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The Gospel According to the Son: A Novel Paperback – September 7, 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (September 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345434080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345434081
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

In the two millennia since Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote their separate biographies of Jesus, only a handful of other authors have attempted renditions--Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, and D. H. Lawrence have tried their hands at it; scholars E. P. Sanders and Raymond Brown have produced academic treatises on the historical Jesus. Perhaps the best-known fictional account of the life of Jesus is Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ, which explores the Son of Man's all-too-human side. Norman Mailer joins these ranks with The Gospel According to the Son.

Not content to chronicle Jesus' life in the form of an apocryphal gospel, Mailer has the chutzpah to crawl inside his title character's head and tell the story from the first-person point of view. Here we get the Prince of Peace's personal account of his temptation by Satan, his three-year ministry, and his agony on the cross. Mailer presents an entirely new kind of passion play, one that remains faithful to the shape of Jesus' life as outlined in the gospels, while daring to imagine the inner life of this most elusive historical figure. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This novel is exactly what it sounds like: the gospel story retold from Christ's point of view. Although Mailer treats his New Testament sources with respect, Jesus turns out to be just the sort of character one would expect to find in a Norman Mailer novel. He is embarrassed by his Jewish mother and complains that God the Father barely speaks to him. He questions his success in healing the sick and struggles with his growing celebrity. Worse, he waffles on crucial issues like voluntary poverty, alienating Judas and other hardcore revolutionaries. Of particular interest is the central role Mailer assigns to Satan. Jesus believes that God and Satan are equally matched and that neither one will ever get the upper hand. In short, Mailer has concocted a profoundly heretical "gnostic" gospel. The problem is that few readers will have much interest in Mailer's theology, and, taken simply as a novel, the book leaves much to be desired. Recommended mainly for comprehensive collections of Mailer's work.
-?Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch., Los Angeles
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The Jesus here is a boring, flat character.
A. Wakefield
I might again one day pick up this book and read it--or, better, let it read me.
Mailer makes the parallel between Pharisees in Jesus's day and modern Christians.
R. McOuat

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on August 21, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hmm. Norman Mailer has imagined himself into a fundamentalist Jew in Roman-controlled Palestine, a small-town carpenter who believes himself to be the son of God. Right away, we must believe him, as the point of view is established as first-person omniscient. Not everyone is going to enjoy a story that puts words in Christ's mouth and thoughts in His head, and that takes issue with the Gospels.
But everyone is curious about Jesus; he was, after all, a great man. Mailer seems to have read much that allows him to invest his story with details of life and culture that bring it down to earth, as it were. In spite of that, the whole tone is "spiritual": his Jesus seems to be rather a stiff. He is painfully serious, with his eyes on the Lord Above at all times. Remember, though, that he was raised in the Essenes, a very strict group of ascetic fundamentalists. Still, Mailer carries you right along, as his chapters are short and his prose rhythmic and simple. Yet you get no sense of release out of this book, no sense of joy: Christ was in the grip of a tragic necessity, as was His Father.
Anyway, this is a nice corrective to the usual universalist reading of Christ's life: he was, after all, a Jew and preaching in a contemporary tradition, though his message would undermine it. (He claimed to respect the Law, yet viewed the Sabbath as optional, for example.) He wished to talk to those influential Pharisees who controlled religious life, and who thought punctilious observance of a mass of regulations would get them into...heaven(?). His was a mystical corrective to a mechanical accounting system (reminds one of Luther, in a way).
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on December 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Norman Mailer's novelized story of the life of Jesus is one that, not surprisingly, stresses His human side -- and as such, it is understandably going to be received with misgiving and even derision from certain groups of the faithful. Nikos Kazantzakis' beautiful novel THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST was ridiculed by fundamentalist Christians as well.
The Jesus depicted in these pages is not the idealized image seen in the paintings that hang in Sunday School classrooms all over America. His hands are rough and often dirty; he doesn't always go about in shining, spotless garments; his disciples are rough, uneducated men, 'ugly and misshapen of body; some were misshapen of nose; the hands of many were thick and broken; the legs of others were crooked.' In Mailer's story, Jesus is often plagued by doubts -- doubts about His own divinity, doubts about His ability to complete His mission, doubts even about the nature of His mission. He is wracked from time to time by temptation as well -- and not just during His 40 days in the wilderness, when He is tempted by Satan. There are even times when He feels separated from His Father.
These are but a few of the aspects of this story that will likely anger and offend those whose belief is so literal and norrow that it is confined to the printed word of the Bible. If the book is read with an open mind and heart, however, it is easy to see that Mailer is not casting doubts upon the divinity of Jesus -- he is merely allowing us to get closer to the human side, which in turn can bring us closer to an understanding of Jesus the man.
The Gospels were written many years after the Crucifixion, by men who did not know Jesus personally.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By homefire1 on November 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is a remarkable feat of scholarship, especially in its ablility to remain highly readable despite its scholarship. We find here a very human portrayal of a man struggling to literally embody God, and, despite the scope of such circumstances, we are oddly able to empathize with Jesus. He confronts his extraordinary situation, paradoxically, as an ordinary man.

The spareness of the biblical style helps us forget the author and the complex theological and historical weight that the story carries. We are able to focus on the personal, day-to-day, hour-by-hour inner life of Jesus, the man.

If you expect quirks and controversy, forget it. If you expect either a born-again, hysterical excitement or a ponderous intellectual examination, take a pass. But, if you are looking for an intimate look at the plausible humanity beneath the religeous and emotional furvor, then read this book.

Mailer's account is particularly comprehensible to the 90's mind in that he allows us to see Jesus coping consciously with the dangers his "celebrity" as a miracle worker begin to pose. In our celebrity conscious, media saturated time, we are perhaps more ready to appreciate the "crowd-control" aspects of the story of Christ, and the practical and psychological impact that those factors must have had on Jesus' day-to-day decisions.

So how can a jewish author in the 1990's create a plain spoken text in biblical dialects that becomes an exciting "page turner" even though we all know from page one exactly how it is going to turn out in the end? No matter how unlikely, Mr. Mailer has accomplished that feat. Read it with an open mind and your mind will open still further.
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