For my book recommendation today, I thought that I would share a book that has been out-of-print for an extremely long time. Unjustifiably so, in my opinion, because it is one of the most well-written books on the Gospels in the English language.
Jesus Christ: His Life, His Teaching and His Work is the rather simple title of this magnificent two volume work by the French Jesuit and Scripture scholar, Fr. Ferdinand Prat. Opening with an introduction in which he examines and explains the sources of the Gospels as well as their gestation and various criticisms of them, Prat goes on to write a Life of Christ that is extraordinarily vivid and beautiful in detail. Not only this, but Prat makes this book into a veritable book of apologetics and a catechism all rolled into one.
How does Prat do this? Unlike Giuseppe Ricciotti, another exegete of the Gospels from around the same time, Prat does not focus on the details. Rather, he paints the pictures with broad strokes and zooms in when necessary. For example, Prat refutes every possible objection to St. Peter’s primacy by giving the text first and then going and digging around. His sources, which includ the Church Fathers and the latest research (at that time) are interesting to examine on their own as excellent examples of scholarship.
As a writer, Prat is unsurpassed in his knowledge and understanding of what the Gospels mean. His portraits of Christ Himself, the Apostles, and Mary are second to none. He makes them live and breathe before our very own eyes. He allows the Evangelists to speak for themselves and yet at the same time, embellishes the overall picture by describing life in Jesus’s Palestine and Judea.
In the exegesis of the Parables, Prat is exacting in his explanations of how the first century Jews would have understood and what they would have actually meant to them. In these chapters and throughout the book, Prat does not speak as an exgete dissecting the Gospels to get at their meaning. Rather, he explains the Gospels in an understandable and simple manner.
The tomes that I own of this book include a guide for priests preaching on the Sunday Gospels as well as for laypeople. Therefore, this book is extremely practical as a preparation for meditation or giving sermons.
I highly recommend that you read Prat’s volumes for yourselves if you are able to find them. Indeed, they are a treasure trove of information about Jesus and His times as well as the Gospels themselves. If nothing else, they will help you to appreciate the Gospels even more.
For a republished copy of Fr. Prat’s book, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Christ-Life-Teaching-Work/dp/054808095X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213332393&sr=8-4