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The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ Paperback – April 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This gospel retelling is relatively faithful in style, time line, and events to the four canonical gospels-though Pullman injects a very Pullman-like spin on it by splitting Jesus Christ into two men, among other creative twists. Twin babies are born of the virgin Mary, one called Jesus, the other Christ. After a childhood in which Christ is a goody-goody and Jesus the popular one, Jesus and Christ continue down separate but intertwined paths, with Christ sneaking around, spying on Jesus's ministry and writing down his every word and deed. Jesus becomes a philosopher-revolutionary and Christ is the politically savvy brother, who ultimately proves naïve. Pullman's gospel version reveals how the politics and structure of the institutional church were plotted by power-hungry men, who used the renown of Jesus and his well-meaning, devoted brother Christ as pawns in their corrupt game-a critique that will be familiar to readers of His Dark Materials. This is a tale of (almost comedic) mistaken identity and good intentions gone horribly awry. Readers will find the parables, the Good Samaritan, healings, and the Sermon on the Mount, among other familiar scenes.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Pullman is a supreme storyteller who knows better than anyone that a myth needs no justification."

"A fierce and beautiful book which, like the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, will move even those who disagree with it."
--Richard Holloway, The Guardian

"A compassionate meditation on the nature of faith."
--CBC News

"Approaches his biblical source material with respect. . . . He shines when he twists the stories, combining, changing and corrupting."
--Winnipeg Free Press

"It made me think of the story of Christ as just that: a great story."
--The Globe and Mail

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate U.S.; Reprint edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802145396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802145390
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

225 of 259 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on April 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The story of Jesus has been proclaimed by Christians as "The Greatest Story Ever Told". Pullman in his story "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" makes the point that we can never know what happened especially when we were not present when a story was made. The story of Jesus Christ is a story. It was not sufficiently documented to be history, but even if it were to be taken as history for the sake of argument, Pullman's point was that history as told is not necessarily truth. Truth, he thinks, can be injected into history in any way the story teller wants it. When it travels far enough and is retold often enough, and is, above all, a good story, people will believe it.

Christians may likely find this book heretical and blasphemous. If the very idea that Mary, the mother of Jesus gave birth to twins, naming one "Jesus" and the other "Christ", may be sufficient justification for a charge of heresy, then to say that it was Christ who betrayed Jesus to the Roman governor must surely carry the aggravated charge of blasphemy.

However, this book is much more complex and complicated than that. Pullman did not write this book because he was an atheist with the intention of annoying Christians by disparaging Jesus Christ, God, and the Biblical account. He recaptured many of the teachings of Jesus - all taken from the Bible - and cast them in a context that made those teachings far more meaningful than they do coming straight from the Bible. His citation of the Lord's Prayer in the context that he had created would have moved many a Christian. It has many a teaching attributed to Jesus Christ that any man, Christian or atheist, will like to embrace.
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65 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Saganite VINE VOICE on April 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an amazing book. One chapter in particular is positively mind-blowing--the chapter with Jesus "praying" in the garden on the night before his crucifixion. I can't say more without spoiling key elements within the story the uncovering of which are among the book's chief pleasures.

That the overall impression one takes away from "Good Man" is so overwhelmingly positive is all the more remarkable because the book is, in so many surprising ways, profoundly flawed. Pullman says that "Good Man" is in part an exploration of story itself, and yet the narrative structure of "Good Man"--ingenious though its central conceit is--seems confused. A book that starts off with a character apparently able to perform "authentic" miracles (turning clay birds into live birds, for example) and then moves to a naturalistic explanation of Jesus' miracles would be, in less skilled hands, something of a disaster. Yet, for its brilliant ideas, winsome prose, and compassionate wisdom, "Good Man" overcomes chapter-by-chapter the yawning failures of the whole. The parts are greater than the sum of the parts.

Is the story offensive to believers? I suppose so. It seems rather tragic that such an honest and heartfelt--and uplifting--exploration of the Jesus story should offend Christians, but I reckon that inevitable. It's hard not to think that Christians offended by a work of such sheer grit and earthy beauty have their offendedness coming to them, though.

With the criticisms I offered in mind--and a further note that the earlier chapters are not as compelling as the later chapters, so don't give up too soon--I recommend "Good Man" as highly as it is possible to recommend a work of fiction. And remember, this IS a work of fiction, and makes no pretense to be anything but.
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96 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Jack H. Kramer on April 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you look at the back cover of this book you'll find only four words: "This is a STORY." And at the most basic level, it is. It is a fictional story about Jesus and his brother Christ. But beyond that, and significantly more important, it is a story about stories, truth, humanity, religion, and how they all tie together.

If you are used to the writing style of His Dark Materials, you may be surprised to find that Philip Pullman has chosen to take up a completely different style of narration. This book takes a much simpler approach-- it almost sounds like it is written so that an adult could read the story out loud to a child. While it is a bit off putting at first, particularly for those who love the style of His Dark Materials, it functions perfectly for the book's purpose.

As the plot progresses Pullman beckons the reader to question whether or not truth and historical accuracy are one in the same; if an historical event is edited so that the truth is better portrayed, does that in some sense make the events that occurred more true, or more meaningful?

The beauty of the book is that Pullman makes us question this on two levels--through the story the characters write and the story he himself writes. Pullman obviously doesn't see his story as historical fact (as I'm sure certain reviews that pop up will miss), but by blending the New Testament, what historians can guess, and some fiction of his own, we are left with a unique work that in many ways is more interesting and fascinating than the sources he draws from.

As one might expect, the book, particularly by the end, is very critical of the concept of the Judeo-Christian God, as well as Christianity as it is often practiced today.
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