Pulizter Prize-winning Catholic historian and author Gary Wills has penned a new book entitled What Jesus Meant. He proposes another look at who Jesus was, what he was like, and what he meant by the things he said and did. You can listen to the very interesting interview with Wills at KQED’s Forum broadcast. I liked a lot of what he said. Below are some exerpts from the interview, but go listen to the entire thing – it’s a little dry, but good.
On Jesus rebelling against convention:
"The settled, conventional life, the morays of the middle class, He said, are deceptive. It’s not the real way to the Father. If you really want to go to the Father you may have to defy all of the conventions of your time, as He did…."
On the Jesus Seminar:
"They decide ‘this is what He really said’ and they do it by saying that if it’s something that we think is outrageous, then he didn’t say it…and they end up with a figure who is not much more wise than Socrates or [other philosophers]."
On John the Baptists and the Essenes:
"Jesus must have had a desert experience like that of the Essenes. That’s why he was celibate…I presume that [being with the Essenes in the desert] is the only way he could have learned Hebrew….the ordinary Jew did not know Hebrew, and the poor, like his parents, were probably illiterate."
On fundamentalist interpretations of the bible:
"Fundamentalists believe the literal, every word of the bible…
Jesus obviously underwent some kind of ascetic, long experience, which is presented symbolically in the story of the three temptations in the desert. The gospels often give you an event which is a symbol of a whole development, a whole series of experiences. The agony in the garden is also like that…they show a long period of serving with John, and learning with and from him."
On Jesus identifying himself with the unclean and outcast, the homosexual
"’What you do to the least of these, you do to me.’ Who are one of the ‘least’ now? Often, they are gays. So what you do to them you are doing to Jesus."
On being a thorn to other Catholics
"The idea that [communion] is a sacrifice…Jesus attacked sacrifice…in Hebrews it said that Jesus offered the LAST sacrifice…the image of heaven used repeatedly in the scriptures is a banquet….He is saying that this is like the celebration at the end of time."