Thursday, February 28, 2008

Benedict on Christ's Temptation in the Wilderness

The following is taken from Pope Benedict's, Jesus of Nazareth, 28-29, 35-36. Here he is treating the testing of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness.
Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not invite us directly to do evil―no, that would be far too blatant. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place. It claims, moreover, to speak for true realism: What’s real is what is right there in front of us―power and bread… God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself, or isn’t he?....
The devil proves to be a Bible expert who can quote the Psalm exactly. The whole conversation of the second temptation takes the forma of a dispute between two Bible scholars. Remarking on this passage, Joachim Gnilka says that the devil presents himself here as a theologian. The Russian writer Vladimir Soloviev took up this motif in his short story ‘The Antichrist.’ The Anitchrist receives an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tübingen and is a great Scripture scholar. Soloviev’s portrayal of the Antichrist forcefully expresses his skepticism regarding a certaian type of scholarly exegesis current at the time. This is not a rejection of scholarly biblical interpretation as such, but an eminently salutary and necessary warning against its possible aberrations. The fact is that scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist. Soloviev is not the first person to tell us that; it is the deeper point of the temptation story itself. The alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle faith… [T]he Anticharist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his kind of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times. The theological debate between Jesus and the devil is a dispute over the correct interpretation of Scripture…

No comments: