In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict presents a picture of Jesus Christ from the gospels using the tools of modern scholarship as well as insights from the long tradition of the church.
While he welcomes the resources recent biblical studies provide, he also acknowledges some limitations:
“As historical-critical scholarship advanced…the figure of Jesus became more and more blurred…The reconstructions of Jesus became more and more incompatible with one another: at the one end of the spectrum, Jesus was the anti-Roman revolutionary working–though finally failing–to overthrow the ruling powers; at the other end, he was the weak moral teacher that approves everything and unaccountably comes to grief.”
Some reconstructions of Jesus over the last fifty years are “more like photographs of their authors and the ideals they hold,” the pope says. The result is a skepticism about our ability to know Jesus at all. “This is a dramatic situation for faith, because its point of reference is being placed in doubt: Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which all else depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.”( foreward xii, Jesus of Nazareth, From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Ignatius Press 2008)
Seems to me the aim of preaching and catechesis today, as the pope suggests, is to offer a renewed picture of Jesus, enriched by modern studies and faithful to what tradition says of him. A challenge.