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Book Review

Anselm Gruen (tr. John Bowden)

Images of Jesus

ISBN 08264 6782 2 (paperback)

Continuum, 2002, 9.99

(price at publication of review)


Reviewed January 2004; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2003

This is not a book of systematic theology but it does seek to illumine both the Jesus of devotion and the historical Jesus, and so provides an answer to the question, 'Who is Jesus?'  Or, rather, it provides many such answers for this is a book of fifty different 'images of Jesus' and none of them provides a final answer:  As Gruen himself says, 'in the end of the day we can't grasp Jesus . . . he keeps evading all the terms we use of him.'

The fifty images in this book then are simply ways of looking at Jesus, sometimes from a new angle and sometimes with fresh light from a familiar viewpoint.  Thus we have 'Jesus the Good Shepherd' and 'Jesus the teacher' alongside more provocative titles such as 'Jesus the drop-out' and 'Jesus the family therapist.'  For each, a meditation of about two sides of print is followed by a paragraph of questions where the reader's work really begins, for they provoke and challenge us to use what we have discovered in order to examine our own lives and deepen our prayer.   This is not a process to be rushed!  Gruen suggests living for a while, perhaps a day or a week, in the light of one of these images before rushing on to the next one, and for my own part I shall want to come back to the individual images more than once.  

Anselm Gruen is a German Benedictine monk and this book is the fruit of the reflections of a small group meeting in the monastery to discuss spiritual questions and the issues of today.  He candidly shares his own experiences of encountering Jesus both in prayer and in life in a moving epilogue of several sections, whilst a prologue provides some clear historical background to the life of Jesus, as well as guidelines in the use of these meditations.   Occasionally I was unconvinced by an over-psychoanalytical approach to some gospel stories, but Gruen himself recognises that there is no need to take on board everything he has written.  There is much here to challenge all of us to a deeper devotion and a fuller discipleship in the way of Jesus.

Desmond Alban SSF




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