Xavier Magazine

Jack Miles

Bachelor of Literature degree, 1964; Bachelor’s in philosophy, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, 1966; Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible, Harvard University, 1971 | Jesuit seminarian, 1960-1970; Pulitzer Prize winner in 1996 for God: A Biography .

Prize Surprise In 1996, Miles became the only Xavier graduate to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize, winning for his book, God: A Biography. “I could not imagine winning in biography for a character whose existence is in question. So I was quite astounded to win.”

Page Two Miles followed his God biography with a critically acclaimed sequel,Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God.

Good Fellows Miles’ awards also include a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1990 and a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship in 2002.

Paths Taken Miles’ résumé includes work as an author, college professor, book editor and member of the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board. He’s now the senior advisor to the president of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles.

First Steps Miles’ first career steps led him toward the priesthood. He entered the Society of Jesus, turning down a full-ride college scholarship and, he thought, his dream of becoming a journalist.

Quick Study As a Jesuit-in-training at Xavier’s Milford Novitiate, Miles’ talent for foreign language led his superiors to request that he seek a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible at Harvard University. In preparation, he spent one year studying Hebrew at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Changing Heart He left the seminary in 1970 after realizing he was drawn to the priesthood not by faith, but by fraternity and intellectuality.

Coming Home He became reacquainted with the Bible in the late 1980s when he attended a performance of J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion” and was struck by the realization that the story reveals God’s decision to sacrifice himself. “What extreme pressure had been brought to bear upon God that he had undergone so unthinkable a transformation, losing what had for centuries seemed the very core of his identity? My answer to this question took years to formulate and entailed reconceiving the plot of the Bible in a new and somewhat disturbing way.”

Interviewing God As God’s biographer, Miles delves into the biblical metaphor of divine warfare by examining the character of God as a literary figure. “I do not write as an unbeliever. But I write with a deliberate and quite conscious detachment from belief. I write first for a readership that reads the Bible as a secular classic.”



For more on Jack Miles, visit his web site.

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