historical method) cannot do is make it into something present today.”[6]

Benedict sums up his view of history writing, “We have to keep in mind the limit of all efforts to know the past: We can never go beyond the domain of hypothesis because we simply cannot bring the past into the present.”[7]

Later in the forward, he presents his views on how to read scripture with the proper historical lens of the era. I will explain this in an upcoming post. I will like to stress the importance of how much this book has positively affected my faith in Christ. I see the world through the lens of Christ’s temptations in the desert, I know that his baptism was his acceptance of his mission to the cross. The sermon on the mount was his fulfillment of Moses and the Torah—Christ becomes the living Torah! I have never prayed the Our Father with such connection to God, Christ, and my fellow Christians before reading this book.

Again, I implore you to read it!

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), xi.

[2] Ibid, xii.

[3] Ibid, xv.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, xvi

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, xvii.

The Catholic Enlightenment?


I like to peruse new books on Amazon–or anywhere– and came across this new title named The Catholic EnlightenmentThe title of the book really drove my interest, as well as the billing of the book to be a huge addition to the historical record. My academic career being in history and also being a Catholic it would seem like the book is a home run for my interest of heart. Also, my ‘expertise’ or ‘focus’ in history academically seems to be tailor made for the book’s subject as it was a  focus on the Early American Republic, which was highly influenced by the Enlightenment.

The book, being released on February 3rd, 2016, has no reviews on Amazon, and so wanting to learn more about the title I sent off to find a more detailed review on the subject matter. I found one on www.patheos.com and here are some of the interesting points I pulled from the review.

** “the Enlightenment (a.k.a. “Age of Reason“) is commonly used by atheists as a blunt tool against religious people.”

** “Catholics tend to see the Enlightenment as a period of sinful darkness and secular fanaticism. For them this secular ideology fueled the apocalyptic destruction of the French Revolution and 20th century totalitarianism.”

** And one of the  most interesting thoughts** “Most interestingly, Catholics got a jump start on many Enlightenment reforms thanks to the reforms of Trent. The Council, much like Vatican II, aimed to improve the quality of Catholic practice by stressing active participation and social involvement (through the Works of Mercy). This is definitely not how many Catholics remember Trent–if they are at all familiar with it.”

The review is very thought provoking, one would only hope the book serves the intellect just as well. Many of my posts lately have challenged Traditional stances on Catholicism; however, I wouldn’t necessarily claim that I attempted to co-opt Trent to justify Vatican II. It’s a very interesting position, because, in my conversations with my fellow Catholics, most Catholics either fall on the Pro-Trent aisle or the Pro-Vatican II aisle. However, it’s also the heart of many of my dialogues to co-opt the two councils has a development of faith in Christ. Let me be clear–and my traditional friends will love this assertion–The Council of Trent is so vital to the Catholic faith that if you are Pro-Vatican II then yes you do have to justify Vatican II council with Trent (they are not equals and this would be why when defending the vernacular Mass, I cite Trent documents and sessions.)

Nonetheless, one of the skills everyone learns, or should learn, taking university level college courses is how to detect bias in every author’s written work. Let’s make a clear distinction here, every historical thesis is filled with author bias on the events. My posts all have bias, it’s unavoidable.

It appears the author, from this review, attempts to treat the subject matter with fairness. Although it will be interesting to see if the author attempts to come down on a pro-Trent, pro-Vatican II, or an attempt at both that all Catholics seem to focus their attention on. Is the book an attempt to fashion a more appealing brand of Catholicism towards secularists and will use Vatican II to do so or attempt to place Vatican II as a development of Trent?

I suppose I’ll have to read the book as quotes, shown below, only attempt to entice one to open the book and read.


An Illustrated Guide to Lenten Fasting And Abstinence

Help getting the information out for everyone. Although from my understanding the old tradition is liquid only diet instead of two small meals with just solid food with one meal.

Catholic & Chronically Awesome

Yesterday, Ash Wednesday began the 40 Days of Lent. A period of prayer, alms-giving and penance in preparation for the Eater Triduum and Easter. It’s our 40 days in the desert preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ and Salvation. Part of that process is acts of penance and purification through our words, deeds, actions, etc. Lent is a full body experience.

For many of us with chronic health conditions, Fasting isn’t a healthy nor viable Lenten practice. A practice that the Catholic Church excuses some of the faithful from. “Those who are excused from fast or abstinence besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral…

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