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Imaginary Jesus Paperback – March 18, 2010

217 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Apostle Peter punches Jesus in the face, then chases him out of a coffee shop. And that's just chapter 0. In this quirky tale the publisher describes as not-quite-true, former missionary and comic book store clerk Mikalatos disguises his critique of Christian life in an action-based quest to find the real Jesus. It's A Christmas Carol meets Oz, but instead of ghosts and tin men, it's a talking donkey, a motorcycle rider, and Mikalatos himself. The cast of characters drags the reader through the streets of Seattle and ancient Judea to introduce a host of fake Jesuses: Magic 8 Ball Jesus, Harley Jesus, even Liberal Social Services Jesus. They're constructs of the human mind. People invent a Jesus for one specific reason and then discard him when they don't need him anymore, says one of the Jesuses (the one with an expensive suit). Peter teaches Mikalatos that he must quiet falsehoods and mold a deeper relationship with the living, historical Jesus. Mixing questions of suffering and free will with a nexus of weirdness, Mikalatos throws Christian fiction into the world of Comic-Con and Star Wars. His silly quest is startling, contemporary, meaningful, and occasionally exhausting when the reader is puzzled. It begs for a comic book counterpart. (Apr.)
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Take the theological forcefulness of Bonhoeffer, combine it with the imaginative whimsy of C. S. Lewis and the wit of Charles Spurgeon, and you get Matt Mikalatos. Imaginary Jesus marks the debut of one of today’s most prominent young Christian writers. (Gary Thomas, Author of Sacred Marriage and Pure Pleasure)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: BarnaBooks (March 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1414335636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414335636
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matt Mikalatos works for a non-profit dedicated to helping people live better, fuller lives. He has done non-profit work all over the world, and he and his family lived in Asia for several years. He currently lives in the Portland, Oregon area with his wife and three daughters.

You can follow him on Twitter ( or check out his podcast ( or his online magazine (

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Chad Estes on June 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
Imagine having lunch with Jesus at your favorite downtown restaurant. You are discussing Bible passages and the fact that the waiter forgot to bring the side dish to your meal. Jesus tells you he thought that might happen, which annoys you, but you can't really say anything to him about it since you often feel he is unhappy with you. The scene is interrupted by a new guest to the restaurant, one that you've never seen before. Jesus rolls his eyes at the entrance of the newcomer and hurries outside to go plug the parking meter. The new guy comes over and introduces himself as Pete. After getting a glass of water he begins to quiz you about Jesus. You are surprised that he can see him too. Then when Jesus returned to the table you are horrified when Pete and Jesus start bickering. Pete literally punches Jesus in the face who in turn makes a mad dash for the door, picking up his robes and heading for the hills. You knock Pete over with a chair, demanding an explanation for his behavior.

"That was an imaginary Jesus, my friend... and now that we are on to him he is going to run."

You cross your arms and frown. "I've known Jesus for a long time, what makes you think that you know him better than I do?"

"Because," Pete says, heading for the door, "I'm the Apostle Peter."

So opens Matt Mikalatos fascinatingly funny and creative story of purging his life of this Imaginary Jesus and the many other fake Jesus characters he finds in his life. Some aren't that easy to get rid of and others look deceptively like the real thing. In his chapters you will meet Political Jesus, Peacenik Jesus, Testosterone Jesus, 8-ball Jesus, and many others.
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94 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Wooldridge on February 6, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having read the editorial review but not the customer reviews, when I started reading this ebook I did not realize it was an evangelical Christian book. I thought it was a parody of Christianity. I am an ex-Christian and don't usually read religious fiction, but I decided to keep reading this anyway because it was so incredibly funny. Therefore I am writing this review primarily for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and the unchurched.

The first thing you will notice about this book is that it is REALLY REALLY FUNNY. Throughout the first half of the book I could not stop laughing. But there is also a touching story with real human emotion and much theological consideration and internal debate. The basic premise is that the protagonist Matt (a fictionalized version of the author) meets the apostle Peter who tells him that the Jesus he has been hanging out with in coffee shops is not the real Jesus. Imaginary Jesus starts running, and Matt chases him to confront him in order to find the real Jesus. With the help of the apostle Peter, a talking donkey, an ex-prostitute, a couple of Mormon missionaries, and the leader of an atheist Bible study, Matt travels through time and all around the Pacific Northwest chasing all of his imaginary Jesuses. [SPOILER ALERT] Matt must confront a very painful part of his past in order to ditch these fake Messiahs. Gradually Matt gets rid of the fakers (which are all products of his imagination) and finally has a vision of the real Jesus in the center of a labyrinth where Matt learns to deal with his pain. [/SPOILER]

As an ex-Christian and current spiritually-minded atheist, I can really relate to Matt at a lot of levels. This is an honest tale of one man's internal spiritual struggle trying to find the truth, and I can respect that.
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Jason Williams on October 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
OK, let me start by saying that this is an absolutely brilliant book that you needed to read yesterday! As a longtime follower of Christ and pastor, I have seen up close and personal the fallout from people following their own versions of "imaginary Jesus." This book is witty, sophisticated, and laugh out loud funny. Being a pastor, I don't have a lot of time for fiction reading, but I have had a hard time putting this one down.

As for any negative reviews on this book, the only reason I can figure for those is that 1) they haven't actually read it-kind of like when people say the Bible is myth, but haven't read past Genesis 3, or 2)they have just had their imaginary Jesus exposed (probably the KJV one)and are suffering from shock.

Read it. Recommend it. And don't forget to follow the REAL Jesus, not the one that fits in your back pocket.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Starr Thomson on September 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
The story begins at the Red and Black, a Communist coffee shop in Portland, Oregon, where Matt (our hero) and someone he thinks is Jesus are just hanging out. Enter the Apostle Peter, a.k.a. "Pete," who recognizes Matt's Jesus as an imposter and quickly instigates a fistfight. Imaginary Jesus takes off running, Pete and Matt take off after him, and thus begins a story that's funny, unpredictable, and would be irreverent if it didn't actually have so much respect for the real Jesus, as He was in history and as He is in Matt's life -- and in ours.

As Matt, Pete, and Daisy the Talking Donkey chase Imaginary Jesus across Portland in an effort to unmask him and help Matt get back to the real Jesus -- the one he actually loves, and who really loves him -- they run into a host of other Imaginary Jesuses, figments of imagination and theological constructs that sometimes come close to being like Jesus but aren't Him. They include such memorable figures as Magic 8-Ball Jesus (good for quick guidance, but rather predictable), Testosterone Jesus (who mostly goes to men's mountain retreats and watches Braveheart for inspiration), and Portland Jesus (who likes art, social justice, jeans, and house churches).

Matt's journey also takes him back to the first century, to locales all over Portland, into encounters with a pair of Mormon missionaries, a former prostitute, and the Atheists Bible Study, and finally into contact with an event in his life that hurt him deeply and led to the creation of his Imaginary Jesus in the first place. It's witty, but also surprisingly moving and insightful at times -- the honest, if quirky, journey of a man struggling to reclaim an authentic faith and reestablish relationship with a real Lord.
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