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Resurrection in Jesus of Nazareth

In the chapter on the Resurrection in Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI focuses on the fact that the Resurrection is the foundation of the Christian message. It cannot be boiled down to an invention of the early Church nor is it a mystical experience of the Apostles. It is an event that is rooted in history, that is, it actually happened, yet it transcends history as we are confronted with an entirely new reality. He continues to examine this central theme through the use of two different types of testimony, the “confessional tradition” (which gives the essentials of the Easter faith in short phrases that establish the basics of what occurred) and the “narrative tradition” (which is the type of testimony used in the Gospels that gives content and shape to the faith through narrative).

The part of this chapter than I enjoyed reading the most was the section that talked about the historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection. Someone of faith can sometimes be intimidated by “scientific” arguments against the Resurrection, and this often causes doubt. It is important to know that there is plenty of evidence to the historicity of the Resurrection, and this evidence can be comforting to someone of faith who is currently questioning if what they believe was a human invention or factually based.  

Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidence Right

In the article “Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidence Right,” Mr. Craig A. Evans presents a detailed and precise argument in support of the hypothesis that Jesus was buried in a tomb.  He does this in response to the arguments of Mr. Bart Ehrman, who believes that Jesus’ body was not laid in a tomb based on the facts that a) his burial was not mentioned in the early creeds of the Church and b) it was not the custom of the Romans to allow the burial of criminals.  Because of this, he believes that the story of Jesus’ burial, even the detail about a certain “Joseph of Arimathea,” was a legend that was added to the gospels at a later time.

To counter these arguments, Evans thoroughly lists ancient sources, both Jewish and Roman, as evidence to support his claims.  By citing historians and witnesses like Philo and Josephus, Evans is able to give substantial proof that, according to the ancient burial customs of the Romans and the Jews (especially of criminals), Jesus’ entombment is not only plausible, but probable.

I enjoyed Evans’ methodical and thorough approach to the issue.  Though he seemed repetitive and his evidence lengthy, all seemed necessary to adequately satisfy the doubts that Ehrman leaves in the mind of the reader.  However, my favorite part was the last section of the reading.  Here, Evans logically and concisely answers the issue of the tomb, wonderfully summing up the evidence he manifests throughout the article.  It is a perfect apologetic answer for the average person.

Gethsemane

Gethsemane

The agony at Gethsemane is very singnificant for the salvation of humanity. It is in this moment when Jesus Christ freely accepts his Father’s will. Though, here we see, how the two natures of Jesus enter into a fight. In this chapter, Cardinal Ratzinger wants us to explore certain characteristics of the person of Jesus. 

First, Jesus experienced a deep need of prayer. As the second person of the holy Trinity, Jesus keeps communion with his Father. It is not unusual for Jesus to separate himself from the disciples to have this intimate communion with the Father. However, his need of prayer, is not only because he wanted to avoid the horrific moments that were about to happen, but this fear, also came from the human destiny that he was assuming.  Jesus freely assumes all the responsibility of human sin in order to bring humankind back into a relationship with the God.

Second, Jesus experience sorrow and distress. The agony of Jesus in the garden shows that the divinity of Christ suffers with his humanity. At first, Jesus prays “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” On the other hand, he prays “yet, not as I wil, but as you will.” Because of his humanity, Jesus felt tempted to avoid this moments of horror, he felt sad, and abandoned; but in his divinity God himself saved the entire humankind.

Jesus as the high priest. According to Ratzinger, by his auto-donation Jesus became the true priest. The word priest, means the one who mediates in religious service. Also it means one who is holy or set apart to perform those services. In his priesthood, Jesus is greater than any other priest because through him hour humanity is back into relationship with God the Father. He was the only one who could be the mediator between God and humankind.

I like it based on this reasons.

1- it clearly reflects both the human and divine nature of Jesus.

2- Gives a better sense of the suffering of the Cross. Without the Cross there is not resurrection.

3- The experience of the cross, shows how God brings good out of evil.

