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Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week Enters Top Ten of The New York Times Best-Sellers List | March 18, 2011 | Ignatius Insight

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Pope Benedict XVI's new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection, released worldwide on March 10th, has broken the Top Ten on The New York Times best-sellers list. The book, which has received very positive reviews from Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders and scholars, will be #10 on the March 27th nonfiction best-sellers list.

1.2 million copies of the book have been published in eight languages, including German, Italian, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Polish. Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, founder and editor of the publishing house, says that 300,000 copies were published in Italy, 200,000 in Germany, and 120,000 in France. The book has been published in English by Ignatius Press, The Catholic Truth Society (United Kingdom/Ireland), Paulines Publication (Africa), Freedom Publishing (Australia), and Asia Trading Corporation (Asia). Ignatius Press has now printed 140,000 copies of the book and sold or distributed some 90,000 copies in a week.

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration was the first book written by Pope Benedict XVI after his election in April 2005. It focuses on Jesus' Baptism, temptation, and teachings, especially the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, the parables, and Jesus' declarations about his identity. The second volume, as its title indicates, examines and reflects upon the final days of Jesus' earthly life: his arrival in Jerusalem, his cleansing of the Temple, his eschatological discourse, the washing of the disciples' feet, the Last Supper, his prayer and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, his trial, the crucifixion and burial, and the Resurrection. The book's epilogue considers the nature and meaning of Jesus' Ascension into heaven.

Along the way, Benedict ponders deeply the meaning of Jesus' life and death, and responds to a number of challenging questions. These include:

• Who was responsible for killing Jesus?
• Was Jesus a political revolutionary?
• Was he really the Messiah, the Son of God?
• What did Jesus teach about the end of the world?
• Did Jesus establish a community of disciples—the Church—to continue his work?
• How did Jesus interpret his death?
• What does the evidence tell us about Jesus' ultimate fate? Did he really rise from the dead?
• Did the early Christians believe Jesus would return immediately?

"It's clear that what interests the Holy Father is helping people to know and love someone whom he knows and loves," says Father Fessio. "But he does this as a scholar. This book is a bright star in the constellation of books about Jesus." And many scholars have responded with praise for the book, noting its unique combination of complexity, clarity, breadth of learning, and depth of theological insight.

Noted Evangelical Scripture scholar Dr. Craig Evans, professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of Acadia University, Nova Scotia, and editor of The Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus, calls it "a remarkable achievement", adding, "It's the best book I've read on Jesus in years." He says, "I was impressed by the exegetical insight, the historical critical insight, and yet at the same time the attempt to always keep in line the big picture, what Christian faith is all about, the history of the church and how some of Jesus' teachings and things that He did, and things that happened to Him contributed to major Christian teachings and some of the great creeds."

Another Evangelical scholar, Dr. Ben Witherington III, author of several works on Jesus and the New Testament, expressed admiration for the "knowledge and vital piety in this book". Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week is "a book I would very happily assign to my students to read as a book about both the Jesus history and the Christ of faith", he said, "I was impressed with his scholarly acumen..."

Dr. Jacob Neusner, prolific Jewish scholar and author of countless books on Jewish history and belief, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, notes that Benedict has "accomplished something that no one else has achieved in the modern study of Scripture", which is to provide an answer to the question, "How are we to transcend the outcome of critical history with its paralyzing obstacles, theological affirmation?"

Dr. Brant Pitre, who teaches at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, agrees, saying that Benedict, in the book, "really is combining history, historical reason as he puts it, and hermeneutical faith in approaching the gospel from the light of the canon of Scripture, especially Old Testament background..." The Pope's book, Pitre believes, is a successful implementation of "the renewal of biblical studies that the Second Vatican council called for more than forty years ago, but which in his opinion has not yet taken root."

Another Catholic Scripture scholar, Dr. Mary Healy, who teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, states, "It seems to me that Benedict's deepest goal is to provide a model of what biblical theology can look like when the tools of modern scholarship are integrated with faith in Scripture as a living word from God. The pope is seeking to reunite what has long been split apart—Scripture and theology, biblical exegesis and Christian faith."

Mark Brumley, President of Ignatius Press, believes that Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week will be instrumental in further shaping an authentic, vibrant ecumenism rooted in a love for Christ and Scripture. "As a former Evangelical," he remarks, "I can say that I would have been deeply moved as a Protestant to read a book like this from the Pope. And as a Catholic, I can say I'm thrilled so many Protestants are being moved by it. Pope Benedict reveals the Christ-centeredness of the Catholic Church, a reality that is sometimes missed by Protestants and even a few Catholics!"

Although the book reflects the Pope's scholarly background and skills, it is ultimately intended to bring readers into "a personal encounter with Jesus", as Benedict states in the Foreword. His approach, he adds, comes from his attempt "to develop a way of observing and listening to the Jesus of the Gospels that can indeed lead to personal encounter and that, through collective listening with Jesus' disciples across the ages, can indeed attain sure knowledge of the real historical figure of Jesus."

A study guide for Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week will be available from Ignatius Press on March 30th. The foreword is written by Tim Gray, Ph.D., the chapter summarizes and outlines are by Mark Brumley and Curtis Mitch, and study questions are by Brumley and Laura Dittus. It also includes a list of key terms, a glossary, and a section for readers to write down their personal reflections as they read the book.

Visit the website, www.JesusofNazareth2.com, for excerpts, biographical information, reviews, ordering information, and much more about Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.

"The Mystery of the Betrayer" (from Chapter 3)
"The Dating of the Last Supper" (from Chapter 5)
"Jesus Before Pilate" (from Chapter 7)

Biography of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Jesus of Nazareth (Part 2) available March 10, 2011
Other Recent Books by Pope Benedict XVI
All books by or about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Excerpts from books by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Articles about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI

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