Sippo Arthur C. Sippo is a physician and specialist in aerospace medicine who has written and lectured as a Catholic apologist for over 30 years. He writes from southern Illinois. By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Translated by Michael Waldstein.
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Sippo Arthur C. Sippo is a physician and specialist in aerospace medicine who has written and lectured as a Catholic apologist for over 30 years. He writes from southern Illinois. By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Translated by Michael Waldstein. Edited by Aidan Nicholls, O.
Catholic University of America Press. Originally written in German in as volume nine in the Dogmatic Theology series, Eschatology was first translated into English in and published by the Catholic University of America Press. Therein lies a lesson about the state of affairs in the Church today. He was a peritus at the Second Vatican Council and a founding member, during the Council, of Concilium, a theology publication.
Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life was written by Ratzinger just before he assumed his diocesan responsibilities in Bavaria.
Even so, one could hardly come across a more erudite exposition of Catholic dogmatics that includes biblical, patristic, magisterial, ecumenical, and theological insights from the very heart of Catholicism and its patrimony. In his new Foreword, Pope Benedict tells us that this book was intended to be both a textbook and a manual for spiritual reflection on eschatology, which he considers to be the very essence of Christian hope.
I myself do not read German, but I am familiar enough with translations of German theological works to understand how difficult it is to take thoughts from a Germanic idiom and place them into English. Eschatology is not only a well-constructed theological treatise, it is also literate, unpretentious, and accessible to the intelligent adult Catholic.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One deals with the problem of eschatology and its relationship to the very essence of Christianity. Here, Ratzinger interacts with many of the modern theories concerning eschatology, including proposals put forth by major figures from our separated brethren such as Barth, Bultmann, Cullman, and Dodd. Part Two deals with the theology of death and the various notions of human immortality that have existed from Jewish antiquity up through our own day.
The idea of bodily resurrection was an innovation over and against the common human expectation of a bodiless afterlife, and resurrection was itself the natural outgrowth of the Hebrew concept of man as a creature made body and soul in the image of God. Death of the body was shown in Genesis to be a punishment for breaking fellowship with God and not the natural end of a life. Salvation from sin and death, therefore, was salvation of man from his alienation from God.
The healing of that rift of necessity meant the restoration of man to bodily immortality. The intermediate state of the soul after death, therefore, was a result of the sinfulness of man, and it was natural that some elements of purgation would be associated with it in preparation for the restoration of man to bodily life in resurrection.
With this in mind, Ratzinger reviews the teaching of the Church on human immortality. There was no clear guidance from patristic sources on what human immortality — especially in the intermediate state, but also in a resurrected body — actually meant.
Ratzinger points out several theological problems with this and shows how they could be circumvented by St. Part Three discusses the future life in detail, including what is meant by a resurrected body, the return of Christ, the general judgment, Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.
This is the real center of the book, for which the previous material was merely preparatory. The intermediate state is no longer seen as the immortal soul returning to spiritual fellowship with God. Rather, it is God knowing each of us and remembering everything about us in preparation for returning each human being to full bodily life at the general resurrection.
In that memory, those who have loved God and joined to Him through Christ are contemplated in the light of the Savior, and God reshapes us in preparation for eternal bliss with Him after the resurrection. During that time we are granted a preparatory glance of the beatific vision in eschatological anticipation of our final end in a renewed body.
In like manner, the damned are remembered in their rejection of God, and their memory invokes the wrath and sorrow of God for their wasted lives. Just as God sends the rain on the just and the unjust alike, He will also reunite His image reflected in men on both the just and the unjust alike.
Embodied man was made for immortality from the very beginning and — for good or ill — all men will participate in that immortality, whether in paradise or perdition. The world will transcend its very self through Christ. In this section, Ratzinger critiques various chiliastic ideas and emphasizes transformation by Christ.
This will be a qualitative change, not merely a quantitative transformation. The section on Heaven is one of the shortest in the book, comprising only five pages. In this brief statement, Ratzinger emphasizes that Heaven is a Christological concept, not a spatio-temporal one. I was surprised that more was not made of the wedding feast of the Lamb from Revelation 22 in this section.
In any future editions of this book, the incorporation of this biblical image will enhance its value for laymen by presenting a powerful metaphor from their own experience of marriage. There are two appendices. The first includes supplemental reflections that interact with magisterial teaching on eschatology given after the first edition of this book in Ratzinger also responds to some criticisms of his work and integrates more contemporary ideas into his thesis.
The second appendix was written in for the English edition of this work. It was an attempt to summarize the ongoing debate up to that time on death and immortality with special attention to work done in the English language. It summarizes much of what the book discusses and can be used as a convenient digest of the book. This is a monumental book that deserves to be read through many times.
We have very little material in English that is orthodox and accessible to educated laymen, and which deals with the very essence of what it is we hope for in Christ. This is an ideal book for private devotion or for a discussion group, especially at the college level and beyond. It also is a superb text for those who pursue apologetics in defense of our Catholic faith. I pray that this book will attract a wider readership in our time, such as was achieved by The Imitation of Christ in times past.
Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life
Translated by Michael Waldstein. Edited by Aidan Nicholls, O. Sippo Arthur C. Sippo is a physician and specialist in aerospace medicine who has written and lectured as a Catholic apologist for over 30 years. He writes from southern Illinois.
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In this book, he traces the development of the concept of afterlife from pre-Christian Judaism and Hellenism through history to now, discussing the validity of our own popular notions of the soul, heaven, hell, and resurrection. This book is still cited by contemporary Catholic theologians, and is worth reading on its own merits. Extensively based on prior German authors on the subject. Dec 22, Ray LaManna rated it liked it This is the first book in my long-term investigation of issues related to eschatology, or life after death. However, it does provide some very important insights derived over the past years of Judeo-Christian history. May 24, Peter rated it it was amazing This little book, written by Joseph Ratzinger for his seminary students at Regensburg, lives up to the promise of its foreword: "My experience with this subject has been somewhat curious. I began rather boldly with a set of theses which were then still uncommon but are now almost universally accepted in Catholic circles: that is, I tried to construct a "de-Platonized" eschatology.