Jesus the Radical

Garry Wills, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for writings on American history (Lincoln at Gettysburg), on St. Augustine, and on the papacy (Papal Sin), now turns his attention to Jesus. Unlike many recent popular treatments of Jesus, this book makes no claim to offer a reconstruction of the real “Jesus of history” behind the gospels. Instead, Wills offers what he calls a “devotional” portrayal of the figure of Jesus as he appears within the canonical texts: The only Jesus we have, Wills insists, is “the Jesus of faith.”

Wills contends that by reading the gospels we can learn “what Jesus meant”—an ambiguous phrase that seems to mean not only “what Jesus intended to say (as opposed to how his message has been domesticated by the church)” but also “what was the true significance of his life and teaching.” Wills unambiguously confesses a “high” orthodox Christology: Jesus “intended to reveal the Father to us, and to show that he is the only-begotten Son of that Father.” He was truly raised from the dead, and the gospels tell us the truth about him. Precisely because Jesus is a mysterious, divine figure, however, he is also an iconoclast who escapes ordinary human religious and political categories: “He did not found a church or advocate a politics.”

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2006
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