Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jesus Of Nazareth Foreword



Jesse said...

I’d like to begin with some key points that stuck out to me.

*This book is part I, and covers from Jesus’ Baptism to Peter’s confession and the Transfiguration (I’m looking forward to Part II!).

*The focus of the book is the historical Jesus as he is grounded in God the Father.

*There's a general impression that the Christ of the Creeds is an “image” that the earlier Christians might not have had of the historical Christ. It appears that the Pope’s intent is to dispel this false impression.

These are at least three objectives I find the Pope laying down in his Foreword, and he speaks of a methodology that I find interesting as well (I’ll touch on that soon).

Jesse said...

Concerning “Methodology”:

**First, he speaks of the historical-critical method, which looks at discovering the intent of words given in their own time and place.

Some general notes:

1.He stresses the importance of the historical aspect of our faith, “if we push history aside… Christian faith… is recast as some other religion.”

I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis comments, something to the effect that miracles are central to Christianity; that if you remove them from any other major religion their essence remains untouched. G.K. Chesterton’s central theme of his Everlasting Man reflects this same truth, for he says that it was Christian Hope, which transformed the world, and the object of that hope was the unifying, concrete, historical fact of the person of Jesus Christ (this book simply has to be read, the effect of his presentation cannot be communicated otherwise).

2.He notes the historical-critical method’s limitations, but also that it’s open to “complimentary methods.”

**Next, he touches on the method of “Canonical exegesis” (one such “complimentary method”) which interprets the Bible as a whole.

This method deals with a higher dimension of Scripture which is accessed through faith, but the Pope says it’s faith “based on historical reason.” Here the Pope is in line with what Lewis called Aristotle’s canon: “Aristotle's canon-to demand in every inquiry that degree of certainty which the subject matter allows.” We have very little certitude about anything. We live largely on faith (in the findings of science, geography, history, and even in the reliability of the laws of nature); yet this is all rationally grounded faith.

The Pope goes on to say the key to the Bible as a whole is “Christological hermeneutic”, which is interpreting it through Jesus Christ; thus it “presupposes an act of faith.”

I like what the Pope says here, it squares with my understanding of the grounds for authority, wherein lies the distinction between the Protestant and Catholic. I often argue that the link out of the perpetual circle of mere assumption concerning either the Protestant Bible-alone-as-sole-authority, or the Catholic Bible-together-with-Tradition-and-Magesterium, can only be grounded in the words of the historical figure of Christ, which speak to a need in the human soul and call for a response which, like all relationships, must first move, or activate, in trust.

The Pope touches on two more things I find interesting.

1.Even on the historical-critical level the words of an author can sometimes be found to mean more than even he is aware. Lewis has a marvelous chapter in Reflections On The Psalms called “Second Meanings”, and a follow up called “Scripture”, which deals with what the Pope is talking about here.

2.Authors speaking with “second meanings” are often speaking from within a tradition, a “common history”. The Pope goes on to explore this, calling the bearers of this history a “common subject,” a “People of God”. In this way God speaks to us in the present. Like Chesterton says, “The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before.”

Finally, the Pope mentioned the Four Senses of Scripture. Researching the four senses a while back, I found this:

First, there’s the literal meaning, inspired by God. In addition, there are three others, just as inspired (and perhaps only hitting revelation, at times, on these higher levels) which build off the literal meaning. There’s the “Allegorical Sense: How those things, events, or persons in the literal sense point to Christ and the Paschal Mystery.” There’s the “Moral Sense: How the literal sense points to the Christian life in the Church.” And there’s the “Anagogical Sense: How the literal sense points to the Christian’s heavenly destiny and the last things.” This also calls to my mind the method of “praying Scripture called “lectio-divina,” which I’d like to touch on at another time.

Here’s a link about the four senses (a pdf file):

Butchie Boy Olmstead said...

Hello Jesse & All -

Here is hoping I have managed my path into this 'blog'!

First, my thanks again for this kind invitation to participate in this book discussion of Pope Benedict XVI's title "Jesus of Nazareth". In procurment I also bought the Pope's "Jesus, The Apostles, and the Early Church" to add to many other seperate titles having to do with the formation and history of the Christianity and the Lords Church- as I consider my own conversion to the Catholic Church. It would be no small matter nor coincidence then to be invited to this discussion at this time!

A good bit behind in my place here I've only made my way in part of the 'forward'. I'd have likely skipped its mentioning entirely in order to catch-up, but more than a mere "set-up" as most forwards are- too much would be lost not to mention!

There seems to be no time free of the "..increasingly obscured and blurred... reconstructions of Jesus." (Fwd. pg.12 ) I think of Pascal in his own day, lamenting just as we may today that "...Truth in our time is so obscure, and falsehood so pronounced- if we do not love the truth we cannot know it!"

