Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No. 5 on the New York Times Bestseller List!

After debuting as an instant bestseller, "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week" has reached No. 5 on the New York Times Bestseller List! You can get more information, including comments from Ignatius Press President Mark Brumley, here:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Was Jesus a political activist?

By Kathryn Jean Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez
I don’t know if I feel qualified to call Jesus a political activist, but I do know that our activism is only as good as our prayers. That politics only makes sense, is only fully worth the effort, if it is always in service to something with much more permanence than a campaign or even a government.

Was Jesus a card-carrying member of the ACLU? Did he donate to the National Right to Life Committee? I don’t believe we’ve seen it in the tax returns.

But by bothering with us – by walking among men and giving us a model for life in this world, by having mercy on sinners he chose to be the early Church leaders – true cultural trailblazers – he made clear that political activism here is worthy of our time and effort. If it’s worth him living and dying and rising among us, it’s clearly worth our prayerful lives of engagement.

Not only does the reality and testimony to his presence among us as a man remind us that this place is important on our way home, that he is Truth itself should be the ultimate roadmap to the political activists.

As Christians, our involvement in politics is only as good as our faithfulness. We are politically active because of our love of God and man – of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

In a January address to the Holy See diplomatic corps, the author of Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week said:

“I invite everyone to acknowledge the great lesson of history: ‘How can anyone deny the contribution of the world’s great religions to the development of civilization? The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity. Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity, the establishment of democratic institutions and the recognition of human rights and their corresponding duties. Today too, in an increasingly globalized society, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs’ (Message for the Celebration of World Peace Day, 1 January 2011, 7).”

Those words were delivered in a context of encouraging religious freedom and cautioning and admonishing against blasphemy laws and other threats to the practice of faith, and thus the very dignity of man. This contemporary battle recently took the life of a fellow Catholic, Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan.

On the Cross, Christ gives the activist great comfort.

“Father, forgive them.”

“I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.”

Men in community – even ones who purport to be Christian – will ignorantly participate with evil acts, believing they’re doing something else. This can be a source of great distress, individually, and as good men and women in community seeking the good.

His grace will lead us home. Let us pray. For us and our fellow activists – even the ones we disagree with.

In that address to the diplomatic corps earlier this year, the Holy Father also said:

“‘God alone responds to the yearning present in the heart of every man and woman’ (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 23). Humanity throughout history, in its beliefs and rituals, demonstrates a constant search for God and ‘these forms of religious expression are so universal that one may well call man a religious being’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 28). The religious dimension is an undeniable and irrepressible feature of man’s being and acting, the measure of the fulfillment of his destiny and of the building up of the community to which he belongs. Consequently, when the individual himself or those around him neglect or deny this fundamental dimension, imbalances and conflicts arise at all levels, both personal and interpersonal.”

And in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, Pope Benedict XVI writes:

“Because he is God, he sees with total clarity the whole foul flood of evil, all the power of lies and pride, all the wiles and cruelty of the evil that masks itself as life yet constantly serves to destroy, debase, and crush life. Because he is the Son, he experiences deeply all the horror, filth, and baseness that he must drink from the ‘chalice’ prepared for him: the vast power of sin and death. All this he must take into himself, so that it can be disarmed and defeated in him.”

Power doesn’t have to corrupt. Because the power of the Cross is more powerful than any lies and pride and cruelty. That’s not a bad message for political activists. Be always united to God, who loved us enough to send His Son to confirm this is all worthy and doable. Your leadership is only as good as your surrender to the service of He who is Hope.

Christ was the model, the Holy Trinity provides the winning coalition, and life in the Divine Presence is destination of political activists. We pray for prudence and humility. We pray to be more like Christ, even in the backrooms of Washington. Political activism, for the Christian, requires apostolic courage.

And so … we pray.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

'There is something for everyone in this book.'

Ignatius Press President Mark Brumley sat down with Zenit, the international news agency that reports on "the world seen from Rome," to discuss Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week and its impact. The resulting interview is a must-read!

You can find it here:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jesus of Nazareth on two more best-seller lists!

We've announced that Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week is on the New York Times best-seller list. Now, it is also on the Wall Street Journal best-sellers list as well as Publishers Weekly's best-sellers list!


Wall Street Journal's best sellers.
Publishers Weekly's best sellers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Reading the New Testament with Pope Benedict XVI"

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles reviews Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week in the official archdiocesan newspaper, The Tidings:

I am starting to read Pope Benedict XVI's new book, "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection" (Ignatius Press, $25).

