I am hoping to make this my last post on the short book about the Nativity of Jesus by Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger). So far, from what I can tell, I have been one of the few bloggers going through and being critical of its historical contents, which I will continue here. For background, my first post looked at the apparent lack of engagement with the best literature on the subject of Jesus’ birth, including Raymond Brown’s Birth of the Messiah. My second post looked at the arguments His Holiness used to defend the historicity of certain details of the Gospel(s) version(s) of the birth of Christ and how his own arguments were not correctly applied.
As for the rest of the blogosphere, here is what I have found around the Internet:
Jim West highlights a news report about the book and how the Pope says Jesus was not born in 0 AD; Jim asks so what else is new? A similar feeling can by seen with Sonja of Women in Theology who found this volume boring compared to the prior two books by Ratzinger on Jesus. She also notes there really isn’t any debunking in the book at all, but is actually very traditional (I agree). Timothy at Catholic Bibles finds some of the news going around silly, though he does get a kick out of the tongue-in-cheek post “The Pope Hates Christmas”. There the author has more criticism at the media than the Pope. Lastly, one of the few blog posts critical of the book’s historical criticism comes from Bart Ehrman, though most of that post is behind a pay wall (with the proceeds going to charitable causes). It also looks like Ehrman is working on a collection of English translations of the non-canonical infancy gospels. That seems like something useful.
So with that link-farm out of the way, let’s see what else His Holiness is up to. As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I wanted to focus on how the Pope interprets the Star of Bethlehem, the reason I wanted to read this book in the first place. First off, this can be considered historic for the discussion of the Star; the last time someone high up in the Catholic hierarchy endorsed astronomy or astrology to interpret the Star was Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly almost exactly 600 years ago. But now the Bishop of Rome has considered naturalistic possibilities for the Star, which seems unprecedented based on my research.
But upon re-reading, it seems that Benedict tip-toes around the subject. Continue reading