 

What did the First Christians think about Jesus? -Gathercole

In Gathercole’s essay: What did the First Christian Think about Jesus? the author describes the likely Christology of early believers so as to show that the facts do not point a Jesus that gradually becomes God. Gathercole does so by contrasting the thought of Bart Ehrman, a novelist purporting Jesus as an “ugly duckling” arriving at divinity during different stages of his life, i.e. at birth in Luke and Matthew and the baptism in Mark. One of the responses is the “I have come” statements made by Christ which imply Jesus as pre-existing then come into the world to accomplish his mission. During the Tunnel Period, Erhman claims to have found a pre-literary formula or creed in Rom 1:3-4 which seems to imply Jesus being adopted at Son of God at the Resurrection. This claim is addressed as wildly speculative by Gathercole on many levels. Finally in the exaltation understanding of Jesus glorified, Gathercole highlights the different characteristics and actions of Jesus during his earthy mission and glorification in order to show where the adoptionists go wrong in their line of thought, namely seeing this transition as the moment Christ became God, which he posits, was not the orthodox position of early Christians.

            I enjoyed the article however the author does assume the reader have an advanced understanding of theology, scripture and logic. I found myself re-reading sections just to understand his arguments. I did agree with his positions and especially enjoyed his reflection on Jesus’ exalted and earthly characteristics as a pitfall for some adoptionists who view this as the moment of divinization for Jesus. The work was a great counter argument and debunking of the claims of Ehrman positing the Jesus became God gradually in the thoughts of early Christians.

Chapter Seven- The Trial of Jesus

The Trial of Jesus, presented by Joseph Reisinger in his book Jesus of Nazareth, takes place in different scenarios: the first part is a meeting between Jewish leaders in Caiaphas’ house, the interrogation before the Sanhedrin, and the Trial of Jesus before Pilate. The aim of the Trail from the Sanhedrin’s standpoint is to kill Jesus and Pilate seeks to save Jesus; meanwhile, he wants social peace during the Jewish feasts. To each of the three scenarios, Ratzinger, provides reasons, misunderstandings, worries, and preferences from the Sanhedrin as well as from Pilate that led Jesus to the Cross. However, the third part, the Trial of Jesus before Pilate, has deep theological description behind the motives to what happened to Jesus. That is, Ratzinger describes the truth about Jesus’ kingship and his proclamation to be the Son of God, the two motives for Jesus’ condemnation and hidden theophanies to the eyes of Pilate and Jewish leaders. The Jewish expected the Messiah for centuries but when they had him in the fragile, tortured, and helpless person of Jesus their blindness to the truth unable them recognize him. For them, the truth is limited compared to the whole truth that is God, who is supreme and absolute truth.  Creation, for example, becomes what means to be as long as if it reflects God, the eternal Reason by which has emerged. Man, on the other hand, reaches his true nature when becomes according to God. That is, God is the measure of being for man. With it is understood that the truth is perceivable when God is known, an ability that Jewish leaders and Pilate did not possess.

 

Jesus of Nazareth – Volume 2 Chapter 5 – The Last Supper

In this chapter, Ratzinger provides an excellent summary of scholarly thought on the events of the Last Supper. He harnesses the historical-critical method with finesse – deftly avoiding becoming bogged down in boring detail, and instead focusing on becoming more closely acquainted with the person of Jesus.

First, our Pope emeritus asks whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal, and gives a convincing “no”. He goes to lengths to show that John’s chronology, which places the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, is chronologically true to history, unlike the Synoptics. The Last Supper couldn’t have been a normal Passover meal, as it didn’t occur on Passover!

Benedict turns next to look at the words of institution. Words, he says, that militate against an image of “friendly Jewish rabbi” or “political revolutionary”. Rather, they include an anticipation of the cross and resurrection, of His death for the expiation of our sins. All Passover celebrations, all sacrificial lambs point to Him, and Benedict shows a beautiful sense of continuity in the relationship of God with His people before and after the events of Holy Week. In response to our sin Jesus gives himself freely, and the reality of evil is overcome, not ignored.

Benedict goes on to touch on many important nuances, like the “for all/for many” change we’ve seen in the new translation, and what the “this” of “do this in memory of me” refers to (more than the words of consecration, but not a whole Passover meal). Finally, he concludes with a section that deals with the importance of both the cross and the resurrection for our liturgy. All is useful knowledge for seminarian debates – and of course, for good liturgy.

Chapter 10 – Jesus Declares His Identity

In Chapter Ten of Jesus of Nazareth, Ratzinger examines how Christ Himself understood His own identity using as a starting point the titles that Jesus applied to Himself in the Gospels. The first such title is “Son of Man” and the second is “Son.” The Son of Man is the title Christ most uses to refer to Himself, a title applied exclusively to Him. Through this declaration, Christ no longer remains one individual, but rather “makes all of us one single person with Himself, a new humanity.” The title “Son of God” was a political title of the day, but Christ destroys that connection and reestablishes the title as one of special relationship with God the Father. The level of knowledge the Son has of the Father demonstrates their level of equality with each other. Ratzinger closes out the chapter with an examination of the many “I AM” statements found in the Gospels, noting that all of the terms that follow it receive their full meaning in Jesus.

