Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Apostles, by Pope Benedict XVI

$14.95, 174 pages small hardcover, Our Sunday Visitor.

Taken from a series of lectures by Pope Benedict XVI from March 15, 2006 to February 14, 2007, this handy book uncovers the essentials on Christianity's beginning. Accessible for theology beginners yet rich enough for everyone, The Apostles traces the early development of the Church through its first leaders.

The Pontiff does so by bringing out the personalities of these men and women, rather than by offering abstract or complicated dogma. The author succeeds in showing just how much Christianity revolves around not only the supreme personality of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Trinity, but also the personalities – strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures – of those trained and sent of by Jesus to the corners of the earth.

The pontiff also offers interesting information about the early Church:

“The Book [of Revelation] should be understood against the backdrop of the dramatic experiences of the seven Churches of Asia (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea) which had to face serious difficulties at the end of the first century – persecutions and also inner tensions – in their witness to Christ.”

Using the Bible, extra-biblical sources, and some Christian legends, the Holy Father establishes the basis of the Catholic Church's hierarchy. He comes therefore to justify the hierarchy.

As with all of Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI's writings, this one gently yet directly uses the wealth of the Christian tradition to discuss all sorts of theology in one small work.

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