Religion, Reviews.

Jesus, simply

Book Pocket Review, Title What Jesus Meant, Author Garry Wills, Rating 4.0, Jesus, simply

Garry Wills, who is a believing Catholic, attempts to extricate the Jesus of the New Testament from the 1,700 year edifice of organized Christianity by doing his own translation of the koiné, or marketplace Greek ,in which the New Testament was originally written.

Wills, a Greek scholar, points out that koiné Greek, a legacy of Alexander the Great, was the dominant trade language in the Mediterranean basin during Jesus’s era, much like Swahili was in colonial Africa: a simplified or pidgin language used for buying and selling across language groups, and much cruder than has been rendered in early and modern New Testament translations, where Christian tradition has been to clean up the poor grammar, and to add nuance and meaning that cannot be found in the text.

Wills brings out the radical and difficult standards Jesus desired of humans: To love one another; to give up your worldly possessions and follow him; to render what is Caesar’s unto Caesar, to turn the other cheek; that the meek shall inherit the earth; and so on. He argues that the organized Christian church in its bewilderingly many manifestations is difficult to find in the words and actions of Jesus.

The author describes a Jesus whom he feels is obscured by the usual homilies of a Sunday sermon, or the rule-based rigidities conjured up by the comfortable to make themselves more comfortable, often at the expense of those Jesus honored and whom were his companions: The poor, the down-and-out, the criminals, the outcasts: the unclean.

Excellent and though-provoking reading.

A gift from my Ben and Jenn.

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