The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Myths) Hardcover – May 4, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
[Philip Pullman is] one of the finest British writers of his generation. . . . The attention-grabbing title aloneThe Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christhas been enough to rouse his enemies, and reinforce his image as a church-baiting atheist who’s beyond redemption. . . . Yet this isn’t the indiscriminate anger of a proselytizing atheist. Pullman is too fair-minded. . . . Love his answers or not, Pullman’s honesty is hard to hate.”Newsweek
The erudite fantasy author, Philip Pullman, makes explicit his complaint against Christian dogma with [this] challenging deconstruction of the Gospels.”
[With] His Dark Materials, his masterpiece trilogy . . . Pullman has written the most thrilling and imaginative novels in a generation. . . . The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a masterfully timed book, arriving just as the Catholic ChurchPullman’s enemy No. 1convulses over priestly child abuse and papal cover-ups. . . . Give Pullman high marks for moxie: How many writers would dare to try to rewriteno, to repairthe most famous, most sacred story ever written?”Slate
Imaginative and thought-provoking . . . A compelling portrait of Jesus . . . [Pullman] is asking readers to move beyond theology and religion. As a literary work, Pullman’s story examines perspective and how it influences storytelling. [He] provides a superb example of how history relies on narrative and narrative relies on point of view. . . . This is, at its core, a book about the power of storytelling and storytellers. . . . The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ asks us to read and then to thinkreally thinkabout what we have read, and that is precisely what we all should do.”Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Thought-provoking . . . Add to [Pullman’s] passion his considerable gifts as a storyteller, and you have the ingredients for a powerful treatment of a familiar story. . . . There is no lack of . . . inventiveness . . . but it is always framed by Pullman’s keen awareness of the gospel narratives. He knows just how much of a revered story needs to remain intact in order to make its metamorphosis compelling. . . . Pullman gives us an affecting portrait of faith in extremis, of a man continuing to pray even as he doubts there is any auditor to his prayers.”Garret Keizer, Barnes & Noble Reviews
Compelling and challenging . . . The writing is crisp-lyrical . . . precise . . . Successful in showing how all the contradictions of a life can become distorted, so that the most important lessons disappear into history.”Jacob Schraer, Portland Mercury
In The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, we have what is both a perfect and perverse pairing: Philip Pullman and the myth’ of Jesus Christ.”The Globe and Mail
Incendiary . . . A small gem or, given its explosive story and exquisite artistry, a hand grenade made by Faberge. Pullman is a craftsman of the highest order.”--Sunday Times
Provokingly bold . . . Pullman’s rebel scripture belongs in a strong tradition of its own.”The Independent
Pullman is a supreme storyteller who . . . has done the story [of the Gospels] a service by reminding us of its extraordinary power to provoke and disturb.”The Telegraph
A wonderfully fresh reworking of the Gospel stories [concerned with] extricating what is ethically beautiful and of permanent value in Jesus’s teachings from the religious institutions that fallibly mediate and self-servingly distort them.. . . . Pullman’s imaginative and highly thought-provoking innovation . . . is told with a self-effacing, yet incisive limpidity. . . . [The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is] a work of genuine discretiondeeply involved and involving, but with a great instinct for what to leave tacit.”The Independent
A simple, powerful, knowing little book . . . Like a small grenade, it will ricochet uncomfortably around the mind of any Christian believer for some time to come.”Financial Times
[The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is] Pullman at his very best, limpid and economical. . . . Pullman leaves the Christian reader with a genuine paradox to ponder.”The Guardian
Told in simple, unadorned prose that is nonetheless beautifully effective, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ traces the familiar journey toward the cross and makes it fresh. . . . Pullman’s retelling of the central story in western civilization provides a brilliant new interpretation that is also a thought-provoking reflection on the process of how stories come into existence and accrue their meanings.”Sunday Times
A fast-paced little parable that puts a common sense tweak to a number of the miracles, while reminding us how much of the Gospels is devoted to social justice and compassion.”Sacramento News & Review
Short but ambitious, exhilarating . . . [The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ] mixes Christian mythology with speculative fiction. . . . Pullman approaches his biblical source material with respect.”Winnipeg Free Press
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a compassionate meditation on the nature of faith.”CBC News (Canada)
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My comment has nothing to do with Christianity or my personal belief. But I question the author's strangely reasoned ideas about Jesus and "Christ" (meaning the anointed one) as if they are two separate people drawn together as part of a mythology the author is attempting to construct.
One would do well to ignore this book. It's a horrible waste of time.
Judas's (Christ's) role, (like the snake in the garden,) is recognized by a gifted writer for what it is; the facilitator in the narrative. Naturally, it is Judas who makes it possible for Christ to realize his destiny, ie. to die as a man so that he may live as a god. Judas is what makes 'it' go; and could easily be construed as God's instrument, if God is indeed an all-knowing deity. (Yahweh probably planted the snake in the Garden as well; again, without which the Bible would end on page two.)
