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A portrait of Jesus


Gerald O’Collins, Darton, Longman and Todd, $29.95

Reviewed by Br Brian Grenier CFC

DURING the course of a long academic career overseas the Australian-born Jesuit theologian Gerald O’Collins has written many learned but very readable books on aspects of Christology.

His latest work – the culmination and integration of the writer’s years of study in this field – is aptly entitled Jesus: A Portrait and is his personal response to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?”

In 12 chapters, beginning with an interesting reflection on the beauty of Jesus, Fr O’Collins considers essential aspects of Jesus’ life, mission and ministry as a teacher, storyteller and miracle worker.

For him, as his chapter headings indicate, Jesus is God’s Kingdom in Person, the Parable of the Father’s Love, the Suffering Servant, the Lord of Glory, and the Abiding Presence.

With reference to any of the words and deeds of Jesus in the gospels, some scholars dwell rather too much on the issue of historicity and ask “Did it happen as recorded?”

Others, our author included, are more disposed to ask such questions as: “What does it mean?”, “What does it signify?”, and “What impression did Jesus create as he travelled throughout the land?”

It is by his penetrative attention to these details that Gerald O’Collins presents us not with a mere sketch of his subject but a rounded “portrait of Jesus that is also a mirror of ourselves”.

In identifying some of the many aspects of Jesus: A Portrait that I found insightful I could point to: the writer’s treatment, sometimes in related pairs, of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracle stories; his imaginative exploration of familiar parables, notably the story of the prodigal son and the loving father.

There is also his identification of and pointed commentary on the many challenging questions asked by Jesus; his astute assessment of the impact that Jesus had on a range of individuals who crossed his path; and his consideration of how Jesus himself anticipated and interpreted the events leading to his passion and atoning death.

Though the book could hardly be described as light reading, it wears its evident scholarship lightly.

Prayerful and at times homiletic in tone, it would be useful not only as a prescribed study text but also as a resource during an extended time of personal retreat.



Anne Henderson; Pluto Press Australia, 2008; $29.95

Reviewed by Terry Oberg

Catholic Church Insurance

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