David Collis, driven by curiosity and creativity, is romanced by exploration and invention as he builds, creates art or travels. His life is a living odyssey and vision quest combined. Collis traveled the world, made pilgrimages to sacred sites, temples and Cathedrals and learned about other religions. As he says, “I spent decades wading through unknown spiritual territory, years unwittingly digging into Christianity and Gnosticism and, in one fell swoop, every one of my endeavors came together in Interviewing Jesus.”
A native of Southern California, Collis, as a young man, dove wholeheartedly into the world of art, religion, philosophy and history. The writing of Thomas Merton, the Christian mystics, Joseph Campbell, J. Krishnamurti, Paramahansa Yogananda and Rumi inspired and guided him like a compass “through the maze of the world’s religions and mystic traditions.”
“I felt compelled to write because I was seeing something that only words could express.” Collis shared. “In the past, I created with my hands. But writing offered something new. I was drawn into the life of Jesus, particularly the time before he embarked on his ministry. I was intrigued by this period and wanted to uncover the mysteries contained within it and then write about it.”
Prior to Interviewing Jesus, Collis investigated the Gospel of Thomas which is unlike any other New Testament gospel. It is only a collection of Jesus’ sayings; one-third are included in the New Testament but the others are not. The sayings are notoriously difficult to comprehend but Collis found, after years of research, their meaning. This in turn led him to re-examine the life and times of Jesus more closely and armed with new discoveries and insights, Collis presented a four-part lecture series to the Unity Church.
“In the Gospel of Thomas series, I gave a short history of the gospel; I explored the various themes of the sayings and I examined their meaning and intention. I also delved into the personality of Jesus and briefly investigated the Thomas community. It was important to know why Jesus would say these things and to appreciate what he knew. Conversely, it was just as important to know why the community would listen to him and what they wanted to know. As it turned out, the questions I raised and the answers I provided held the seeds for my book. The underlying thread throughout Interviewing Jesus was my desire to understand and reconcile the knowledge and content in the various gospels. Jesus is at the heart of both traditions yet I could not help but wonder why each was so vastly different.”
The same psychological profile of Jesus and the detailed exploration of his sayings became the basis for Interviewing Jesus; the primary difference was the nature of the approach – the book is a ‘thought experiment.’ Albert Einstein imagined a person riding a beam of light. He wondered what the rider would see and then he wondered what an observer watching the rider would see. From this experiment he developed E=MC2. A similar premise motivated Interviewing Jesus. What if all the theology about Jesus was removed? Would we really know anything about him? Can he be known outside of theology? If so, what can be known? “The purpose of the ‘thought experiment’ was to reveal another side of the man. I asked a series of questions but did not look to Christian theology for answers. I forced myself to discover Jesus’ motives, intentions and inspirations outside of that perspective.”
Collis approached this ‘thought experiment’ through an imaginary sit down conversation with Jesus. He asked Jesus questions about his missing years, family, religion, social conditions and Roman occupation. Collis wanted to know how Jesus composed his sayings and where his material came from. He wanted to know how Jesus opened his heart for humanity, how he came to know the Father and what occurred to him that turned him into a teacher and leader.
“Like all of us, Jesus lived a life,” Collis noted. “His sayings and ministry reveals pieces of his past. If there is anything I learned from my research it is this: Jesus was an intelligent and observant man who had the poetical and rhetorical skill to translate his experiences and knowledge into wisdom sayings. He was keenly aware of his surroundings; he knew man’s propensity toward hate, violence and judgment, he was intimately familiar with the transformational power of the divine which he called the Father.”
With every twist and turn in the interview, Jesus’ humanity, challenges and triumphs sparkles and glistens with life. The last story of the book depicts Jesus’ impassioned and heartbreaking crucifixion. The account is explored in such detail that one feels what Jesus felt, sees what Jesus saw and hears to what Jesus heard. The intimacy of this account repeats itself throughout the book. Collis has the knack for detailing Jesus’ thoughts, feelings and experiences from his early years, to his ministry and straight through to his crucifixion. It is as if the reader is traveling with Jesus two thousand years ago, sharing his life and listening to his voice.
Interviewing Jesus is more than a biography filled with details and anecdotes. It is a lyrical meditation on Jesus’ life and wisdom and an exploration about one man’s journey of transformation that can apply to all of us.
When asked to sum up Interviewing Jesus, Collis instead responded with several rhetorical questions. “Do we really know the man? Who was he? What did he do? And why did he do it? I wanted to find out and I wanted the reader to find out with me.”
To learn more about Interviewing Jesus, visit http://www.davidcollis.com/