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A Serious Way of Wondering: The Ethics of Jesus Imagined Hardcover – May 20, 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ever since A Palpable God was published 25 years ago, novelist Price has been reimagining biblical stories and bringing them to new life in our time. With graceful, lyrical prose and a masterfully probing imagination, Price turns his eye here to the ethics of Jesus. What captures Price's attention most are those ethical questions that modern society confronts daily but that Jesus never addresses. Thus, in three brilliant and moving apocryphal gospel stories, Price's Jesus engages in conversations about homosexuality, suicide and the plight of women in male-dominated societies. Since Jesus did not talk at all about either homosexuality or suicide during his life, Price imagines the resurrected Jesus discussing these issues with a disciple in whose life they may have figured largely-Judas. When the risen Jesus appears to Judas in a cave where Judas is hiding and contemplating suicide, Judas declares that he loved Jesus completely from the first day. Jesus replies that Judas's erotic love for him must be transformed into a love for everything equally. In the apocryphal story on suicide, Judas encounters the risen Jesus as Judas is trying to hang himself. Unable to tie the rope properly and hoist himself, Judas asks Jesus to help him, if he pardons Judas, and Jesus does so. Elegant and passionate, Price's provocative parables provide no simple answers to the saccharine question "What would Jesus do?" Rather, they compel us to imagine creatively our engagements with Jesus' teachings and the impact of those teachings on our lives.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Novelist and self-described "outlaw Christian" Price takes on the highly controversial topic of Jesus' ethics in a small but mighty volume. Taking a cue from the "What would Jesus do?" trend of the 1990s, he actively wonders what Jesus might have done if confronted with such issues as homosexuality, suicide, and the obstacles women face in a male-dominated culture. He points out that while we often perceive those as modern problems, there is nothing new under the sun. Jesus quite likely confronted them, but there is scant intelligence in the biblical record to confirm that he did. In the manner of an analytical biographer, Price painstakingly deconstructs what little Gospel documentation there is and places Jesus in three fictional scenarios. As if his task weren't complicated enough, he also differentiates between Jesus' ethics as a young man, as a mature spiritual leader, and finally as the risen Lord. The results of his work are certain to provoke debate. They are also well-written fictionalized speculations--lucid, intelligent, never self-serving. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 146 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (May 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743230086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743230087
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,714,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Reynolds Price was born in Macon, North Carolina in 1933. Educated at Duke University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Merton College, Oxford University, he has taught at Duke since 1958 and is now James B. Duke Professor of English.

His first short stories, and many later ones, are published in his Collected Stories. A Long and Happy Life was published in 1962 and won the William Faulkner Award for a best first novel. Kate Vaiden was published in 1986 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Good Priest's Son in 2005 was his fourteenth novel. Among his thirty-seven volumes are further collections of fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and translations. Price is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Imagining what God or Jesus might say or do in any given situation is not new. Serious speculation of such is. Our nation's roadways are littered with signs bearing cutesy quotes attributed to "--God." Televangelists continue to tell us what God told them in private. Pop Christianity's commercialized 'What Would Jesus Do' (WWJD) movement conjures a moralistic/legalistic Jesus obsessed with strict application of select aspects of Jewish law (a Jesus who bears little resemblance to the iconoclastic figure captured in the New Testament gospels). In all these forms, however, there is little imaginination and an abundance of agenda. The sponsors of the God billboards want you to go to church. The televangelists want you to send in more money. The WWJD crowd wants to sell a few more wrist bands and t-shirts (and perhaps help you abstain from pre-marital sex too while they're at it). None, however, are serious in their wondering. None are actually grappling with the often difficult application of Jesus' ethic of unconditional love. Reynolds Price shows us a serious way of wondering. His "speculations" are timely, thoughtful, and thoroughly substantiated (Price provides more background than speculation). And his Jesus is just as surprising as the one we witness in the gospel narratives. You might expect Reynolds Price to push his own sexual/political agenda here, but he doesn't. You might expect Reynold's Jesus to bend the old law to bring himself into it. He doesn't. Rather, Price gives us an encounter with a Jesus who explodes our conception of love and confounds our assumptions, our tendencies to judge, and our often desperate defenses of patriarchy and tribal prejudice. What can love mean? Indeed!
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Format: Hardcover
This book creates both questions and answers, movingly and beautifully written by one of the finest writers I know. All of Price's thoughtful imagination and intelligence come to bear on three dialogues that one can easily see might have taken place. A profound and exciting read.
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By A Customer on December 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite describing himself as an "outlaw" Christian, Price makes it clear from the outset that his views are of the conventional variety when he describes the Resurrection as "a firmly attested fact." (p. 28) Miracles are part of the fabric of his beliefs, there being no doubt in his mind that Jesus was the Son of God who had miraculous powers. Many other thinking Christians would consider that fact, whether true or not, irrelevant.
He then goes on to describe, in the WWJD [What Would Jesus Do] mold, how he thinks Jesus would have dealt with three sticky moral and ethical issues -- homosexuality (he would have been tolerant of it, if not a participant), suicide (he would allow it in appropriate circumstances), and the role of women in a male-dominated society (no real answer here). The stories in which he deals with these issues are well-written (Price is a professional writer who teaches English at Duke), but offer little insight into these issues, and little in the way of scriptural or historical support for his views.
The most useful thing in the book is an appendix entitled "Further Reading," but that doesn't justify the cost.
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Format: Paperback
Reynolds Price is not best known for his writing on religion, but most people familiar with his fiction will recognize the importance of Christianity within it – an importance that looms just as large as it does in O’Connor, McCullers, or Faulkner. This very short volume is just one more that Price has dedicated to a several-decades-long quest to understanding what he believes to be the historical Jesus, and his continuing legacy in the tradition to which Jesus gave his name.

Price tetchily but accurately points out that today it seems like everyone (at least most Christians) fervently know what Christ would have done in any number of ethical dilemmas which we were not recounted in the Gospels. As he repeatedly reminds the reader here, he finds himself stuck between the rank theological illiteracy of the “What Would Jesus Do?” tribe (replete with their conspicuous, ubiquitous bracelets, almost always worn by people much too young to even understand how serious these questions are) and, on the other hand, the archliteracy of the Jesus Seminar, with whom Price has major methodological quibbles. Price’s lack of presumption is appreciated. As a Christian, though an admittedly unorthodox one, he begins here: that Jesus Christ really lived, and really rose from the dead. According to some scholars, because of this he has already gone too far. But we must all begin with axiomatic assumptions and if that’s where a self-professed Christian wants to begin, I wouldn’t necessarily begrudge the point.

Unfortunately, what follows is the worst of milquetoast ethics from the dregs of bland, uninspiring, twentieth-century Christianity: Jesus never would have condemned homosexuality and the essence of Christianity is “God loved us; we must love one another.
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