Jesus of Nazareth - Book Review

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The following is a book review I wrote for the Diocesan Messenger (the newspaper for the Victoria Diocese)

Jesus of Nazareth is a result of a lifetime of experience of Joseph Ratzinger, his “personal search for the Lord.” The fact that the book is based on his personal search that makes it so interesting, especially because the book is the work of Joseph Ratzinger the theologian, and is not a part of his magisterial authority as Pope. This leaves the book open to theological criticism, and some have taken Ratzinger up on that.

It is, however, difficult to find a point of criticism with this book. It is a book writing in a style that is beautiful, deep, and accessible. It is through this masterpiece of Christian writing that Ratzinger expresses three essential aspects to this book; it is Christological, meditative, and engaging.

The Christological aspect is perhaps the strongest, and yet most subtle, theme of the book. In the book Ratzinger discusses the intellectual background of the historical-critical method in biblical theology. He engages this method throughout the entire book by discussing who Christ is. He engages the historical-critical by affirming, in so subtle a way, that Christ is the source of history, thus attacking the historical-critical method that history is the source of Christ. This is especially affirmed in his discussion on Christ's temptation in the dessert, in which each of Christ's responses affirm that He is God, always obedient to the will of the Father.

Ratzinger's “personal search for the face of the Lord” makes this book meditative because it is obviously based on years of deep personal prayer. It is this search that has created a love that is obviously sincere and deep. His reflections on the various aspects of Christ's life are profound in a way that they provide the reader with a variety of sources for contemplation in their own search for the face of the Lord. His experiences are a great addition to ours as we all journey together towards Christ.

The final aspect is that it is a book that is engaging and relevant. Ratzinger explicitly brings the Gospels to our present situations. He does not read the Gospels according to the modern situations, but rather reads the modern situations according to the Gospels. Christ, revealed to us through the Gospels, is the lens through which history is looked through. This is an essential point for Ratzinger in his affirmation of Christ as the center, source, and summit of history. He does this aspect justice par excellence.

All in all, this book is a brilliant and accessible book that all Catholics ought to read. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, this book has something for you. This book presents to us Christ, and Christ reveals to us who we are created to be, and it is through this presentation of Christ by Ratzinger that we come to a deeper understanding of the call to holiness we are all challenged to answer.

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