- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2004

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

What would you ask if given the chance to interview Jesus? In 1986, Bantam Books published “Jesus: An Interview Across Time” by Dr. Andrew Hodges, one man’s imagination, together with copious amounts of Scripture, of what Christ would say.

A psychiatrist practicing in Birmingham, Ala., Dr. Hodges delved into Jesus’ personality in a book that has sold nearly 100,000 copies and was recently reissued by Kregel Publications. Dr. Hodges was interviewed last week by religion reporter Julia Duin.

Question: What was Jesus’ personality like?

Answer: He was the most fascinating personality in history. I study personalities and human development and I was amazed at how he handled the Apostle Peter, the opposition, even the kids. Imagine being someone who would walk out to his disciples on the water.

It took boldness to say, “I am the light of the world” or “There is one in your midst greater than Solomon.” He was unpredictable; he was certainly brilliant because he was always turning the tables on the Pharisees. He was a master teacher, very tough. He’d tell the Pharisees they were not only fools, they had destroyed the prophets. He was heroic and at the same time loving to children. There was an integrity there. He was very streetwise. He never defended himself. He was complex. He didn’t back down.

Pilate saw something in Jesus. Pilate sensed authority, because Jesus was the most confident man in history. He was guaranteeing salvation to everyone before he carried out this most difficult deed.

Q: So you wanted to write a book connecting the dots: How Jesus knew who he was and when he knew it?

A: Jesus knew who he was by the age of 12. There were different levels of discovery. First he had to learn he was the Messiah. Then he had to learn what the Messiah would do. That is what he was working out [during that visit as a child] at the temple. He was learning he’d be a suffering messiah. Then he got the revelation of what the sacrifice was about. He realized he was God; that God was his biological father.

Q: Isn’t one of your theses that the Bible, like “The Da Vinci Code,” contained encoded messages for Jesus, enabling him to figure out his identity?

A: The Gospels communicated specifically to Jesus who he was. It said where the Messiah would be born, what tribe he’d be from, the fact he lived in Egypt — you eliminate 90 percent of the Israelites who did not fit that criteria.

My training enabled me to see encoded messages he would have seen. Much of the Bible contains code that points to Jesus. The Trinity left its signature all over nature. The number 3 is all over the Bible. He died at 33, Peter denied him three times, he has three close disciples, he dies on the third Passover in his public ministry, etc.

I think Jesus was led to his 40-day fast through the Scriptures because Elijah and Moses also fasted for 40 days.

He also knew something important would start when he was 30. King David became a king at the age of 30; Ezekiel was 30 when he started his ministry. Remember, Jesus was the brightest human being in history. He was an Einstein, an Augustine, an Aquinas. So it wasn’t hard for him to figure things out. Jesus didn’t know for sure if his ministry would start at 30 — he had to finish raising his brothers and sisters, as Joseph had died — but he had clearly figured it out. But he still had to act on faith. The modern liberal theologians are in denial of the scriptural record that Jesus knew his mission fully and understood it long before he was 30.

Q: Although the new Mel Gibson movie “The Passion” shows the Crucifixion, your book goes further in saying what Jesus may have thought.

A: What I wrote puts you right in the center of what Christ would have felt, how he would have battled it. He had the power to come down from the cross. Remember, he said he had 12 legions of angels who could rescue him. He barely made it through the scourging, which was brutal. And his face was almost unrecognizable on the cross; it had been beaten so badly. Mel Gibson gets a little into that.

Because Jesus claimed he was God, I think the soldiers doubly worked him over. Plus, he’s been up all night with nothing to eat or drink. Then the soldiers played that circle of eight game where they beat his face while blindfolded. That was an actual game soldiers played back then. If you haven’t bled to death by that point, then you have to carry a cross. Then he falls down, gets a mouthful of dirt, and still has to make it through three hours on that cross.

Once there, he was in such pain — because you have to push yourself up from the nails just to get a breath of air — and then you are being taunted by people on the ground.

While up there, Jesus sees all these prophecies unfolding: They are going to gamble for my robe, they are going to offer me wine; there was that dynamic to the Crucifixion. Even when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — even when he said those words, he realized that, too, had been prophesied in the 22nd Psalm. Then he recovered and realized where he was. When he asked for something to drink, it was like he was toasting his father. Then to illustrate he had picked the moment of his death, he said, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” — and he was gone.

I think God gave me that insight; that this is what it was like from Christ’s perspective.

Q: So how does this apply today?

A: Jesus teaches us that he went to the Old Testament and discovered his identity; we can discover ours from the Old and New Testaments. All the people in the Bible had hard lives, but their stories speak to us on a deep level. Our psyche responds to these stories deep down in ways we’re just appreciating in psychiatry. The Bible, if properly read, is as contemporary as anything.

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