Pope Benedict XVI’s new book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week addresses misunderstandings about Jesus and helps renew the study of the Bible, according to a panel of scholars, the Catholic News Agency reports.
Dr Brant Pitre, a Catholic professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, said he was “very excited” about the “unprecedented” nature of the work.
Never before have we had a reigning Pope write a full-length book of the life of Jesus,” he commented at a telephone press conference with scholars from Catholic, Protestant and Jewish backgrounds.
The book, released by Ignatius Press on March 10, is the second volume in an intended series of three. It examines the final week of Jesus’ earthly life and the historical and theological questions surrounding his death.
Pitre said Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week brings together faith and history, which have often been set at odds in how people try to understand Jesus.
"Pope Benedict works to put into practice the renewal of biblical studies called for by the Second Vatican Council, which the pontiff says is “a task which has, unfortunately, scarcely been attempted thus far.”
This aim contradicts depictions of the Pope as someone who wishes to “roll back” Vatican II, Pitre noted.
Ignatius Press founder and publisher Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ said that the Pope is trying to present the figure of Jesus “in a way that can lead the reader into a personal encounter with him.”
People with different perspectives can find value in the work, added Mark Brumley, president and CEO of Ignatius Press. He suggested that the book helps overcome “unnecessary differences” arising from misunderstandings and misreadings, while also clarifying real differences among Catholics, Protestants and Jews.
"This actually serves the cause of unity, when we are clear about the places where we disagree,” he said.
FULL STORY Scholars praise Pope's new book for promoting biblical studies renewal (Catholic News Agency)