What Jesus Meant   -     By: Garry Wills
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What Jesus Meant

Penguin Putnam Inc. / 2007 / Paperback

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Product Description

As the religious rhetoric of the culture wars escalates, New York Times bestselling author and eminent scholar Garry Wills steps away from the fracas to explore the meaning of Jesus' teachings. In these public debates, people on the political right and the political left cite Jesus as endorsing their views. Garry Wills argues that Jesus subscribed to no political program. He was far more radical than that. In a fresh reading of the gospels, Wills explores the meaning of the "reign of heaven" Jesus not only promised for the future but brought with him into this life. It is only by dodges and evasions, Wills reminds us, that people blunt what Jesus plainly had to say against power, the wealthy, and religion itself. Jesus came from the lower class, the working class, and he spoke to and for that class. This is a book that will challenge the assumptions of almost everyone who brings religion into politics---"Christian socialists" as well as biblical theocrats.

But Wills is just as critical of those who would make Jesus a mere ethical teacher, ignoring or playing down his divinity. Jesus without the Resurrection is simply not the Jesus of the gospels. Wills calls his book a profession of faith in the risen Lord, the Son of the Father, who leads us to the Father. He argues that this does not make people embrace an otherworldliness that ignores the poor or the problems of our time.

What Jesus Meant will no doubt spark debate about our understanding of Jesus and the Scriptures. With this offering, Wills has contributed greatly to our discussion of religion's role in our society.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 176
Vendor: Penguin Putnam Inc.
Publication Date: 2007
Dimensions: 8 X 5.5 (inches)
ISBN: 014303880X
ISBN-13: 9780143038801
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

“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)
 
In what are billed “culture wars,” people on the political right and the political left cite Jesus as endorsing their views. But in this New York Times-bestselling masterpiece, Garry Wills argues that Jesus subscribed to no political program. He was far more radical than that. In a fresh reading of the gospels, Wills explores the meaning of the “reign of heaven” Jesus not only promised for the future but brought with him into this life. It is only by dodges and evasions that people misrepresent what Jesus plainly had to say against power, the wealthy, and religion itself. But Wills is just as critical of those who would make Jesus a mere ethical teacher, ignoring or playing down his divinity. An illuminating analysis for believers and nonbelievers alike, What Jesus Meant is a brilliant addition to our national conversation on religion.

Author Bio

Garry Wills is one of the most respected writers on religion today. He is the author of Saint Augustine’s Childhood, Saint Augustine’s Memory, and Saint Augustine’s Sin, the first three volumes in this series, as well as the Penguin Lives biography Saint Augustine. His other books include "Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power, Why I Am a Catholic, Papal Sin, and Lincoln at Gettysburg, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

Editorial Reviews

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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

Engaging and provocative. (Chicago Tribune)
Fascinating . . . like a long, rich conversation with a learned friend . . . [Wills’s] is a kind of devotion . . . that engages the heart and mind, to the benefit of both. (Jon Meacham, The New York Times Book Review)
Provocative. (Esquire)
[A] stimulating, fresh look into the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth. (Publishers Weekly)
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)
One of our foremost public intellectuals (Chicago Tribune)

Product Reviews

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  1. Philip Tutt
    Sacramento, CA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Read Thoughtfully
    April 20, 2012
    Philip Tutt
    Sacramento, CA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    This work is what I would call a good devotional gloss on the gospels. It is not a scholarly exegesis (it does not pretend to be), nor does it cover any of its subjects in sufficient detail. Those who are accustomed to studying from the KJV will also find the NEB language disconcerting. I probably have more points of disagreement than agreement with the author. That said, I highly recommend a careful reading, if only for one reason: the book is an effective remedy against loss of meaning which over-familiarity with gospel texts can engender, even among serious students of the Bible. As a bonus, the author includes an anonymously-penned, outrageously funny riff on biblical literalism (ps. 33-35 of the 2006 hardbound edition), which itself, alone, is worth the price of the book.
  2. Brad
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    March 4, 2008
    Brad
    A very good read. This book really gets to the heart of Jesus' message in an extremely effective manner.
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