We have already previously reviewed on this blog Pope Benedict’s two very substantial books on Jesus of Nazareth (see the archives for 2011). Now on the wheels of those two books comes a very slender but substantive treatment of the ‘infancy narratives’. Though it is only 144 pages, it is far from insubstantial, and has become a best seller since it came out in November. As I have said before Josef Ratzinger is a classically trained theologian and exegete. He is perhaps unique in all of papal history in his training and abilities in this regard. Furthermore, he has a good critical mind and understanding of the importance of good historical reflection. Consider for example his statement at the very outset of this new book:
Once again the Pope relies mostly on German and some French scholarship, and in this particular volume there are some notable lacunae…. for example it is hard to imagine writing a book like this and taking no note of the majesterial work of Father Raymond Brown on the subject (two major studies on the virginal conception and on the birth narratives), perhaps the leading Catholic scholar on this subject in modern history. I do not really know the level of facility the pope has with reading detailed Biblical scholarship in English, but this omission is very surprising. In our next post, we will discuss what the Pope has to say about those interesting and varied genealogies in Matthew and Luke.