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What Jesus Meant


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About the Author

Garry Wills is a historian and the author of the New York Times bestsellers What Jesus Meant, Papal Sin, Why I Am a Catholic, and Why Priests?, among others. A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and other publications, Wills is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a professor emeritus at Northwestern University. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.


Wills, one of America's most prolific scholars and a Pulitzer Prize winner, has graced us with what at first appears to be just another book about Jesus, but it is more than that. Though the author's collective writings are numerous and varied, he has always returned to church history (especially Catholic history, e.g., Papal Sin) with particular affection. This book can be seen in the larger framework of Wills's intellectual history, which has often dealt with the power structures of the church. Here he tries to understand Jesus as someone who, without the strictures of religion and politics, managed to transcend the powers and faults of the human condition and explicates the individual Jesus Christ through the Gospels. Addressing the meaning of Jesus' teachings in the first century C.E., the book serves as a tool to combat the politicization of Jesus in the modern world, but this is sure to be a contentious point for some readers. A fresh look at an old topic, this is recommended for public, church, and theological libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/05.]-Anthony J. Elia, American Theological Lib. Assn., Chicago Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.


Praise for What Jesus Meant "Fascinating . . . Like a long, rich conversation with a learned friend . . . that engages the heart and mind, to the ultimate benefit of both."
--Jon Meacham, The New York Times Book Review "A spiritual workout."
--Newsweek "Faithful to the heart of tradition, yet entirely original, Garry Wills's meditation cuts through cant, piety and political exploitation to bring Jesus alive in all his urgent significance."
--James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword "With characteristic clarity, Garry Wills gets to the heart of the Gospel, and through a critical reading of what Jesus says in the gospels, surprises and provokes all of us who claim to know what Jesus meant. It is plainer than we might like, and thus harder both to take and to avoid."
--Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Morals at Harvard University "Intellectually stimulating . . . The author offers a fresh and somewhat startling reading of the New Testament. He challenges readers to explore the true meaning of the 'reign of heaven' that Jesus promised not only for the future but actually brought with him into this life here on earth."
--Catholic Explorer "Prophetic . . . Compact, coherent, and clearly written . . . Engaging and provocative reading."
--Chicago Tribune "Addressing the meaning of Jesus' teachings in the first century C.E., the book serves as a tool to combat the politicization of Jesus in the modern world . . . A fresh look at an old topic . . . Recommended."
--Library Journal "Wills has brought religion back into the public arena with books that combine historical acumen and insight into the practice of faith."
--The New York Sun "A fascinating example of a clearheaded close reading, and a blistering indictment of contemporary religion and the political abuses of Jesus . . . The clarity of What Jesus Meant--with its humor, anger, and sadness--make it a necessary read for believers and nonbelievers alike."
--Albany Times Union "Provocative."
--Esquire "[A] stimulating, fresh look into the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth."
--Publishers Weekly "Garry Wills brings his signature brand of erudite, unorthodox thinking to his latest book of revelations. . . . A tour de force and a profound show of faith."
--O, the Oprah Magazine

Christianity has been twisted and warped to such an extent that not even Jesus would recognize it now. This is Wills's thesis in his stimulating, fresh look into the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth. The now-ubiquitous phrase, "What Would Jesus Do?" encouraged Wills, professor of history at Northwestern University and prolific writer on contemporary religion, to take a closer look at how the Christian message has been used and abused in recent times. Wills believes that most Christians don't understand Jesus' startlingly radical message, so they should not claim to have knowledge of how he would act today. People of all political persuasions have used Jesus' words to rationalize a domesticated, flaccid Christianity that upholds the status quo, or, worse yet, supports discrimination toward those who are on the margins. This attitude, according to Wills, completely misses the truth that Jesus "walks through social barriers and taboos as if they were cobwebs." Readers who are familiar with Wills's writing know that he is not shy about critiquing organized religion, and they will not be disappointed. Although his arguments lean toward hyperbole at times, at its core this book invites Christians toward more honest reflection on the life and message of the one they call "Savior." (Mar. 6) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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