Jeremiah 6:16

Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye on the ways, and see and ask for the old paths which is the good way, and walk ye in it: and you shall find refreshment for your souls.


Jesus of Nazareth: Introduction

So, for a class I have with Dr. Scott Hahn, I have to (re)read Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger AKA Pope Benedict XVI. For the class I have to summarize each chapter in a single page, single spaced. So I think I'll post them here for your edification. And comment.

The first assignment was to read and summarize His Holiness' Introduction.

In his Introduction in Jesus of Nazareth the Holy Father wishes to plainly expose that he will be writing about the Historical Jesus in the context of the combined natures of Him, God and man. He begins by citing books from his youth, recalling the inspiration he drew from works which depicted Jesus-the-man in the light of Divine perfection, combining the God with that Humanity.

His Holiness notes with a touch of dismay the transformation of Christological Understanding in the middle of the last century, separating the notions of the historicity of the Biblical Jesus and the Jesus who is the subject of Faith. In addition to this, the humanness of Jesus was divided into two extremist camps: the revolutionary leader versus the humble rabbi. Benedict criticizes these “exegetes” for portraying themselves in their work instead of attempting to shed light on Jesus, choosing instead to thrust their notions, agendas and doubts onto His historical being.

The Pope goes on to explicitly criticize one particular account where the author, Rudolf Schnakenburg, separates the true incarnation from history, saying instead that the Evangelists attempted to clothe the Divinity of God in the flesh of man. The Holy Father questions this simply, asserting that there was no attempt or even a need for an attempt, for fact already coincided with the view of an Incarnate God. Benedict goes on to address this redactive methodology, pointing out the benefits and limits of the the Historical Critical Method. He explains the indispensability of this particular method as the dimension of exegetical work which addresses the reality of History. The Pope explains that without the accurate examination of History, and the understanding of the Church in that light, Christianity disassembles and devolves into other sects and religions. However the Historical Critical Method does not have the ability to examine save historical accuracies.; this benefit is also it's greatest limitation. In order to be a fully effective exegetical tool, it would also have to address the supernatural incarnation of the Divine-in-flesh as a moving character in history while, as Benedict has pointed out, only solid facts, not “supra-historical truths”can be examined.

The Holy Father discusses at-length the further limitation of the Historical Critical Method, that being its requirement to leave Biblical texts in the past and to examine them in the sitz im leben or context in which they were written. This method is limited by it's inability to address profound truth; it cannot represent the past today and apply it to modern life. Furthermore, being historical as-it-is, it deals exclusively in a limited set of presented facts and therefore must resort to conjecture and hypothesis to supplement it's lacks and to tie together it's facts.

To atone for this missing line, and indeed to properly exegete, Benedict, while incorporating the importance of the Historical Critical Method, posits that in-order to garner the full features of Scripture, one must turn to complimentary methods. From the examination of history through the aformentioned method, we ought to be inclined to hear “a voice greater than man's...[echoing]... in Scripture's human words.” That is, though the Canon is comprised of many authors and voices, throughout the entirity of these texts is a sub-uttered voice, instructing and guiding the faithful and embodying the unity of Scripture. This non-linear Canonical exegesis nonetheless progresses forward to and by Jesus Christ, moving in a manner through which the Old and New Testaments are woven as a seamless unity, complimenting each other with the “key”, that-is, Jesus.

This understanding is non-contradictory to the Historical Critical Method and both are integral parts of a true Scriptural and Christological hermeneutic. The former endeavours to determine the precise sense which the texts of the Canon convey, while the latter goes beyond and above literality to the deeper and essentially more significant level of supernatural Truth. These words, therefore, are, but can not be limited to a literal level. The Holy Father therefore asserts that the sense of Scripture, the collective authors, direct their texts toward the entire historical, present and future People of God.

What do you think?

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