Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review: The Man Christ Jesus

The Man Christ Jesus: How the Lord Looked, Acted, Prayed, and Loved.
Giacomo Cardinal Biffi
Sophia Institute Press (2008)
Paperback: 120 pps., $10.95

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product review program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information about The Man Christ Jesus.

The Man Christ Jesus may not be a fun or particularly poetic read, but I found it a useful one. It may also be useful to you, especially if you're interested in how inspired texts can be "examined with the help of historical and literary controls." This slim book is divided into two main sections: 1) The Man Christ Jesus According to Those Who Knew Him; and 2) The Man Christ Jesus by the Light of Faith.

To craft these portraits, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Italy uses the Gospels and excerpts from Pauline letters. This approach will seem familiar if you've read Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI. (The promotional copy for Biffi's book mentions the friendship of these two men.) Their approach is similar; their style could not be more different. Where Benedict is lyrical and intellectually challenging, Biffi is didactically prosaic.

The somewhat stilted nature of Biffi's text in the first section may be a translation problem, although I wonder how Italian could ever lose its rich resonance. Or maybe Biffi opted for a straightforward yet passive voice to make the case for relying on scripture? He writes that he hopes "the results of our investigation will be largely acceptable to those without faith."

Those who already have faith will perk up in the second section where Biffi provides more theologically oriented musings about Jesus as Christ -- son of God, Savior of the World, and Head of the Body. And to be fair, you probably can't fully appreciate this section without making your way through the first section about Jesus' physical appearance and personality.

Yes, folks, you're reading what's known as a "mixed review" of this book. If you have a reference library and, as noted at the top, are interested in exegesis, The Man Christ Jesus would be a worthwhile addition to your reference library.

As you might already know, I have a major 'tude when it comes to book design, so I'm happy to note that Sophia Institute Press has produced a beautifully designed book. And thanks be to God for writer or editor or translator who decided to use scripture citations from The New Jerusalem Bible. (I have "issues" with the New American Bible translation.)


  1. "(I have "issues" with the New American Bible translation.)"

    Oh Meredith, there are many reasons I have come to admire you, this is but one.

  2. In my ideal world, books are raves or rotten. Equivocal reviews are so much more work. Good job!


Thanks for your comment and please consider continuing this conversation with me on Twitter and Facebook!