This is the second volume of our Holy Father's proposed trilogy on the life and message of Jesus. It is a scholarly work that is beautifully written, deeply spiritual, and inspires meditation and prayer.

I recommend it highly, especially to theologians, Bible scholars, religious educators, pastors and seminarians. Along with the pope's 2010 exhortation Verbum Domini ("The Word of the Lord"), the two volumes of "Jesus of Nazareth" are essential for all of us. These works help us appreciate how important the Scriptures are for our work of the new evangelization.


Instant New York Times Bestseller!

New York Times Bestseller!
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week will debut March 27 as a New York Times Bestseller!

This sensational news comes as acclaim for the Pope’s second volume on Christ’s life continues to grow.

“It’s a remarkable achievement,” said Protestant scholar Dr. Craig A. Evans of Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, in Wolfville, N.S., Canada. “It’s the best book I’ve read on Jesus in years. This is a book that I think all Christians should read, be they Protestant or Catholic.”

“This book fulfills Pope Benedict’s ardent desire – that it would ‘be helpful to all readers who seek to encounter Jesus and to believe in him,’” said Capuchin Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy (O.F.M., Cap.), Executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Doctrine.

You can read the full press release (PDF) in the newsroom on the Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week website: click here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A biblical retreat on the Passion and Resurrection Narratives of the Gospels

By Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
Fr. Thomas Rosica
Pope Benedict’s first book, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, was a masterpiece and model of authentic Scripture scholarship – the lived experience of' the praying and thinking Church, faith, piety and devotion all working together.  I am very grateful to Ignatius Press for having invited me to read Pope Benedict XVI’s second manuscript: Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week – From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection prior to its publication and presentation to the world by the Vatican Press Office on March 10, 2011.  As a student of Sacred Scripture, scholar and lecturer in New Testament, I spent two days reading the new, dense text of Pope Benedict XVI – Joseph Ratzinger – and came away from the experience as if I had been on a biblical retreat on the Passion and Resurrection Narratives of the Gospels – the very stories at the heart of the Christian faith.

Some of the very striking aspects of this book are when Pope Benedict moves from being exegete and professor to pastor and friend with his very personal additions.  One of those comes in the epilogue of the book on the Ascension of the Lord into heaven.  Benedict writes: “After the multiplication of the loaves, the Lord makes the disciples get into the boat and go before him to Bethsaida on the opposite shore, while he himself dismisses the people. He then goes ‘up on the mountain’ to pray. So the disciples are alone in the boat. There is a headwind, and the lake is turbulent. They are threatened by the power of the waves and the storm. The Lord seems to be far away in prayer on his mountain. But because he is with the Father, he sees them. And because he sees them, he comes to them across the water; he gets into the boat with them and makes it possible for them to continue to their destination.”

Benedict writes: “In our own day, too, the boat of the Church travels against the headwind of history through the turbulent ocean of time. Often it looks as if it is bound to sink. But the Lord is there, and he comes at the right moment. ‘I go away, and I will come to you’ – that is the essence of Christian trust, the reason for our joy.”

It is this personal encounter with the living Lord, traveling in the boat with us, that lies at the heart of Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI – Joseph Ratzinger.   This book should be required reading for every bishop, priest, pastoral minister and serious Catholic who would like to meet Jesus of Nazareth and deepen his/her knowledge of the very person of Jesus and the central mysteries of our faith.  I could think of no better way to prepare for Holy Week and Easter this year than to read this text.

Fr. Rosica is the CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation. Visit them online at

Friday, March 11, 2011

An extraordinary walk through the passages of the Gospel

By Most Rev. Gerald M. Barbarito
Bishop, Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla.

Pope Benedict XVI’s second volume of Jesus of Nazareth truly is a concrete reflection on the word of God as revealed in the Gospels - particularly as it narrates the Passion of Christ through His Resurrection. The Pope gives us an extraordinary walk through the passages of the Gospel which concentrates on this part of the Lord's mission in a manner that is both historically attuned and attuned to our faith.  This is extremely significant for, as the Pope states in the preface of his work, it is during what we call Holy Week, that "we encounter the decisive sayings and events of Jesus' life.”

