Thursday, June 01, 2006

Apostolic Succession I

In the Charlotte diocese, the Ascension of our Lord is celebrated on Sunday instead of the Thursday before as was once the customary Holy day of Obligation. This is now an option according to the Holy See. Because of this, we didn’t read what would have been the normal readings for Sunday. The first reading is from Acts 1:15-17, & 20 -26.

I think the subject is significant to the topic of Apostolic Succession. We see Peter confirming that not only is there a real authoritative office for the Apostle, but also that the Psalms prophesied about it and also prophesied that there would be a vacancy that needed to be filled saying:

“May another take his place of leadership.”

I see this as another confirmation of Apostolic Succession as well as a rejection of liberal ideas such as those held by John Dominic Crossan (of the Jesus Seminar). Crossan holds the belief that Jesus didn’t really raise from the dead. But we see here (among many other places) that the disciples were intent on convincing others of a physical resurrection. They insisted that the successor to Judas be someone who was ‘with them from the beginning’ even mentioning John’s baptism as a starting point. They wanted to make sure that it would be someone who could credibly vouch for the life, teachings and physical resurrection of Christ. The lots fell on Matthias.

Thus the stage was set for apostolic succession in the early church. Each apostle left behind a vacant seat when they were martyred (except St. John who was the only one to escape martyrdom) and those who walked close by them became the successors. These were such men as St. Polycarp, St. Mark, St. Luke St. Barnabas and more. Each priest and bishop in the Catholic Church comes from a line of apostolic succession that began on Pentecost which we celebrate this coming Sunday as the birth of our mother the Church.


Anonymous said...

xzzrhiAs a Presbyterian, I also think apostolic succession is an important feature of the church. There obviously would be some distinction between how our respective ecclesiastical traditions would treat the idea. We tend to understand the Roman Church as working with a model that looks as if apostolic succession is operating like some kind of simple electrical current, where if the circuit is broken at any one place you have no power on the other end. By the nature of things we tend to view things somewhat differently more like a vast continent-wide grid.

If the kingdom of God were like a pure line of Labrador retrievers, where we always had to have our pedigree papers stamped by the authorities in Jerusalem, then certain notables of our faith would be in trouble. I’m thinking about John the Baptist and Jesus.

Throughout the long history of the covenant people, God has had disreputable messengers out of the wilderness into the royal and priestly courts and, once there, to have them behave in uncertified ways.

Hebrews 10: 19-22 says this: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

One way to understand this text is that drawing near to God involves one to do so by way of blood and water. This is a comparatively rare combination but can be seen in Levitical law within the ordination rite Exod. 29:4, 21; Lev. 8:6, 30. Hebrews 10:22 may then be seen as describing baptism with imagery borrowed from OT ordination rites. If so, then all those baptized and sprinkled with the blood of Christ have privileges of access beyond those of Israel's High Priests.

We Christians in the New Israel are a nation of priests, and as priests, we have access to the heavenly sanctuary. The priestly privilege of access to the heavenly sanctuary is conferred, stated, promised, signed and sealed in our baptisms. Apostolic succession is, I suspect, rightly seen as a priestly succession and that such ancient ordinations are a type of what is declared of all Christians in baptism.

Put another way, although I am an ordained Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church, I do not believe that I am at the tail end of a long chain of governmental ordinations going back to Christ. But this does not mean that I do not believe in apostolic succession. I am also baptized, and I do believe there is a web of baptisms (like an electrical grid) that go all the way back. The farther we get away from the apostolic era, the wetter the world gets. If we see apostolic succession in terms of mere governmental actions, carefully noted in the archived minutes, the farther we get away from the apostles, the more obscurity will surround the entire question, and the disputes will multiply.

May we ultimately find a way to get past our lamentable differences and find the path of Christian catholicity, catholicity of spirit that is contained within the profound declaration made in our baptism -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thank you for your excellent comments. I too come from a Presbyterian background but like most Protestants I was completely void of any concept of Apostolic Succession. Its good to know that there is some inteligible thought out there on it.

