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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›