The manner of encountering the Gospels which the Pope uses in his work is to combine historical – critical exegesis with a hermeneutic of faith.  To seek the historical Jesus, without reference to faith, makes it theologically irrelevant.  For the Pope, exegesis must be a historical and theological discipline.  That is why he uses an exegesis that is very consistent with that of the Fathers of the Church.  Exegetical work, in the words of the Pope "must recognize that a properly developed faith - hermeneutic is appropriate to the text and can be combined with a historical hermeneutic, aware of its limits, so as to form a methodological whole.”  As he observes regarding the combination of these two hermeneutics, “Fundamentally this is a matter of finally putting into practice the methodological principles formulated for exegesis by the second Vatican Council (in Dei Verbum 12), a task that unfortunately has scarcely been attempted thus far."  Simply put, we must read the words and the events of the life of Jesus in the context of faith!  

It is inspiring to know that Pope Benedict XVI, despite his myriad responsibilities and obligations, found the writing of his personal work to be not only important for scholarly reflection but also personally renewing for him.  During whatever limited personal time he had, the Pope was committed to writing and finishing this personal work so that he might hand on in his personal and scholarly life the Person of Jesus Christ.  This is truly an example which speaks not one but many volumes of what the Pope means by fusing a hermeneutic of faith and historical criticism.  When we look to this book of the Holy Father we can also see the book of his life and that speaks of an encounter with Jesus Christ which continually unfolds for him for the service of the Church.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fr. Joseph Fessio interviewed on Vatican Radio

Listen to the Vatican Radio interview with Ignatius Press founder Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, as he discusses the release of Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week. Click here.

Rome Reports: Benedict XVI receives editors of new book "Jesus of Nazareth"

Review roundup #1

Reviews of Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week are now starting to come in!

Eric Sammons
writes in Our Sunday Visitor:
The greatness of a great man is not always recognized in his own time... Yet Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — is one of the greatest theologians to ever hold the office of the papacy, and his impact on the life of the Church — especially in theological studies — can hardly be overstated. Centuries from now, his works will still be studied and examined, and will be impacting Catholic theology in ways we cannot today imagine....
Read the full review.

John L. Allen
writes on the National Catholic Register site that:
A veteran theologian and teacher, Benedict can express complex theological ideas in crystalline sentences that don’t require a Ph.D. to grasp, and he has a knack for phrasing the Christian message in positive terms -- what I’ve called his “Affirmative Orthodoxy.”
Read the full article.

Marcel LeJeune
writes on his blog, Mary's Aggies, that:
Benedict is trying to change the way in which Biblical scholars and theologians dive into the text and help shift Biblical studies toward a more intimate portrayal of Christ.
Read the full review.

EXCLUSIVE - Report from the Vatican Press Event!

By John Thavis
Rome Bureau - Catholic News Service

John Thavis
ROME, March 20, 2011 – The rollout of Pope Benedict XVI’s new book this evening was unusual from the start. For one thing, the Vatican Press Office was packed, with more print reporters and TV cameras than have been seen here in a long time. Everyone had a copy of the book, but not everyone had read it yet. Most of my Italian colleagues confessed to have perused only the “synthesis” handed out by the press office, which itself was six pages, single-spaced.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet gave the first (and the shorter) of two speeches, saying that while “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week” is “dense,” it’s a book that can and should be read by non-experts and experts alike. Because of its depth, he said, the book seemed to him to mark “the dawn of a new era of exegesis.”

When their time came, journalists focused their questions on how an average reader should approach the book, on the pope’s apparent optimism about the future of the church and on his interesting words on the church’s relationship with the Jewish people.

For his part, Father Giuseppe Costa, head of the Vatican publishing house, revealed that a certain percentage of proceeds from the book’s sales worldwide will go to the author. In this case, he said, the pope has designated half his share for a foundation that promotes theological studies, and half will be used toward charity causes.

Father Costa also said the Vatican was working with some 20 publishing houses around the world to publish the book in various languages. Negotiations are underway for editions in additional languages, including Arabic and Japanese, he said.

No one doubts that it will be a best-seller.

John Thavis is the Rome Bureau Chief for Catholic News Service.

