The rabbi says the pope told him so during their 20-minute meeting yesterday.From Rabbi Neusner himself, a personal account on meeting the Pope, with the following bombshell (The Forward January 27, 2010):
The fact that the pope would tell a U.S. rabbi that the manuscript is finished isn’t quite as odd as it would appear. In the pope’s first volume, “Jesus of Nazareth,” there were more quotes from Rabbi Neusner than from anyone but the Gospel writers and St. Paul.
In the first volume, published in 2007, Pope Benedict discussed in depth Rabbi Neusner’s 1993 book, A Rabbi Talks With Jesus. The pope said the rabbi’s “profound respect for the Christian faith and his faithfulness to Judaism led him to seek a dialogue with Jesus.”
The rabbi was in Rome to speak at a Jan. 18 event sponsored by the Italian Catholic Church to mark its annual day of Catholic-Jewish dialogue. He was able to attend Pope Benedict’s visit Sunday evening to Rome’s synagogue and then met privately with the pope yesterday morning.
He told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that their 20 minutes together “was sufficient time for a good meeting between two professors. I have always admired the scholar Joseph Ratzinger for his honesty and lucidity and I really wanted to meet and get to know the man.”
“We spoke about our books and he confided to me that he has finished writing his second volume on Jesus,” the rabbi said.
Rabbi Neusner said he was struck by the pope’s penetrating gaze and by his “kindness and humility.”
My wife and I had been invited to visit to Pope Benedict XVI for a private audience in his Vatican office on January 18, the day after his high-profile visit to Rome’s main synagogue. He and I had had an occasional scholarly correspondence before he had been pope, as we shared an interest in the historical study of first-century Judaism and Christianity. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he generously wrote an endorsement of my 1993 book “A Rabbi Talks With Jesus.” Then, much to my surprise, a decade-and-a-half later, when Benedict’s book “Jesus of Nazareth” was published, a good portion of one of its chapters was spent discussing my book, a sincere and, I believe, unprecedented theological engagement with a rabbi’s work on the part of a sitting pope. Yet until my most recent visit to Rome, the pope and I had only met once, and then only very briefly at a 2008 inter-religious gathering in Washington, so I was particularly excited to get to spend a bit of time with him.According to Pope Benedict, reading Neusner's A Rabbi Talks With Jesus "gave him comfort when his sister died."
Waiting outside the papal office, my wife and I wondered what the pope would want to discuss. We need not have worried. The pope and I have in common and talked about what professors always discuss: What are you working on, and what will you do next?
So when my wife and I spent our 25 minutes by ourselves with Benedict, I asked him how he was progressing with volume two of “Jesus of Nazareth,” and he asked me whether I’m still publishing a book a month. He told me that the second volume would come out soon and that it would be the last book he would write. But, he explained, he has other work that will keep him busy. That’s the price exacted from a major scholar who is elected pope.
According to Zenit, Rabbi Neusner was also present during Benedict's visit to the Great Synagogue in Rome. On the great controversy of Jewish-Christian relations (Pope Pius XII), Neusner remarked:
we live in forgetfulness; we forget history and the religious traditions from which we come."
"For this reason," he said, "it is important to study history."
The rabbi continued: "I am thinking of a controversial question such as the historical figure of Pius XII. From my point of view, it is still too soon to judge and, yet, I often hear categorical judgments, in one sense or another. I have the feeling that someone is moving destructively, who is not interested either in Catholicism or Judaism, and much less so in dialogue between these two great traditions.
"It's sad as, moreover, in the concrete reality, I can see it in my daily life in the United States, relations between Jews and Christians are excellent.
"If the past is ignored, we are condemned to repeat it. Study, from this point of view, is essential. Together with the sense of responsibility: Every generation has a responsibility for the future, and it has it today, here and now."