The Pope sees how an advancment of histrio-biblical scholarship(s) and ever re-fining distinctions; while meaning to clarify may soon only add to the blurring. Here he speaks of his own years of scholarship and learning from the 1930's and on into the 1950's... but there are the previous centuries as well- with increasing literacy, books and even bibles for the common folk that would both bless and trouble a Church.

The Pope writes: "...If you read a number of these reconstructions one after another, you see at once that far from from uncovering an icon that has become obscured over time, they are much more like photographs of their authors and the ideals they hold."

Like those into whose image the Lord might be cast however devious or wrong in Psalm 18:25:26

"...With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With the blameless you show Yourself blameles; with the pure You show yourself pure... and with the
devious You show Yourself shrewed."

So I'm relieved to read the crux and hope of this book: "...It sees Jesus in the light of His communion with the Father, which is the true center of His personality; without which we cannot understand Him at all." ( Fwd. Pg.14 )

I think straigt-away of these passages:

"...Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" - John 14:8-10

"... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:14

"...He is the image of the invisible God...and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church" - Col.1:15-20

"...Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." -2nd Cor. 5:18-19

Lord hug you tight... - C.W. Butch Omstead

Moogdroog said...

First of all, thanks to Jesse for setting up this discussion group, it looks like it will be very illuminating and enjoyable. I've already found both Jesse's and Butch's comments really informative and helpful - thanks guys! :)

The first thing that struck me about the introduction was actually the style. I'm aware, of course, it is in translation (and luckily, English isn't so distant from German) but I was delighted to find his writing lucid, clear and elegant, without being overbearing, or overly complicated. I think his intention is to draw us all into discussion, and for anyone of any degree of learning to follow what he is saying. By outlining both the advances and the limitations of the methodologies employed, the Pope seems to be at pains to make us aware of that the discussion, although of course underpinned by faith, is contextualised as a rational, reasoned and historically grounded argument, even inviting his audience to disagree with any of his points (p. xxiii).

The other thing that I particularly like about the Foreward is, as Jesse earlier mentioned, the Pope's bringing in of the patristic 'fourfold' method of thinking about scripture. I find this fascinating. Hopefully there will opportunity to talk about that, perhaps, when we have a example of scripture where we can clearly follow its literal sense unfolding and expandind into its allegorical, tropological, and anagogical counterparts.

Jesse said...

Butch, Moog -- beautiful comments, this is going to be fun...

Yes, Moog, I noticed the easy style as well. I've also noticed a bit of the Socratic method to his writing, which may become more evident as we go on. By the way, would it be inappropriate to ask the particular (or general) religious perspective from which you're approaching the book? I'm just kind of curious -- all perspectives are certainly welcome (even critical angles), but you certainly don't have to tell if you'd rather not...

Butch, good to see you made it through!!! As a former pastor (what was it, Presbyterian?), you bring a wealth of knowledge and insight, which you've already made apparent in your first post -- good stuff. I've also noticed in some of your recent posts (in the Drobe, as in this) references to various Christian philosophers. If I rightly recall, philosophy was something you never really employed in our (many) past debates. All I can say is, if and when you finally emerge from Easter vigil as a confimred Catholic; well, let's just say I'm glad I'm on your side of the debate now!!

moogdroog said...

Definitely a Socratic feel to his writing, I agree there. Out of interest, are we going to refer to the author as the Pope, or Ratzinger? I know it is a very minor point, and of course the office and the man are inextricably entwined - I'm just thinking about other people casually read the blog, or those who stumble upon it, and if they see 'the Pope has said x', they may take some of the quotes as Catholic doctrine, or official Papal statements. In the Foreward he makes clear that his writing is, instead, from a personal perspective. Not trying to be pedantic (and I used 'the Pope' as the term of authorial reference in my earlier comment!), but just a thought.

Also, I don't mind answering a question about my critical angle at all, no worries Jesse :) I'm Roman Catholic, and I'm coming at it from the perspective of someone who is learning more about their faith.

moogdroog said...

left out an 'if' in 'other people casually read the blog' :)

Jesse said...

Moog (should I call you "Moog"), that's a good point about calling Ratzinger "Pope" in this context; he did, after all, write it before he became Pope -- except for the Foreword, so technically I'm o.k. for this post :-)

I do understand your point about ex-cathedra, and people's confusion about it (believe me, I know first hand from the (formerly) "misunderstood" point of view), specifically in relation to this book. Still, when the sequel comes out and he's written it as Pope I will probably refer to him as Pope -- though, sensitive to your observation, I will take the opportunity to make note of the meaning of infallibility, and that his words aren't necessarily dogmatic (hows about that for compromise :-).

moogdroog said...

Sounds like the best thing to me :) and Moog is fine! I'll follow your lead for referring to the sequel, too. Makes sense.