Pope Benedict wrote many books in the days when he was plain old Cardinal Ratzinger, but it’s fascinating to see that his first book published as pope is about the life of Jesus. He says that when he was growing up, he read many inspiring books about Jesus, and it is clear that he wishes his book to make the same impression on people today, “to help foster the growth of a living relationship” with Jesus.
Jesus of Nazareth is a step by step retelling of the life of Jesus in which Pope Benedict walks alongside the reader as a reliable and friendly guide. Rather than starting with the stories of Jesus’ birth, Benedict plunges in with the baptism of Jesus and the start of his public life. The book takes us from there to the mid-point of Jesus’ mission, when he was transfigured on a mountain before his disciples. The second half of the story (plus the birth of Jesus) will be told in a planned sequel to this book.
One of the great strengths of the book is the way in which the pope unfolds the teaching of Jesus – for example, on prayer, poverty and suffering – and relates it to the world of today.
Benedict tells us that one of his reasons for writing is frustration with the way Jesus has been treated by writers and broadcasters in modern times. Writing about Jesus as he appears in the four Gospels, Benedict says, “I am convinced, and I hope the reader will be, too, 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. I believe that this Jesus – the Jesus of the Gospels – is a historically plausible and convincing figure.”
What readers have said about the book…
“There is a dogged impressiveness about the pope’s exposition of scene after scene from the Gospel… Jesus was the genius. That is Ratzinger’s message, and the luminous intelligence of the exegesis will prompt many to respond with an alleluia.” – AN Wilson, Sunday Times
“A book for the serious reader – thoughtful, thought-provoking, and intellectually challenging – written not just by an obvious, declared Christian but one deeply in love with his Jesus of Nazareth.” – Paul F. Connolly, Amazon
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Jesus has probably inspired more books and biographies than anyone else in human history. But which of them are worth reading if you’re exploring the life of Jesus for the first time – or even for the second or third times?
Written by Simon Jenkins
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