You wish they would read it instead of looking for a headline. I mean the pope’s new book “Jesus of Nazareth, the Infancy Narratives” Image Books, 2012. From the headlines the last few days you would think all the pope said was that the ox and the donkey weren’t around the manger at Christ’s birth, and he’s joining others who question the historical reliability of this event.
The contrary is true. As in his previous books on Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict engages what modern scriptural scholarship says about this section of the gospels. (True, he depends on German and French scholarship for the most part) But if anything, the pope sees a swing from not accepting a history behind the infancy narratives to a recognition of historical facts.
But he does more than affirm history. He sees meaning behind the facts. So the manger of Jesus to him is the Lord’s first throne, the humble temple where he comes to feed the poorest of the world.
“So the manger has in some sense become the Ark of the Covenant, in which God is mysteriously hidden among men, and before which the time has come for ‘ox and ass’–humanity made up of Jews and Gentiles–to acknowledge God.”
I downloaded the book yesterday. A good book to read in Advent. Here’s a theologian and mystic at work. I think his three volumes on Jesus of Nazareth will stand as his lasting contribution to the church.