Rome Reports: 1.2 million copies of the pope's book "Jesus of Nazareth" now on sale

News Roundup

Coverage of the release of Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week has begun. Here's a list of new stories so far this Thursday morning:

Secular News
AP: Pope's new book: Violence never in God's name
Reuters: Pope's book on Jesus condemns religious violence
Reuters India has a longer article on the story.
Straits Times: Pope rejects image of 'revolutionary' Christ in new book
Guardian UK: Pope's call for vigilance could put spotlight on sex abuse scandal

Catholic News
National Catholic Register: Looking Inside the Pope's New Book
Catholic News Agency: Scholars praise Pope’s new book for promoting biblical studies renewal
Catholic News Service: Story by John Thavis and Book Excerpts.
The Catholic Herald UK: Pope: violence in God’s name is inspired by the Antichrist

Pope Benedict and How To Read the Bible

A guest post by Rev. Robert Barron
Father Robert Barron is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago and also is the founder of Word On Fire (

The second volume of Pope Benedict’s masterful study of the Lord Jesus has just been published. The first volume, issued three years ago, dealt with the public life and preaching of Jesus, while this second installment concentrates on the events of Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection. As was the case with volume one, this book is introduced by a short but penetrating introduction, wherein the Pope makes some remarks about the method he has chosen to employ. What I found particularly fascinating was how Joseph Ratzinger develops a motif that has preoccupied him for the past thirty years, namely, how biblical scholarship has to move beyond an exclusive use of the historical-critical method.

The roots of this method stretch back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the work of Baruch Spinoza, Hermann Samuel Reimarus, and D.F. Strauss. The approach was adapted and developed largely in Protestant circles in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by such figures as Julius Wellhausen, Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Bultmann, and Gerhard von Rad. Upon the publication of Pius XII’s encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943, Catholic scholars were given permission to use the historical-critical method in the analysis of the Bible, and a whole generation of gifted Catholic historical critics subsequently emerged: Joseph Fitzmeyer, Roland Murphy, Raymond E. Brown, John Meier, and many others.

Excerpts from the Foreword to Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week

Excerpts from the Foreword to Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week

By Joseph Ratzinger – Pope Benedict XVI

“At last I am able to present to the public Part Two of my book on Jesus of Nazareth. In view of the predictable variety of reactions to Part One, it has been a source of great encouragement to me that such leading exegetes as Martin Hengel (who sadly has since passed away), Peter Stuhlmacher, and Franz Mussner have strongly confirmed me in my desire to continue my work and to complete the task I had begun. While not agreeing with every detail of my book, they regarded it, in terms of both content and method, as an important contribution that should be brought to fruition.

“In the foreword to Part One, I stated that my concern was to present ‘the figure and message of Jesus.’ Perhaps it would have been good to assign these two words – figure and message – as a subtitle to the book, in order to clarify its underlying intention. Exaggerating a little, one could say that I set out to discover the real Jesus, on the basis of whom something like a ‘Christology from below’ would then become possible.

“… I have attempted to develop a way of observing and listening to the Jesus of the Gospels that can indeed lead to personal encounter and that, through collective listening with Jesus’ disciples across the ages, can indeed attain sure knowledge of the real historical figure of Jesus.

“This task was even more difficult in Part Two than in Part One, because only in this second volume do we encounter the decisive sayings and events of Jesus’ life. I have tried to maintain a distance from any controversies over particular points and to consider only the essential words and deeds of Jesus—guided by the hermeneutic of faith, but at the same time adopting a responsible attitude toward historical reason, which is a necessary component of that faith.

“Even if there will always be details that remain open for discussion, I still hope that I have been granted an insight into the figure of our Lord that can be helpful to all readers who seek to encounter Jesus and to believe in him.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Important and impressive..."

Rabbi Eugene Korn writes that:
...Benedict has chosen to stress these teachings not because of Jewish pressure nor to be politically correct. He wrote the book for Catholics around the world, not to win Jewish minds and hearts. Evidently Benedict understands that purging the New Testament and Catholic thinking of all traces of the Adversus Judaeos motifs so prevalent in early and medieval Christian theology is essential if he is to purify the faith of Christian believers. This makes the most recent installment of “Jesus of Nazareth” an all the more important and impressive work.
Read the full article at the Jewish Daily Forward...

"A truly catholic worldview"

The St. Louis Jewish Light has a new editorial titled "A truly catholic worldview" expressing appreciation for Pope Benedict's new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week.

Pope Benedict XVI, highly respected for his careful scholarship and keen intellect, has made a major contribution to positive Roman Catholic-Jewish relations with the forthcoming publication of his new book "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem To the Resurrection," the sequel to the Pope's 2007 bestseller "Jesus of Nazareth."

