Searching for other material this morning, I came across this book review of Pope Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth: Volume 2” by N.T. Wright: The Pope’s Life of Jesus in the Times Literary Supplement. It is actually a review of three books (including Maurice Casey’s book by the same title and Bruce Fisk’s amusingly named “Hitchhikers Guide to Jesus”), but the most space is given to Pope Benedict’s work.
What we have, rather, in general and in the writings surveyed here, is a bewildering range of viewpoints, which with only a slight stretch could be described as pre-modern, modern and postmodern: in this case, a German, an Englishman and a North American. As Barack Obama said of a different trio (recent guest speakers in Westminster Hall), this is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke. Curiously, the Pope features in both trios.
His comments are very interesting – especially in regard to the relationship between history and faith and between the Gospel and politics. It shows up at least the differences in approach to the Gospels between Wright and Ratzinger. At the same time, one can sense a good deal of admiration in Wright’s review of “Jesus of Nazareth”, despite his reservations.
In his concluding remarks he says:
Despite their radical differences, these three books share one positive feature and one disturbing one. First, all stress (against one recent strand of opinion) that Jesus and his followers were steeped in the Jewish Scriptures, and understood what they were doing in relation to the intricate web of meaning thereby available. Second, however, in no case do we really face the central question of the gospels: what did Jesus mean by “God’s Kingdom”, and was he or wasn’t he successful in launching it?
This is very interesting, because, apropo our discussion, what Jesus said and meant about the Kingdom is very much pertinent to what he meant when he came “proclaiming the Gospel”.