Mark Brumley looks at a couple of the illiterate ways in which the press completely misunderstand Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. F’rinstance:
The problem of the media misread has become noticable enough that Spanish theologian Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, writing in L’Osservatore Romano, has criticized the media for missing the point of the Pope’s book and focusing instead on whether the Pope says a donkey and an ass were present at Jesus’ birth. The Washington Post, in turn, has reported on the theologian’s criticisms. The Postpiece tries to present the theologian’s criticisms and winds up itself misrepresenting Benedict’s position in the process. For instance: “Benedict also writes that the angels who announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds probably didn’t actually sing, and that the three wise men could have been inspired by a ‘theological idea’ rather than by a ‘historical event’.”
When the shepherds in the field (Lk 2:12-14) encounter the multitude of angels praising God for the birth of Jesus, are the angels “singing”? Benedict notes that the evangelist says that the angels “said” “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased”. Does that amount to what the Post reports Benedict as maintaining, that “the angels …probably didn’t actually sing”?
Benedict observes, “Christianity has always understood that the speech of angels is actually song, in which all the glory of the great joy that they proclaim becomes tangibly present” (p. 73). He goes on to link this “song” with the singing of Christmas carols and the singing of the Gloria at Mass. That does not amount to saying that the angels “probably didn’t actually sing”, as the Post reports. Indeed, Benedict appears to maintain that in some sense they did sing, even though Luke doesn’t say they did.