Pope Benedict’s new book on Jesus won’t be Magisterial

Pope Benedict’s new book on Jesus won’t be Magisterial

The first volume of Pope Benedict’s new book on Jesus Christ is ready for publication. He started it before his election and finished it in his “free time” since then. It sounds fascinating.

He says that he undertook the project as a response to the distinction that is often drawn between the “historical Jesus” studied by scholars and the Jesus of popular piety—a distinction that the Holy Father rejects.

The extraordinary events depicted in the Bible account of Christ’s life, the Pope reasons, explain why his followers had faith in Him; an ordinary life would not have roused such extraordinary faith. Thus the Pope argues that he sees no reason to question the Biblical account, as so many scholars have done. “I trust the Gospels,” he writes.

The Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, today said the Holy Father makes it clear that this is not to be considered a work of the Magisterium, but the work of a theologian which can be discussed and critiqued and which doesn’t have to receive the assent of faith.

“With his habitual simplicity and humility, the Pope explains that this is not a ‘work of Magisterium’ but the fruit of his own research, and as such it can be freely discussed and criticized. This is a very important observation, because it makes clear that what he writes in the book in no way binds the research of exegetes and theologians. It is not a long encyclical on Jesus, but a personal presentation of the figure of Jesus by the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, who has been elected as Bishop of Rome.”

He also discussed the focus of the work.

In the introduction to the book, Fr. Lombardi continues, “Jesus is presented to us as the new Moses, the new prophet who speaks with ‘God face to face,’ ... the Son, deeply united to the Father. If this essential aspect is overlooked, the figure of Jesus become contradictory and incomprehensible. With passion, Joseph Ratzinger speaks to us of Jesus’ intimate union with the Father, and wishes to ensure that Jesus’ disciples participate in this communion. It is, then, a great work of exegesis and theology, but also a great work of spirituality.”

You can expect it to be yet another bestseller.

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