Benedict XVI’s new book Jesus of Nazareth II is the first time a Pope has written so extensively about Jesus, simply as a theologian. But as the CEO of Ignatius Press, the book’s US publisher (the publisher for Britain and Ireland is Catholic Truth Society) explained to the world’s media, that is not the only first.
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week – From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, was launched last week in the Vatican.
The Vatican Publishing House published the book in Italian, and it was also released by various publishers in English, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Polish.
Mark Brumley, president and CEO at Ignatius, identified several factors that may make the book historic.
“There are a number of ‘firsts’ here. It’s the first time a Pope has written a book with this much depth on Jesus; it’s the first time the Pope has engaged modern historical scholarship; and this is the first time the Pope has balanced out the method of historical scholarship with a broader theological approach to the Bible,” Brumley said. “Those are three significant firsts.”
At the launch, there was also a discussion about what the book means for Christians in general.
A Protestant perspective, and Vatican II
Protestant biblical scholar Ben Witherington III, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and at St. Andrews University in Scotland, added his commendation, beginning by putting the work in the context of Vatican II.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Jesus scholarship and writing books about Jesus, and one of the things I have seen in the (guild) of biblical scholars worldwide is that Catholic and Protestant (exegy) have come closer and closer together in their understanding of both historical Jesus and the Christ of faith, and then worked together to better understanding.”
“I think this book is a very significant book that does precisely that, it helps us both with our knowledge and understanding of Jesus from a historical and critical point of view, but also with our faith. You see knowledge and vital piety in this book, and it’s a very welcome sight indeed.”
A work that will aid unity
“Reading this book helps Christians, especially Protestants and Catholics, and Christians and Jews, and believers and unbelievers overcome unnecessary differences, differences that arise from misunderstandings, misreading, and I would say even within our own Christian tradition misreading of the Gospel passages.
“The (Holy Father) did a great job of summarizing one of those mis-readings, but also — our differences will be clearer. And I think that actually serves the cause of unity.”
If you have not already done so, you can order the book and read all the pre-publication extracts here. If you do have the book, we welcome your comments and reviews!
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