It does seem rather superfluous to review Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection on a Catholic blog. For my own mindset a new book written by the Pope, even if as a private theologian, is all the incentive I need. It’s not as if I need to wait to see reviews come in to decide to buy it. Especially since this book is a continuation of the first book in what the Pope hopes will be completed by a third book.
My advice would be simply to just buy it, borrow it, etc.
Instead I will just give some quick thoughts about the book. Again the Pope is showing his approach to Biblical scholarship and theology. He fully engages all the modern tools of Biblical exegesis while also applying the analogy of faith. He knows the limits of the modern tools, but also sees how they can be used to good purpose. The same goes with interacting with the scholarship of predominately German scripture scholars along with others. He can take what is good from the writings of Rudolf Bultmann while remaining skeptical of Bultmann’s excessive skepticism in what Biblical texts could be accepted. His openness in engaging ideas from others was demonstrated in the first book of this series in regards to Rabbi Jacob Neusner, and really his whole life as a theologian has demonstrated this.
As the Pope writes in the beginning of this book this series is not intended as a life of Christ. What he does though is like a life of Christ in structure where he follows questions in scriptural scholarship that intrigue him. He does not try to cover everything and highlights areas he finds interesting. For example in his discussion of whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal he presents several lines of scholarship on the subject that are fascinating and while some of these ideas he obviously is skeptical of – he does not dismiss them out of hand and again is open to discovering the truth. Even in areas where you think this is the conclusion he most accepts, his language is never definitive. Partly he is careful since he is writing as a private theologian and not as Pope, but mainly I think this is the deep humility he has always shown in his writings.
As is almost certainly always the case the few bits the media found in the book they considered newsworthy are really nothing and certainly not the most important parts of the book to highlight. His writing on blaming the Jewish people for the death of Christ are nothing new and really nothing different than what was written as part of Vatican II.
As for Lenten reading the book is perfect as it covers Holy Week and gives you much to think about. I just hope we don’t have to wait another four years for part 3.
The book is also available through Ignatius Press and of course your local book store. I bought the eBook version from Ignatius Press since I prefer eBooks that are DRM free.