Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jesus of Nazareth II Discussion: Chapter 1

Before we begin, I just want to again mention that my role will not be to summarize each chapter, like a poor man's Cliff Notes, but rather to highlight some of the quotes directly from the text, along with proposing some questions to consider. I want the Holy Father to speak for himself. This is intended to be a discussion of the book, so as we proceed from chapter to chapter, please keep the discussion focused on the content of the chapter at hand. Also, please do not limit the discussion to my comments or questions, but feel free to bring to the table any sections of the given chapter that sparked your interest.

I want to mention right at the start that I believe this book, along with volume 1, is the example of Catholic Biblical scholarship which Dei Verbum and all the magisterial documents that followed envisioned. Now I realize that, depending on your theological background, this may seem to be either a bold statement or simply obvious. However, the reason I make this statement is that I am continually impressed at how the Holy Father actively engages the legitimate questions proposed by many of the most important Biblical scholars of the past. In no instance does he simply dismiss them as irrelevant or "off-the-wall", but rather he seeks to converse with them and provide analysis from his own study. Yet, what I think remains key is that his own study is nourished not only by modern methods of scholarship, but more importantly by the living Tradition of the Church, most notably the important insights of the Fathers of the Church. Is not this what the Council called for? (See Dei Verbum 23.)

Chapter 1: The Entrance into Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple

On the Entrance:

"The ultimate goal of Jesus' "ascent" is his self-offering on the Cross, which supplants the old sacrafices; it is the ascent that the Letter to the Hebrews describes as going up, not to a sanctuary made by human hands, but to heaven itself, into the presence of God (9:24). This ascent into God's presence leads via the Cross--it is the ascent toward "loving to the end" (Jn:13:1), which is the real mountain of God." - p. 2

"To today's reader, this may all seem fairly harmless, but for the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus it is full of mysterious allusions. The theme of the kingdom and its promises is ever-present. Jesus claims the right of kings, known throughout antiquity, to requisition modes of transport. The use of an animal on which no one had yet sat is a further pointer to the right of kings. Most striking, though, are the Old Testament allusions that give a deeper meaning to the whole episode." -p. 3-4

(Those important OT passages are Genesis 49:10-11, Zechariah 9:9, 1 Kings 1:33-34, and Psalm 118:26)

"This point is made most clearly in Matthew's account through the passage immediately following the Hosanna to Jesus, Son of David: 'When he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying: Who is this? And the crowds said: This is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee" (Mt 21:10-11). The parallel with the story of the wise men from the East is unmistakable. On the that occasion, too, the people in the city of Jerusalem knew nothing of the newborn king of the Jews; the news about him caused Jerusalem to be "troubled" (Mt. 2:3). Now the people were "quaking": the word that Matthew uses, eseisthe (seio), describes the vibration caused by an earthquake." -p. 8

"The Benedictus also entered the liturgy at a very early stage. For the infant Church, "Palm Sunday" was not a thing of the past. Just as the Lord entered the Holy City that day on a donkey, so too the Church saw him coming again and again in the humble form of bread and wine." -p.10

When we reflect upon our own lives as Christians, do we have the same passion for the Lord when he comes to us in the humble form of bread and wine? Are we stirred?

On the cleansing of the Temple:

"In the exegetical literature there are three principle lines of interpretation that we must briefly consider." -p.11

"First, there is the thesis that the cleansing of the Temple constituted and attack, not on the Temple as such, but on its misuse...In acting as he did, Jesus was attacking the existing practice that had been set up by the Temple aristocracy, but he was not violating the Law and the Prophets..." -p.11-12 (Jesus as just Reformer)

"Now we come to a second, conflicting exegesis--the political, revolutionary interpretation of the incident." -p.13 (Jesus as Zealot)

(The third option is to see Jesus in light of a careful reading of "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers" from Mark 11:17. Here, this option proposed by "Jesus himself" sees the universalist vision combined with the coming destruction of the Temple.)

"The first is the universalist vision of the Prophet Isaiah (56:7) of a future in which all peoples come together in the house of God to worship the Lord as the one God." -p.17

"In the combination of worship and trade, which Jesus denounces, he evidently sees the situation of Jeremiah's time repeating itself. In this sense, his words and actions consitute a warning that could be understood, together with his reference to the destruction of this Temple, as an echo of Jeremiah. But neither Jeremiah nor Jesus is responsible for destroying the Temple: both, through their passion, indicate who and what it is that truly destroys the Temple." -p. 20


Theophrastus said...

Tim, I am glad you are running this online book club and I hope to be adding a few comments on Chapter 1 and later chapters soon.

In my comments, I am going to be referring to the Pope as Joseph Ratzinger (a name also listed on the jacket of this book) because the author is clear that he is writing as a teacher and professor rather than as part of the magisterium, and that anyone is free to disagree with him

In the meanwhile, I wanted to say that I found it especially useful to compare this work with Walter (Cardinal) Kasper's, Jesus the Christ.

In his foreword to this book, Ratzinger explicitly mentions Kasper's work as one of "a whole series of important [German] Christologies" along with works by Walter Pannenberg, Christoph Schönborn, and Karl-Heinz Menke, and then contrasts his work with these, claiming he has "not attempted to write a Christology" and comparing his work instead to Summa Theologiae 3.27-59. While I see Ratzinger's point here, I think that in fact his work is a subset of a Christology, and while it may lack the more systematic structure of the German works he cites, it nonetheless can be profitably compared with Kasper's work in particular. (Note that Ratzinger repeats his comments, almost verbatim, in the bibliography.)

I was also amused by Ratzinger's slighting mention of John Meier's Marginal Jew series in the bibliography ("in many respects a model of historical-critical exegesis, in which the significance and the limits of the method appear clearly"). (Although it must also be said that Ratzinger cites to Meier's work several times in this volume, including a quite favorable reference in Chapter 5.)

EegahInc said...

Hi Tim, You reference the part of Ch. 1 that really stuck with me (Pg 8), where the Pope points out that the people who cheer Jesus' entry into Jerusalem aren't necessarily the same people who call for his blood later that week before Pilate. I don't know why that simple fact never stood out to me before. The one's cheering his arrival are the ones who had already been traveling with him and believed in his messiahship, and their fervor unnerves the general populace who have little knowledge of Jesus. I think that points to what should be the answer to your question, "do we have the same passion for the Lord when he comes to us in the humble form of bread and wine?" We should, and our passion should be such that it causes tremors in the culture we walk into once we leave the church doors.

Timothy said...