The death of Jesus of Nazareth remains controversial, even after almost 2000 years. Pope Benedict XVI revisits the debate in his new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, the second volume of his work on the figure of Jesus.
Some interpreters have identified the Jewish people as a whole as responsible for Jesus' death—a position often used to justify the persecution of Jews. Some modern scholars argue that the Roman authorities are to blame. Others claim that a group within the Jewish Temple establishment worked with the Roman authority to execute Jesus for insurrection, which is what the Gospel writers maintain.
Benedict XVI directly confronts the arguments and the evidence.
"Many readers will find this section of the book particularly interesting as the Pope reviews the historical positions taken about this," said Fr. Joseph Fessio, founder and publisher of Ignatius Press. "He discusses some very controversial claims that have been made, and draws on some contemporary scholarly resources to reach a conclusion that I am certain will generate a lot of discussion."
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week—From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection became available March 10 from Ignatius Press. It is the follow-up to the Pope's best-selling first volume, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.
In Part Two, the Pope tackles many of history's most volatile questions about the final week of Jesus' earthly life :
Was Jesus a political revolutionary?
Was he 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?
Benedict answers those questions and more. The figure of Jesus that emerges from this study is of someone who is both divine and human; God's self-disclosure in his Son, who tells us about God but also about ourselves. "It's clear that what interests the Holy Father is helping people to know and love someone whom he knows and loves," Fr. Fessio said. "But he does this as a scholar. "This book," he added, "is a bright star in the constellation of books about Jesus."