 

I felt Ratzinger provided thoughtful insights into each of the declarations that Christ makes about His own identity. Linking the titles found in the Gospel to their connections in the Old Testament help aid in the understanding of Christ as the fulfillment of the prophecy, as the fullness of divine revelation.

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

The chapter talks about the distinction between the kingdom of God and that of men. The understanding of the phrase ‘gospel of the kingdom’ and references to the ‘the kingdom of God and ‘the kingdom of heaven’ are often in connection with the Lord Jesus and his works of redemption. The word gospel simply denotes ‘good news’ and the term ‘kingdom’ is the Greek word for basileia, meaning the realm in which a sovereign king rules. At the beginning of Christ earthly ministry, he preached that the kingdom of God is near (Matt. 4:17). his incarnation becomes the fulfillment in time and the establishment of the kingdom of God. We can possibly find out from the text that the word kingdom as used in the New Testament always refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts of those who believe and as we learn, christ’s kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36). The good news of the kingdom means therefore, the proclamation of the message of repentance, redemption and restoration offered by God to all who welcomes Christ. This good news when received brings freedom from our slavery to sin and leads one to eternal salvation. Christ as the word made flesh is both embodiment of the good news of salvation which ultimately when accepted leads one to the kingdom of God which Christ represents and is the prince of the kingdom.

Galilean Judiasm – Was Jesus a Jew?

The question of whether or not Jesus was a Jew is certainly relevant to understanding His words and actions. The author in this article attempts to look at whether or not Galilee was Jewish in order to determine if it is proper for us to describe Jesus as a follower of Judaism, that is, a “Jew”. The author looks at the historical evidence of 1st Century Galilee and concludes that there is quite a bit of archeological evidence which suggests that the inhabitants of Galilee were practicing Jews. Stone vessels for the practice of ritual purity, evidence of burial practices, and bones found without pork (adherence to dietary laws) are just some of the examples the author references. The author also proposes that the inhabitants of Galilee were familiar with and loyal to the Torah, saying that we need not look further than Jesus’ own knowledge of the Torah in order to prove this. How would Jesus know the Torah as well as He did if children of Galilee were not being taught it and people of Galilee were not practicing it?

The author entertains the possibility that Galilee was more of a Hellenized area but quickly disparages this idea. He points out that Galilee was relatively close to a few small “Hellenized” cities but that there is not enough evidence to prove that Galilee itself was not Jewish. Finally, the author looks at the historical evidence of Synagogues in Galilee. He points out that the historical evidence suggests that Jews in Galilee were meeting to hear the Torah and to pray, but the archeological evidence is not clear what sort of special building if any was being used. The author does seem to believe that Galilee was in fact “Jewish” and that Jesus was a Jew.

There are a few critiques that I have about this article. First, the article has an unbelievable amount of footnotes which makes reading it very difficult. Second, the author includes a section about Pharisees in Galilee and I just don’t believe that it is necessary to do so based upon all the other evidence that he points out in the rest of the article.   

Chapter Six: The Disciples

           In chapter 6 of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI discusses “The Disciples.” This chapter provides a review of the most important texts that discuss the call and mission of the community of Christ’s closest associates.

            The Holy Father begins by emphasizing this call as the fruit of prayerful intimacy of Christ with the Father, in stark contrast to the hiring of employees for a particular task. Regarding the call of the Twelve, Benedict studies the language used by Christ and finds allusions to Old Testament texts that disclose the apostolic mission as both priestly and prophetic.

            The Apostles are given what Benedict calls a double assignment – to be with Jesus, so as to be prepared to preach and call others to Him. “The Apostles have to learn to be with him in a way that enables them, even when they go to the ends of the earth, to be with him still.” This apostolic mission involves a struggle with evil, which involves the use of reason that exorcises and liberates those held captive.

            After discussing the particular call of the Twelve, he turns to consideration of the second group of seventy disciples. Drawing upon Old Testament texts, he explains, “seventy was considered to be the number of the nations of the world.”  Thus, while the Twelve Apostles represent the restoration of the tribes of Israel, the seventy represent the universal nature of the kingdom formed by Christ.

            As with most texts by Joseph Ratzinger, I found this selection to be both clear and inspiring, leaving the reader intellectually and spiritually nourished.