According to press reports from Vatican City the book makes "a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus," contradicting the belief that was used for centuries to brand Jews as "Christ-killers" or guilty of "Deicide."


"It is good that Mr Netanyahu should praise the Pope’s book: but it contains nothing new about the Jews"

Dr. William Oddie comments in the Catholic Herald:

Last week, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, thanked Pope Benedict for making it clear – in his new book, Jesus of Nazareth part II – that there is no basis in Scripture for the accusation that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus’s death. “I commend you for rejecting in your new book the false claim that was used as a basis for the hatred of Jews for hundreds of years,” Mr Netanyahu wrote to the Pope; he added that he hoped that “the clarity and bravery” shown by Benedict XVI would strengthen relations between Jews and Christians worldwide and promote peace in the next generations.

This reaction is certainly to be welcomed, and I certainly hope that this will be one outcome. I have to say, all the same, that I don’t quite see that the pope needed any particular bravery to assert what Catholics have taken for granted for generations.


Jesus of Nazareth Book Trailer

Monday, March 7, 2011

'The theological depths of the revealed Word of God'

“In Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week Pope Benedict XVI builds upon insights gained from historical-critical studies in order to probe the theological depths of the revealed Word of God. This eagerly awaited volume should be seen not only as the second part of his exegetical-theological study of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, but also as the necessary complement to his work The Spirit of the Liturgy. For as Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) never fails to demonstrate, the Paschal Mystery inaugurates true spiritual worship opening for all men and women the pathway to God – a worship prefigured in the ancient Hebrew rites and brought to fulfillment in the Risen Jesus Crucified.”
Father Joseph Carola, S.J.
Professor of Theology
The Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome

Friday, March 4, 2011

Jimmy Akin: "Pope Benedict's 'SHOCKING' Statement on the Jews!"

Catholic apologist and author Jimmy Akin gives an analysis of the media coverage so far of Pope Benedict's new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, concluding that
Still, given the real existence of anti-Semitism in the world and its historical linkage to Christianity—and given some of the tensions that have occurred with the Jewish community during Pope Benedict’s reign—it is always good to have an occasion in the press to remind people of the fact that the Jewish people cannot be slimed as Christ-killers the way they have been in the past—and that the Church fundamentally rejects this characterization.
Read more at The National Catholic Register.

"Pope Benedict and Hamas: Two Ways of Looking at History"

Writer Alan Elsner contrasts the peaceful message of Pope Benedict XVI with the move toward harsher rhetoric by Hamas:
Two separate pieces of news this week show two organizations moving in opposite directions, one toward reconciliation and historical justice and the other toward hatred and endless conflict.

...Hamas is urging teachers to refuse to include the Holocaust in their lessons and has ordered children to leave the classroom if teachers tried to tell them about the Holocaust...

Such hatred is purely destructive. It cannot lead anywhere except to more suffering for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The leaders of Hamas should take a leaf from Pope Benedict's book. The truth will help set them free.

 Read more at the Huffington Post.

"Why the Pope's Rejection of Jewish Guilt Matters"

Stephan Faris has a piece up on the Time Magazine website with some more reaction from Jewish scholars and leaders to the Pope's new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week.
When Pope Benedict XVI writes that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus, what's important is less the passage itself than the man who set it down on paper.

By tackling the subject in a book to be published March 10, Benedict, who has struggled in his relations with the Jewish community, doesn't so much state something new — the affirmation that the Jewish people as a whole were not responsible for the crucifixion is an old one, uncontroversial in the modern Catholic Church — as lend the idea the ecclesiastical equivalent of a celebrity endorsement. "The significance is in the author," says Joseph Sievers, professor of Jewish history at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. "He brings together an awareness of the issues in the texts themselves with the history of how these texts have been interpreted through the last 2,000 years."
Read more....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why Are the Pope's Words on the Jews Important?

Jesuit Fr. James Martin, the well-known author and frequent television guest commentator, outlines the importance of the Pope's words in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week.
So what is the value of the pope’s words?  The importance, it seems to me, is fivefold.
First, Pope Benedict’s book underlines even further the Catholic church’s belief that “the Jews” are not responsible for the death of Jesus.  That is, it is an important reminder from the pontiff, and an especially timely one, given the approach of Passover and Easter.