I can certainly see both sides of the issue. But the tangibility of the Roman concept of Apostolic Authority really hits home more and more each day for me.

It is true, what you said about the natural inclination would be to decline the farther we get from the apostolic era and 'disputes will multiply'. But the Catholic teaching on Apostolic Authority is possible only with the admission of an ever interceeding Holy Spirit who guides the Church. (And I plan to post more on that as we prepare to celebrate Pentecost this Sunday).

Thanks again for your comments.

reader75 said...

I was a Protestant who is converting to Catholicism so I have seen both sides of this discussion. However, to quickly answer "anonymous" on something he/she quoted:

"If the kingdom of God were like a pure line of Labrador retrievers, where we always had to have our pedigree papers stamped by the authorities in Jerusalem, then certain notables of our faith would be in trouble. I’m thinking about John the Baptist and Jesus."

John the Baptist was of the line of Levites, the priestly family of Israel. He was also a from one of the most esteemed family lines (I will find the Scriptural reference later, but if you seek it you shall find it).

Both the Blessed Virgin and Joseph were from the line of Judah, the kingly line of Israel.

These pedigrees were both to fulfill prophecy and to prove the legitimacy of both individuals in the eyes of the world, but more so to the Jewish people who were familiar with the prophecy of the coming Messiah. The Pharisees were always aware of this as well as one can see by reading the Gospels. I wish I had time to point it out in Scripture for you but unfortunately I must run to work. :-)

NotMyOpinion30 said...

Here are some quotes from the Early Fathers. I understand they are not the Holy Scriptures, but they are the Tradition of the Apostolic Church. These men kept the Scriptures intact (protected them from decay and destruction) and spread the Gospel throughout the world in their time. If it weren't for these men, and the Grace that God gave to them to lead His Church, the Holy Scriptures would not be canonized in the order in which we read them today. The Bible did not organize itself. It would also be unfortunate to assume that the teachings of those who succeeded the Apostles, spread the Gospel by the Grace and Power of the Holy Spirit, led the Church, and compiled the Bible by the Power and Guidance of the same Holy Spirit, were wrong in any of the Traditions they perpetuated or mistaken in their writings. Here is what some of Early Fathers of the Church, the ones closest to the Apostolic Fathers, believed.

St. Clement (30AD - 100AD; walked with Peter and Paul), First Epistle to the Corithians

"The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture a certain place, 'I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.(Isa 60:16)'"

Chapter 44:

[Prior to this he explains how the Lord divinely chose Aaron, the Levite, to be the high priest of Israel. From then on the priesthood belonged to the Levites through succession, if I'm not mistaken.]"Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blame-lessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour."

St. Irenaeus (140AD - 202AD), Against Heresies.

Book 3, Chapter 2, Paragraph 2:
"But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches..."

Book 3, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1:
"It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times..."

Book 3, Chapter 3, Paragraph 2:
"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority -- that is, the faithful everywhere -- inasmuch as the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those who are everywhere."

Book 3, Chapter 3, Paragraph 3:
"The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric... To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Sorer having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth."

Book 3, Chapter 3, Paragraph 4:
"But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna... always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true."

Book 3, Chapter 4, Paragraph 1:
"Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?"

Book 4, Chapter 26, Paragraph 2:
"Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church -- those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father...

Tertullian (200AD), The Demurrer Against The Heretics

Chapter 20:
"...the apostles, whom this designation indicates as "the sent." Having, on the authority of a prophecy, which occurs in a psalm of David, chosen Matthias by lot as the twelfth, into the place of Judas, they obtained the promised power of the Holy Ghost for the gift of miracles and of utterance; and after first bearing witness to the faith in Jesus Christ throughout Judaea, and rounding churches (there), they next went forth into the world and preached the same doctrine of the same faith to the nations. They then in like manner rounded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church, (rounded) by the apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are apostolic, whilst they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality,--privileges which no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery."

Chapter 21:
"From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for "no man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach--that, of course, which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached--in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them--can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles rounded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both rivet race, as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches--those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth."

