Monday, June 11, 2007

More on Jesus of Nazareth from Sandro Magister

Over at Chiesa On Line, Sandro Magister features an article by the Rabbi Pope Benedict references in Jesus of Nazareth. It is a quite insightful piece and worth reading. Below are a couple of paragraphs from Sandro's introduction:

This author is an observant Jew and a rabbi, Jacob Neusner. He lives in the United States, and teaches history and theology at Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. In 1993, he published a book that had a great impact on the then-cardinal Ratzinger: “A Rabbi Talks with Jesus.”

In “Jesus of Nazareth,” the pope explains why this book made such a positive impression on him. In it, “the author takes his place among the crowds of Jesus‘ disciples on the ‘mount’ in Galilee. He listens to Jesus [...] and he speaks with Jesus himself. He is touched by the greatness and the purity of what is said, and yet at the same time he is troubled by the ultimate incompatibility that he finds at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount [...] again and again he talks with him. But in the end, he decides not to follow Jesus. He remains – as he himself puts it – with the ‘eternal Israel’.”

The central issue that prevents the rabbi from believing in Jesus is his revealing himself as God: the same scandal that led Jesus to his death. In Ratzinger’s judgment, it is precisely here that the value of Neusner’s book lies. The imaginary conversation between the Jewish rabbi and Jesus “highlights the differences in all their sharpness, but it also takes place in great love. The rabbi accepts the otherness of Jesus’ message, and takes his leave free of any rancor; this parting, accomplished in the rigor of truth, is ever mindful of the reconciling power of love.”

For Benedict XVI, this is the path of true dialogue between Jews and Christians. Not to conceal their respective claims to truth, but to bring these to light in reciprocal understanding and respect.
And from the article itself:

Disputation went out of style when religions lost their confidence in the power of reason to establish theological truth. Then, as in Lessing's "Nathan the Wise," religions were made to affirm a truth in common, and the differences between religions were dismissed as trivial and unimportant. An American president was quoted as saying, "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're a good man." Then disputations between religions lost their urgency. The heritage of the Enlightenment with its indifference to the truth-claims of religion fostered religious toleration and reciprocal respect in place of religious confrontation and claims to know God. Religions emerged as obstacles to the good order of society....

But now His Holiness has taken a step further and has answered my critique in a creative exercise of exegesis and theology. In his “Jesus of Nazareth” the Judeo-Christian disputation enters a new age. We are able to meet one another in a forthright exercise of reason and criticism. The challenges of Sinai bring us together for the renewal of a 2,000 year old tradition of religious debate in the service of God's truth....
For the entire piece, click here.

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