Jesus is the center of Christian faith and the Bible is its holy book, its sacred scriptures. For hundreds of years, this meant that Jesus was divine and the Bible was a divine product. This remains the primary perspective for many Christians today. However, it has mutated appreciably for others. It is not that Jesus is no longer thought of as the center of Christian faith or the Bible as Christianity’s sacred scriptures. Those remain true for everyone. However, studies in biblical criticism and the historical Jesus suggest Jesus was a Palestinian Jew – a human being -- not different in that respect from you and me. Divinity was bestowed upon him by his followers, and eventually took the form of imperial divinity after the example of Caesar. This presents a conundrum for Christianity. What, for instance, is Christianity to do with a human being at its center? How has Christianity accommodated imperial rule? What do we do with those imperial titles by which he is known – Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and Son of God? Taking Caesar out of Jesus presents a new portrait of Jesus based on solid historical evidence assembled from the works of hundreds of critical biblical scholars. As the subtitle proclaims, Jesus emerges from this book as a new figure, relevant to the 21st century. Some will say this new perspective destroys Christianity. Others will find Jesus to be far more believable and compelling. Anyone will find this progressive approach to uncovering the historical Jesus thought-provoking. This book, however, goes beyond biblical criticism and a new portrait of the historical Jesus. It confronts the Christian proclamation that Jesus is humanity’s savior – including the notion that it needs a savior. It suggests that the historical Jesus never embraced the well-known notion of divine salvation. To the contrary, Jesus embraced Judaism’s wisdom tradition. In the wisdom tradition, a person deals with the exigencies of life by developing a new vision of reality, and by acting differently. Jesus did not provide an instruction manual for living; rather, he pointed us in the direction of self-management. As described in this book, this new way of living, taken from Jesus’s parables and aphorisms, will startle some, and stir others toward greater maturity and responsibility for their own lives.
Robert M. Wills, M. Div. MSW. An ordained Episcopal priest, he is a graduate of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had a bi-vocational career in the Episcopal Church and in the mental health field. He also served as an adjunct instructor in both the School of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is currently retired and living in Arizona. He remains active as a clergyperson and leads groups in the study of progressive Christianity. He is an associate member of the Westar Institute.