Garry Wills: Jesus a ‘mystery,’ not a role model

What follows is an excerpt from Sally Quinn’s interview with Garry Wills, author of the new book, “Why Priests? A … Continued

What follows is an excerpt from Sally Quinn’s interview with Garry Wills, author of the new book, “Why Priests? A Failed Tradition.” Read an earlier excerpt here.

Quinn: “You know, one of the things that fascinated me was when you talk about ‘what would Jesus do’? And then you say, how can it be true that human beings are supposed to pattern themselves after Jesus’ life? And he offers no paradigm for married people or parents since he was celibate and childless.

“Was he a family values model when he left his parents without telling them, and went off for days while they searched in anguish for him? Or when he refused to admit his mother when she asked to come into his company, and refused to attend his father’s funeral? I mean, I’ve always … I really have a problem with Jesus not being nice to his mother. (Laughter)

Wills: “Yeah, he’s not a role model. He’s a mystery. He’s something, as Justin said, he seems to be living in a higher weather system and he is. Unless he is of this tremendous mystery, he’s not really joining us as other than us, as God. He’s not the same as we are, and he’s not simply a role model.

“The funny thing is, some fundamentalists now have adopted what used to be the old humanistic reading of Jesus. ‘Oh, he was just a nice human, and we should imitate that.’ He wasn’t just a nice human. He was a very odd mystery of God and man. He’s not a role model in that sense, though people tried to make him that.”


Sally Quinn Sally Quinn is the founding editor of OnFaith.
  • Drmj

    The New Testament, the story of Jesus, was written, rewritten, translated and retranslated . Most of the Apostles could not read or write. Word of mouth was the only way the message of Jesus was given. It was at least 60 years before anything was written down. Paul did write many of the books after the Four Gospels. He patterned the Christian Church after the Rules and regulations of the Hebrews way of worship. He never met Christ. The books of the Bible were cherry picked by Constitine. So who is to say “what was Jesus like?”

    Your ideas will be based on bias,& political expediency. The message Christ gave, if you believe the Bible, was “Love God and one another”. That kind of takes care of it, I believe. Oh by the way most of the other great religions say much the same.

  • TN-Christian

    The real mystery is why critics of Jesus Christ never read and seek to understand the Bible before criticizing Jesus. Jesus never was married but He commented a lot on married life (cf. Mat.19:1-9). His example of sacrificial love and understanding is certainly an example for both the married and the unmarried.

    Regarding Jesus leaving His parents without telling them, did you ever ask “why?” Read Luke 2:49-51. He was not being a rebellious child. They knew from the beginning that they were raising a child with a mission (Mat.1:32-33; Luke 1:32-33).

    And where in the record did Jesus ever refuse to admit His mother when she asked to come into His company? Perhaps you refer to Matthew 12:46-50. Matthew never says that Jesus refused to admit His mother into the group.

    I don’t know where you got the idea that Jesus refused to attend His father’s funeral. Please supply your readers with that information.

    You also implied that Jesus was not nice to His mother. I refer you to John 19:25-27. Here Jesus is in agony on the cross for my sins and He makes mention of Mary. He makes sure she will be cared for after His death. Surely this is an example of a son’s love for his mother? If that isn’t love, what is it?

  • kpharri

    “Jesus never was married…”

    Do we actually know that?

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