Second, the pope’s book elaborates these ideas in ways that may be more helpful for the average reader than Nostra Aetate, which could not delve deeply into the lengthy textual analysis of the Gospels.  (The documents of Vatican II also read like the definitive pronouncements they are, a style perhaps not as inviting to readers as the personal reflection.)  Of course many other Catholic Biblical scholars before and since Vatican II have analyzed the Gospels to conclude that, in short, the Romans and a few Jewish leaders acting together were primarily responsible for the crucifixion.  You can find careful analyses of the Gospel accounts of the Passion in hundreds of scholarly books, academic treatises and Scripture commentaries; but many are not quite as clear as the pope’s presentation, nor are some written for the non-specialist.
Read more at America Magazine online....

"What Benedict XVI has written about the Jews is news—but not new news"

Carl E. Olson over at Ignatius Press's Insight Scoop has an in-depth look at the Church's relationship with Judaism. He says that:'s understandable and important that the Holy Father address the issue in a chapter about the trial of Jesus Christ. Yet is not so understandable why so many news outlets (not all, but many) are presenting Benedict's statements as somehow new and surprising, even unprecedented.

It's important that people understand that the Catholic Church—in conciliar and magisterial documents—has addressed this vital issue directly, and that Benedict is fleshing out and remarking in more detail on what has already been established by previous pontiffs.
 Read more... 

(Note: Insight Scoop is operated by Ignatius Press, the publisher of Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week.)

News Roundup: The Pope and Judaism

Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus' accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death? We must take note of the different answers that the Gospels give to this question. According to John it was simply "the Jews". But John's use of this expression does not in any way indicate — as the modern reader might suppose — the people of Israel in general, even less is it "racist" in character.

Read the full excerpt here.
Pope Benedict's words on who was guilty for Jesus' death have caused a stir worldwide. Here's a partial listing of news outlets that have covered this story and links to their coverage:

Israeli Prime Minister thanks Pope Benedict for "rejecting false charge that has been basis for hatred of Jewish People for years."

From the Jerusalem Post:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday sent a letter praising Pope Benedict XVI for reiterating that the Jewish people are not responsible for Jesus' death. The Pope made the comments in a new book released on Wednesday.

"I commend you for forcefully rejecting, in your recent book, a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish People for many centuries," Netanyahu wrote.

The Prime Minister also offered to meet again with the Pope: "My fervent hope is that your clarity and courage will strengthen the relations between Jews and Christians throughout the world and help promote peace and reconciliation for generations to come."

"I look forward to seeing you again soon and to expressing my deep appreciation for you in person."
 Read more....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Reactions to the excerpts of Jesus of Nazareth

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has posted a reflection about his reading of Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two: Holy Week—From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. He writes:

I have been circling back over various passages which impedes my forward progress. I am circling back not because it is difficult to read, but because I want to remember it well. Also, I have been taking it to my evening visits to the Blessed Sacrament. The book is about Jesus, after all. Why not read it with Him? That has been helpful, though it slows my progress. So… I hold myself in check even as I strain forward.

The new book will be released worldwide for Lent 2011, with a date of 10 March. Just buy it. ...

Papa Ratzinger has been thinking about Jesus for his whole life. And he doesn’t consider Jesus to be static, or a subject, or a thing to be pondered. Jesus is a who, in whose image we are made. Years ago I heard Card. Ratzinger answer a question about some of Fr. Karl Rahner’s notions about God. After a brilliant exposition, Ratzinger concluded, “What Fr. Rahner forgets is that you cannot pray to an Existenz-Modus!”

Throughout the book, the Holy Father continues in the vein he exposed in his first volume where, in the indispensable preface, he explains where the “technicians” (my word, not his) of Scripture go wrong in reading Scripture. You cannot simply apply tools of modern scholarship, such as the historical-critical method, form criticism, etc., without also concerning yourself with the who behind each word. What Papa Ratzinger is doing is showing us how to reconnect with Scripture in a way closer to that the of early Fathers of the Church. I have been convinced that the Fathers are of growing importance precisely because they reconnect us with a way of reading Scripture. At the same time as we can make great use of the tools of scholarship we have, and the Holy Father does use them extensively, we never lose sight of that other way of reading and listening. This is the Pope’s working method throughout.

Read the entire post.

