Whether it is a movie or a book, you take the time to find out what exactly it is you will be reading or watching. One of the most frequent questions we ask beforehand is, “what is it about?” In doing this we are basically asking for the genre. In this brief article, scholars have investigated what exactly a gospel is and what the four canonical Gospels aim to achieve in their own literary style. The many theories can be summed up into two categories, analogical (the gospels were written following the style of other documents of the time), and derivational (the gospels are a totally new and distinct literary style). With this in mind, I invite you to read this article and come up with your own opinion based on the research shared by Judith A. Diehl.   

Jesus of Nazareth – Chapter 9

           Pope Benedict had some very interesting points of reflection in this chapter. The first half of the chapter he puts the main focus on Peter and his confession to Jesus. Pope Benedict points out how Peter’s reaction to Jesus after catching the abundance of fish, when told to cast out into the deep, is really man’s reaction when coming into contact with the Divine. Peter realizes that this catch of fish is miraculous and he immediately realizes that the power of God had come in contact with him, a lowly fisherman. He does not know how to act in front of the Divine so he asks Jesus to depart from his presence.

       In the second half of this chapter, Pope Benedict reflects on the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. He makes a beautiful comparison of Moses receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai and Jesus being the Torah.

Characters and Places in Matthew’s Story

            Seeing the Gospel of Matthew as narrative requires an understanding of the effects of setting and characters, starting from the ever-present main character, God, to the crowds and minor characters whose main significance is their interaction with the main protagonist who is Jesus Christ. Noteworthy, just as Jesus has two natures, so does his story. Looking at the supernatural elements of the Gospel of Matthew, Satan enters in order to tempt Jesus while the angels deliver messages throughout the stories from his birth to the Resurrection. Then, looking at the natural world, the political and religious leaders acted as mirror images of Satan with their collective evil as they accused Jesus of blasphemy and murdered other characters involved with Jesus’ mission, including John the Baptist and the holy innocents. The disciples, on the other hand, worked as extensions of Jesus’ mission as they preached and enjoyed the authority given to them, though they often struggled with their faith. Even the places where all this action took place connects the reader to a better understanding of Jesus’ mission, particularly the references to the stormy sea where the reader can notice how symbolically the sea represents chaos, and the shore is where we find peace, receiving the Word of the Lord.

            This selection brought to me a whole new light with which to read and understand the Gospel of Matthew, seeing how the characters work as literary tools telling the story of salvation. I can better see how the stories come together in order to communicate the faith and how we as readers may respond.  

Chapter five “The Lord’s Prayer”

The chapter entitled “The Lord’s prayer” is part of the first volume in Doubleday’s first edition of the three-part work, entitled Jesus of Nazareth (May 2007), by Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Bishop emeritus of the city of Rome. The time frame for this volume (I) includes Jesus’ public ministry, beginning with Christ’s baptism of the Jordan up to and including the Transfiguration of the Lord. This book too advanced to be considered an introduction to the New Testament studies, nor would one study Jesus of Nazareth without someone prior knowledge of Christology. That said any reader might gain spiritual fruit from this theological literary vineyard. My comments here are based on a cursory reading of a review in Booklist:

The passage discussed in each chapter are interpreted within the prophetic context fo the continuous document that contains them, the Bible. The meanings of Jesus’s words, deeds, and person are always educed with the aid and understanding of the religious thought and practice of the preceding Hebrew Scriptures. (Olson, Ray Copyright © American Library Association. All right reserved).[i]

Benedict’s approaches the Lord’s prayer from the Matthean perspective: Jesus’ audience already know how to pray; it needs to experience prayer daily, integrally. Jesus, the new Rabbi, calls the Israel of old to new ways of approaching Yahweh in prayer; now they have permission to call God “Father,” “Abba.” Thus  the Pope is our 21st-century rabbi/philosopher who tells us to approach God heart, mind, and soul.

There are two ideas that are constant through the Chapter. One the importance of being in a constant communication with God through prayer. Following the example of Jesus, and that the result of prayer is, as he writes “overcomes all boundaries, and make us one family” (Ratzinger p.141). Ratzinger shows the Our Father to be a progressive prayer, with a structure, an introduction, and seven petitions. This structure gives readers, the idea that the author would like to let us know that this prayer comes from Jesus who is in constant communication with the Father. We the readers who desire to pray, have to let Christ pray in and through us, this means that the act of prayer comes from the individual and leads to the communal., to daily experience: I am not alone in this Journey a journey that leads us “Our Father/ not simply my Father, who is in Heaven.

Forever a teacher, forever a pastor, Benedicts provides two things here: a chapter of instruction; a chapter of inspiration. The author’s attitude/tone in Jesus of Nazareth is scholarly and pastoral: he desires, more than anything else, that his students, readers, parishioners grow in the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Our author hails from the Post-Vatican II Church of a more open, yet more scholarly approach to scripture and spirituality, honed from his association with thinkers like Karl Rahner and Has Kung.  


[i] https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Nazareth-Baptism-Jordan-Transfiguration/

Jesus of Nazareth Chapter 2: the Temptation in the Desert

In chapter 2 of Pope Benedict XIV’s Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict talks of the temptations that Jesus face and how they correspond with our own faith. He tells us how at the heart of it all, the concept of placing God as secondary in our lives is the central point of these and all temptations. He then goes on, telling how in the first temptation, the turning of stone into bread, is done in both the multiplication of loaves and the Last Supper because of the belief of the people who pined for God. He then discusses the importance of proper Scriptural interpretation via the second temptation, telling how misinterpretation of the Scripture misinterprets who God is, thus pushing him aside. Finally, by way of the last temptation, we see how all that the devil offers, no matter how glamorous it may be, it will fade away, as all earthly things do, and that the only thing that will last is the heavenly kingdom. I found it to be a fantastic read. Never before had I considered the premises that the temptations Jesus encountered could have so much meaning globally; rather, I had seen them being each person’s own struggle with faith. Yet, Pope Benedict XVI show they are both at the same. If you have the chance, I recommend that you read it too.