A Review of “Two Milestones”

In this chapter of his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict attempts to present an in-depth analysis on the “Two Milestones” of Peter’s Confession and the Transfiguration. Before getting at Peter’s Confession itself, Pope Benedict looks at the question prior, “Who do people say that I am?” and the response of the apostles. Pope Benedict explains that the responses of the “people” are not necessarily false but are “inadequate”. The “people” see Jesus as a great prophet but not as the Son of God. Like “people” today, the “people” of Jesus’ time just measure Jesus up with what they already know and fail to see his uniqueness. He is not merely another prophet, who’s earthly wisdom “people” can adopt according to what they like and discard what they do not like. Immediately, Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the “Christ”, the “Messiah”, the “anointed one”, or “the Son of the living God”, depending on how it’s found in the Gospels, is in stark contrast to what the “people” have said. What did Peter mean in this confession? Some scholars like Pierre Grelot argue that Peter was misled by notions of a historical Messiah and does not really mean his confession of Jesus as the “Son of God” in the theological sense because that concept would be unknown to him. Pope Benedict counters by offering evidence that the disciples surely knew that Jesus was truly God incarnate in front of them. “At certain key moments” … (i.e. the sermon on the mount, the calming of the storm at sea, the large catch of fish) “…the disciples came to the astonishing realization: This is God himself” (304). In the next event, the Transfiguration, Peter and a couple other disciples see this in a more profound way and “personally experience the anticipation of the Parousia” (318).

Author: augustt

Theology II, St. Charles Seminary

3 thoughts on “A Review of “Two Milestones””

  1. Benedict’s point on the reality of Peter’s Confession of Faith in Jesus as truly “the Son of God” is such a critical point to hold on to as Christians. I also enjoyed Benedict’s analysis of the area around which Peter made his confession (Caesarea Philippi), and how he pointed out the author’s intent in bringing to the fore more details about the area to extenuate their theological purposes. Furthermore, his comment on the necessity of being ‘like Thomas’ and touching the wounds of the Resurrected Jesus. His pointing out of the connection between the Parousia and the liturgical events in the Jewish religion are profound, especially when he explains how the Jewish rituals lead back to the liturgy and from the liturgy as the source of life.

  2. Pope Benedict’s analysis of the Gospels is remarkable, but his analysis of the scholars of scripture seems to be more impressive to me. He has a gift for refuting crazy ideas, and we are indebted to him for that. I find that being able to properly examine and explain this passage is crucial today: many people just see Jesus as another wise voice among others. They must see that He is not “just another,” but that He is the Lord.

  3. I have no doubt that Pope Benedict’s mind is a treasure for the Church. He has this great capacity to contemplate the truths of our faith in a general way, and yet to deepen them in order to arrive at their specific characteristics. August, I think you did a fine job in presenting the pope’s analysis of the text and in showing how the pope presents other theologians’ stand points and the way he offers some corrections. Personally, I was very much captured by the way he presented the connection between the Transfiguration and the Feast of the Tabernacles based on Daniélou’s insight. The fact that the huts were seen as a remembrance of God’s protection in the desert should give us an idea of the effects of Jesus’s redemptive presence among us; of the need we have to listen to his voice, so that we can see his glory.

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