Chapter 32:
"But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst Of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,--a man, moreover, who continued stedfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind. For after their blasphemy, what is there that is unlawful for them (to attempt)? But should they even effect the contrivance, they will not advance a step. For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles, will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory, so the apostolic men would not have inculcated teaching different from the apostles, unless they who received their instruction from the apostles went and preached in a contrary manner. To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine. Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith."

Chapter 36:
"Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves). How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! where Peter endures a passion like his Lord's! where Paul wins his crown in a death like John's where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile! See what she has learned, what taught, what fellowship has had with even (our) churches in Africa! One Lord God does she acknowledge, the Creator of the universe, and Christ Jesus (born) of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God the Creator; and the Resurrection of the flesh; the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith. This she seals with the water (of baptism), arrays with the Holy Ghost, feeds with the Eucharist, cheers with martyrdom, and against such a discipline thus (maintained) she admits no gainsayer."

St. Cyprian of Carthage (225AD), Letter of Cyprian to a Certain Magnus:

"The Church is one; and it is not possible to be both within and without what is one. If the Church is around Novatian, it was not around Cornelius. And indeed, if it was around Cornelius, who succeeded Bishop Fabian by a legitimate ordination and whom the Lord glorified with martyrdom even beyond the honor of the priesthood, then Novatian is not in the Church, nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, since, in contempt of evangelic and apostolic tradition, he succeeded to no one but sprang up of himself. He that was not ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold the Church in any way."

Letter of Cyprian to Florentius Pupianus (254)

"...And the Lord too, in the Gospel, when the disciples abandoned Him while He was speaking, turned to the twelve and said, "And do you too wish to go away?" Peter answered Him, saying, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the word of eternal life: and we believe and know that you are the Son of the Living God (John 6:68-70).' There speaks Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, teaching in the name of the Church and showing that even if a stubborn and proud multitude withdraws because it does not wish to obey, yet the Church does not withdraw from Christ. The people joined to the priest and the flock clinging to their shepherd are the Church. You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop; and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priests of God, believing that they are secretly in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is One and Catholic, is not split nor divided, but is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere one to another."

Alexander of Alexandria (324AD), Encyclical Letter to Bishop Alexander and to All Non-Egyptian Bishops

"In additon to this pious belief in regard to the Father and the Son, we confess, as the divine writings teach us, one Holy Spirit, who moved both the holy men of the Old Testament and the divine teachers of that styled the New. And in one only Catholic Church, that which is Apostolic..."

I apologize for the length, but there are even more that I am omitting. These are also only Pre-Nicene Fathers. There are volumes of Post-Nicene Fathers' writings on Apostolic Succession. The Holy Catholic Church still believes this Tradition that has been handed down from the Apostolic Fathers as can be seen in the Catechism.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Wow! Great quotes. Thanks a lot for finding those.

JEROME said...

Greetings in St. Jerome!

The wonders of the Catholic Treasures of Faith and Wisdom is plentiful even in a godless and sinful world. Today, more than ever, all men must seek ever more deeply to understand that Jesus Christ is Lord and Truth. For if man sincerely seeks what has been handed to him from a principle foundation of hallowed reason and invincible faith, it will necessarily follow that he will find what he is seeking by following that same path of truth.

No wonder in an age of moral decay and even outright indifference for holy things, is there still a ray of hope in the Catholic Catholic. For Jesus Christ who is the True Light made the ultimate sacrifice to His Father to make His promise of perpetual saving graces available to mankind a matter of fact. St. Jerome, a great Doctor of the Catholic Church, made great steps in that path of truth and was chosen by God to help codify the inspired and approved texts of Sacred Scripture into a single book that became known as the Sacred Bible. This book became a source of spiritual growth, theological study, and legal practice in a world really no different from our own. Rightly, did St. Jerome bellow at the world of his own time that "Ignorance of the Scriptures is Ignorance of Christ" (Ignoratio enim Scripturarum ignoratio Christi est), because it is only through the quest of truth will someone attain the true love of truth which will crown them with the gift of wisdom.

