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Synopsis of Pope's Book

4/16/2007 - 6:10 AM PST

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"Jesus of Nazareth"

ROME, APRIL 16, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the synopsis of Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth," released by the Italian publisher Rizzoli, which has handled worldwide sale of the rights to the work.

The Italian edition will be in bookstores Monday, and the English-language edition will be made available May 15 by Doubleday in North America, and by Bloomsbury in the United Kingdom.

* * *

The Pope's Path to Jesus
A personal meditation, not an exercise of the magisterium

This book is the first part of a work, the writing of which, as its author states, was preceded by a "long gestation" (Page xi). It reflects Joseph Ratzinger's personal search for the "face of the Lord" and is not intended to be a document forming part of the magisterium (Page xxiii).

"Everyone is free, then, to contradict me," the Pontiff stresses in the foreword (Page xxiv). The main purpose of the work is "to help foster [in the reader] the growth of a living re¬lationship" with Jesus Christ (Page xxiv). In an expected second volume the Pope hopes "also to be able to include the chapter on the [infancy] narratives" con¬cerning the birth of Jesus and to consider the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection.

It is primarily, therefore, a pastoral book. But it is also the work of a rigorous theologian, who justifies his assertions based on exhaustive knowledge of sacred texts and critical literature. He underlines the indispen¬sability of a historical-critical method for serious exegesis, but also highlights its limits: "Admittedly, to believe that, as man, he [Jesus] truly was God exceeds the scope of the historical method" (Page xxiii).

And yet, "Without an¬choring in God, the person of Jesus remains shadowy, unreal, and unexplainable" (Schnackenburg, "Freundschaft mit Jesus," Page 322). In confirming this conclu¬sion of a notable Roman Catholic representative of historical-critical exegesis, the Pope states that his book "sees Jesus in light of his communion with the Father" (Page xiv).

In addition, based on "reading the individual texts of the Bible in the context of the whole" -- a reading that "does not contradict historical-critical interpretation, but carries it forward in an organic way toward becoming theology in the proper sense" (Page xix) -- the author presents "the Jesus of the Gospels as the real, 'historical' Jesus," underlining "that this figure is much more logical and, historically speaking, much more intelligible than the reconstructions we have been presented with in the last decades" (Page xxii).

For Benedict XVI, one finds in the Scriptures the compelling elements to be able to assert that the historical personage, Jesus Christ, is also the Son of God who came to Earth to save humanity. In page after page, he exam¬ines these one by one, guiding and challenging the reader -- the believer but also the nonbeliever -- by way of an enthralling intellectual adventure.

Grounding his core premise on the fact of the intimate unity between the Old and the New Testament, and drawing on the Christological herme¬neutics that see in Jesus Christ the key to the entire Bible, Benedict XVI presents the Jesus of the Gospels as the "new Moses" who fulfills Israel's an¬cient expectations (Page 1). This new Moses must lead the people of God to true and definitive freedom. He does so in a sequence of actions that, how¬ever, always allow God's plan to be anticipated in its entirety.

The Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan is "an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out, 'This is my beloved Son,' over the baptismal waters is an antici¬patory reference to the Resurrection" (Page 18). Jesus' immersion in the waters of the River Jordan is a symbol of his death and of his descent into hell -- a reality present, however, throughout his life.

To save humanity "He must recapitulate the whole of history from its beginnings" (Page 26), he must conquer the principal temptations that, in various forms, threaten men in all ages and, transforming them into obedience, reopen the road toward God (Chapter 2), toward the true Promised Land, which is the "Kingdom of God" (Page 44). This term, which can be interpreted in its Christological, mystical or even ecclesiastical dimension, ultimately means "the divine lordship, God's do¬minion over the world and over history, [which] transcends the moment, indeed transcends and reaches beyond the whole of history. And yet it is at the same time something belonging absolutely to the present" (Page 57). Indeed, through Jesus' presence and activity "God has here and now entered actively into history in a wholly new way." In Jesus "God ... draws near to us ... rules in a divine way, without worldly power, rules through the love that reaches 'to the end'" (Pages 60-61; John 13:1).

The theme of the ...

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