The Next Battle For and Against Jesus Will Be Fought by the Book

And the new book announced and released by Joseph Ratzinger will be the best-seller of the year. Image

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, January 15, 2007 – His book about Jesus was announced at the end of November, and will be on sale next spring. But a week does not go by without Benedict XVI preaching about the book’s protagonist: Jesus “true God and true man.”

It is as if Pope Joseph Ratzinger himself were already focusing on the book’s publicity campaign. A year ago, he did the same thing with the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”: before its publication, he repeatedly spoke out to illustrate its essential contents, increasing the anticipation each time.

The last time Benedict XVI referred to his upcoming book about Jesus was the general audience on Wednesday, January 3.

Speaking about Christmas, the pope called attention back to “the power of the darkness that seeks to obscure the splendor of the divine light.” And he said:

“This is the drama of the rejection of Christ, which, as in the past, is unfortunately manifested and expressed today in many different ways. It may be that today’s forms of the rejection of God are even more subtle and dangerous than in the past: from explicit rejection to indifference, from scientistic atheism to the presentation of a so-called ‘modernized’ or ‘postmodernized’ Jesus. This is Jesus as a man, reduced in various ways to a mere man of his time, deprived of his divinity, or a Jesus so idealized as to seem sometimes a character in a fairy tale.”

To this false Jesus, the pope has opposed the “true Jesus of history”: that Jesus who is “true God and true man, and does not weary of offering his Gospel to all.” Before him, “one cannot remain indifferent. We too, dear friends, must continually take a position.” Not to reject him, but to welcome him. Knowing that “to those who received him, he gave power to become sons of God” (John 1:12).

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The either-or choice that Benedict XVI presents between the false and the true Jesus is, therefore, the same one that he sees being played out in the books that reduce Jesus to a mere man, and the ones that instead present him in his human-divine reality.

Among today’s books displaying the “power of darkness,” the pope has one especially in mind, a book that has sold half a million copies in Italy in just a few months, entitled: “Inchiesta su Gesu`. Chi era l’uomo che ha cambiato il mondo [The Jesus Inquest: Revealing the Man Who Changed the World].”

The authors of the book are the agnostic Corrado Augias, a journalist, writer, and editorialist for the major liberal newspaper “la Repubblica,” and the Catholic Mauro Pesce, a professor of Church history at the University of Bologna who specializes in ancient Christian documents.

The thesis of this book is that “everything that the Christian faith professes about Jesus is false.” This is at least the judgment of Fr. Giuseppe De Rosa in his review of the book by Augias and Pesce for “La Civilta` Cattolica,” the journal of the Rome Jesuits that is printed with the supervision and authorization of the Vatican secretariat of state.

Another review of the book that was just as severe was published in the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, “Avvenire.” It was written by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, 72, a specialist in the history of early Christianity and since 1980 the preacher of the pontifical household, the man who preaches to the pope and the Vatican curia during Advent and Lent.

So although Benedict XVI hasn’t yet explicitly cited the book by Augias and Pesce, these two authoritative reviews are sufficient to conclude that in the Vatican this is held to be the latest and most representative text of that attack against the Christian faith which for more than two centuries has taken Jesus as its target.

The upcoming book by Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI – this is the byline on the book because he wrote it both before and after his election as pope – intends precisely to pose the authentic Jesus against the false “modernized or postmodernized” Jesus.

It is easy to predict that the pope’s book will also meet with great commercial success in Italy and the world.

But more than a publishing war, this announces a new phase of the perennial clash between acceptance and rejection that has always had in Jesus its “sign of contradiction, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35, cited in the audience on Wednesday, January 3).

This is exactly what is foreshadowed by the preface Benedict XVI wrote for his book, which will be entitled “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration,” the first of two anticipated volumes, with the second one continuing to the Resurrection.

By publishing the preface in advance, the pope has taken another step in the book’s release - and in the battle for and against Jesus.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 December 2012 )