Amy Welborn has posted some thoughts as well on her "Charlotte Was Both" blog:

First, a general reaction to the book. I’ve not yet finished it, but what I’ve read so far as struck a chord, even more, I’ll dare to say, than the first volume. At least with me. This second book has a narrower focus (Passion and Resurrection) and strikes me as more cohesive. I’m more able to appreciate it as a whole, rather than just in disparate bits, as was the case with the first – at least for me. ...

I’ll have more to say when the book is published, for I’m finding the material on the resurrection to be quite helpful. What Pope Benedict does is a constant weaving and re-weaving of some contemporary scholarship, his critiques of various uses of that scholarship, and deep attention to the person of Christ, not as a mere object of study, but as the One who invites us to fullness of life with Him.

Read her entire post.

Marcel LeJeune of "Aggie Catholics" writes:

This work covers much less of the Gospels than the first volume, but I prefer it because he has more time to get into details and the pace doesn't seem quite as rushed.

While I cannot give a full review yet, that will have to wait until next week, what I can say is that this has quickly become one of my favorite books by Benedict XVI. His insights are illuminating and his pedagogy is brilliant. ...

First of all, Pope Benedict is clear that the purpose of this book is to help the readers have a closer relationship with Christ through the Sacred Scriptures. He wants us to be able to see the face of our Messiah and love Him more. I believe the Pope does an even better job in this volume, than the first one, of achieving this goal.

Read Marcel's full post.

Other recent posts and articles about the book include:

Visit for much more information about the book, which will be available on March 10th.

Rome Reports: Highlights of the Pope's new book "Jesus of Nazareth. Holy Week"

Excerpts available now!

The full texts of the excerpts released today are available now at the "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week" website:

Who killed Jesus?

Earlier today, excerpts from Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week became available. One of them includes the section of this fascinating volume on Christ's life in which Pope Benedict XVI addresses the controversial question, "Who killed Jesus?"

Jesuit Fr. Joseph Fessio, founder and publisher of Ignatius Press, talks about it in this post:

Fr. Fessio with Cardinal Ratzinger, 1989

Who Killed Jesus?

Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ

At a critical point in the book (pg. 184) Benedict poses the questions simply, clearly, and without evasion: “Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus’ accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death?” And, with his customary directness, he answers the questions in the space of only three pages. He passes the Gospels in review in a way that beautifully exemplifies the fundamental purpose of the book: to present the “figure and message of Jesus” through the complementary use of scientific scholarship (a “historical hermeneutic”) and the vision of faith (“faith-hermeneutic”).

For John, the accusers were “simply ‘the Jews’”. But Benedict shows that in John’s Gospel that designation has a “precise and clearly defined meaning”, i.e. the Temple aristocracy, not the Jewish people as an undifferentiated whole.

 In Mark, there is a widening of the circle of accusers: the “ochlos”, the crowd, “the masses”. But Benedict points out that the crowd was mainly comprised of sympathizers of Barabbas, who wanted the customary amnesty to be granted to him. The followers of Jesus “remained hidden out of fear”. This crowd, therefore, does not represent the attitude or the actions of the Jewish people with respect to Jesus.

In Matthew, the “whole people” say: “His blood be upon us and on our children”, the famous “blood vengeance”. Here Benedict makes three incisive comments:

1.       He says without qualification: “Matthew is certainly not recounting historical fact here.” The reason is obvious: “How could the whole people have been present at this moment to clamor for Jesus’ death?” He points out that Matthew is offering an explanation for the terrible fate of the Jews in the Jewish War, but there is a link between the message of Jesus and that of Jeremiah: punishment is not the last word; the New Covenant is promised. Benedict concludes: “ultimately it is a question of healing, not of destruction and rejection”.

2.       Jesus’ blood is different from the blood of Abel, crying out for vengeance. It brings reconciliation. “It is not poured out against anyone; it is poured out for many, for all.”

3.       Since we all stand in need of redemption, we all have sinned. And Just as the words of Caiphas (It is “expedient that one man should die for the people”.) have a different and deeper meaning when read with the eyes of faith, so here, when blood is invoked “it means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation.”

Elsewhere in the book Benedict laments the suffering inflicted on the Jewish people in the course of history, based on a misunderstanding of these texts and the events they recount. Clearly his interpretation, mindful both of serious scientific exegesis and the illumination faith, is intended to help correct this misunderstanding.

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week - From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection releases worldwide on March 10. Visit the book's website at, and become a Facebook fan at