The good news from St. Jerome's Cave is that there is good plenty of Rare and Hard to Find Traditional Catholic Books available for those on this quest for truth and who will love these books to show the Pastor their goodness of wheat. Here is sample of a few of the great works of Christ's Church available to obtain:

Pontificale Romanum

Missale Romanum

Epistolae et Evangelia Totius Anni.


Canon Missae ad usum Episcoporum

Mansi's Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio

Migne's Patrologiae Cursus Completus

Denzinger's Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum

Jerome's Biblia Vulgata Latina

Rare Pre-Vatican II Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony

Rare Video of Popes Saint Pius X , Pius XI, Pius XII

Rare Video of a traditional Latin Solemn High Mass much more!

Please visit St. Jerome's Cave and have a look at the great treasures that he and all true Catholic scholars brought together for the Greater Glory of God, the edification of the Christian People, and the salvation of souls:

In the Holy Lion,

A Catholic Caveman of St. Jerome

Patty said...

Warm greetings in the True Christmas Spirit!

I hope all is well, you seem very knowledgeable. I read through your blogs--very sharp indeed! Do you have a Doctorate in Divinity or Philosophy?

Anyhow, I was wondering if you could give some priceless advice. I am thinking of buying a some good old Catholic theology books for some family members and loved ones, and well, I recently received an advertisement for this very interesting book called "Communicatio in Sacris: The Roman Catholic Church against Intercommunion of non-Catholics" by Mr. William J. DeTucci.

I was wondering if you have seen any book review on this book? I could not find anything on the author. It seems the book talks about the Role of Vatican II in the Modern World and how some Traditionalists have resisted many of the Modernistic teachings of Ecumenism, Religious Liberty, and the New Mass, as opposed to the old Latin Tridentine Mass. However, I also recently read Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio (, which seems to be give the Liberty of "Open Communion" to so-called Traditional Catholic Groups who dissent from Vatican II, i.e. Marcel Lefebvre's SSPX, Mark Pivarunas' CMRI, Clarence Kelly's SSPV, Br. Michael Dimond's Most Holy Family Monastery, the various Saint Benedict Centers, Jason Spadafore's Raphael Society, Patrick Taylor's Society of the Virgin Mary, and so many other Independent Bishops at Large)--all who promote Intercommunion Latin Mass Ritual, of course! I think the Spirit of Vatican II is really being recognized now by many of the Traditionalists who once followed Bishop Lefebvre in resisting Vatican II Conciliar Reforms, since the Motu Proprio Latin Mass Ecumenism has promoted this and has been "well received" by many of these various Traditionalists Sects and also by many Liberal Bishops who offer both the Latin Mass and Ecumenical Modern Liturgies.

However, breaking the rule of judging a book by its cover, and only peaking its table of contents, it seems to me this book is an itchy reaction to this Neo-Ecumenism that both Greek and Latin Churches have been involved with. Not sure if you have read the book, or know of some theologian who has written a review? Here is the link to the contents that I browsed:

and also here:

I would most greatly appreciate any book review that you or a theologian has done. This books seems to have positive merit in as much it claims to be "a Compendium of Roman Catholic Doctrine on the subject of Intercommunion with non-Catholics. This book produces the overwhelming theological consensus for the Dogmatic Teaching condemning Intercommunion with non-Catholics, putting together a treasury of Sacred Scriptures, Church Fathers, Doctors, Saints, Theologians, and Popes who have written on the matter."

However, I just wanted to verify that before I make my last minute shopping for this Christmas & New Year Season.

May God bless you all!

Kind regards,


Tim A. Troutman said...

Patty - I'm flattered but no I don't have a doctorate in anything. I think if you keep reading my blog that will become clear!

At any rate, I have never read nor heard of that book so I can't speak of it one way or the other. It sounds to me like the book collects Catholic statements barring communion with non-Catholics. It may not be good as a general theology book.

My particular area of interest is Church history but I could recommend a book I recently finished - Pope Benedict's book "Jesus of Nazareth".

It's an easy read and packed with insightful commentary on the life of Christ. I would also strongly recommend anything by Peter Kreeft.

He's one of my all time favorites. Good luck and merry Christmas to you too.