Pullman takes the sine-qua-non of 'Judas' and sews it directly into Jesus's very flesh, by inventing his doppelganger, his twin brother, Christ. He takes what heretofore can be understood as a metaphorical truth and makes it literal. The modern stance of Dostoevsky is given a neat post-modernist twist here, and serves up new food-for-thought from the original recipe. -- Geoffrey Dorfman
In understanding the author's intent, it is worth noting that this book was published as #14 a series on ancient myths. While interpretations may vary, I take the author's account as a way of capturing the dual nature of the historical Jesus as viewed from today's perspective -- not the man vs. the god, but the itinerant faith- healer vs the unwitting founder of a new religion. I found the book neither offensive nor particularly interesting, but am glad if it opens some reader's eyes to possibilities more likely than the supernatural myths of 2000 years ago.
Top international reviews
particularly religious, although I was brought up to be. This
story fascinated me.
But the bit I found most interesting was at the end when
the author said why he had written it and his conclusions
from reading 3 different bibles.
If you decide not to finish reading this book, then at least read
what Philip Pullman has written at the very end. It is quite an
However it was interesting. I liked Pullman’s version and would tend to agree that the Bible was written to glorify the truth. I found it rather stilted at first but wondered if this was to replicate the verses. It either flowed better as it went on or I no longer noticed.
The idea of 2 brothers was clever but it was also rather tragic. Not a book for someone feeling disillusioned by God.
The betrayal, the manipulation and the deceit was depressing but not unexpected.
So the church is as bad as everyone else?! That is becoming more evident nowadays. Sad but true.
It is something different and original but plausible and overly sad. The story is a visionary one retelling the birth, the life and death of Jesus Christ. Imagine: What if Jesus Christ had a twin brother? Or what if his twin brother betrayed him and not Judas Iscariot?
Simply put we are presented with two Almighty people, Jesus who is charismatic but selfish and Christ who broods, a pragmatist and a pessimist who hides away in shame and constantly weeps. He is emotional and very human. He has spent his sad life living in his brother's shadow worshipping him just like all of his followers, trying to protect him from his enemies.
Christ narrates the story and so we are fully aware of his misery and unhappiness as he chronicles his brother's teachings for posterity. The Stranger, an anonymous being whom Christ mistakes as an angel of God tells him that the truth is not the same as history. Jesus was the man the Gospels talked about but Christ was the Messiah featured in the Epistles. Jesus was history and Christ was the truth. In Christ's frustration he asks the Stranger: " I wish, sir, you would tell me what the truth is. My vision clouded, my knowledge lacking."
Pullman poses the million dollar question: if we went back in time would we save Jesus from such a horrible death by crucifixion or let him die just like Judas or Pullman's Christ?
The ending is powerful. Christ has opted for a simple life hidden away when he is discovered. He is disillusioned and knows that history will repeat itself. Jesus and himself have been used as pawns in a dangerous game, a tragic story. He is convinced that the truth about Jesus will continue to be distorted and he will be compromised and betrayed over and over again. And I hear you agreeing.......
I haven't read Phillip Pullman's prose before and I was impressed how he kept the language much like that of the Bible itself. I knew he was a Humanist and thought it would be interesting how he interprets things.
Once upon a time, a virgin bride of Joseph, the Carpenter, is approached by an "angel" who tells her she will conceive a child. As it happens, two are born, one called Jesus, the other Christ, Greek for Messiah. Jesus always gets into trouble as a child, and Christ usually gets him out of it again. When John the Baptist baptises Jesus, Christ notices a dove fly overhead. Jesus spends his time in the wilderness, and becomes a spokesman for God in his belief that the Kingdom is coming.
Christ wants to Organise, Jesus does not. Pullman raises the issue of organised religion and its place in society. Jesus becomes a nomad, spreading the word of the Kingdom of God and performing "miracles" (for some of which Pullman gives likely explanations). His brother, still wanting to create a church, follows Jesus and writes down his speeches. Sometimes he cannot make it and asks one of the disciples, not named, what had happened and transcribes second hand the events. Again, truth versus history.
The "stranger" comes into Christ's life and takes the transcribed scrolls, and encourages Christ's belief in organising the church. It is not clear who the stranger is. Christ believes him to be an angel. The reader must decide for themselves.
Jesus tells more and more provocative parables and catches the attention of the priests. The stranger tells Christ that Jesus must die in order for the Church to come about. In the meantime, Jesus is praying to God in the Garden of Gethsemane and says he is losing faith, as the Kingdom of God hasn't come. He loves the beauty of the world and wants to believe he is doing the right thing, but also knows he is fighting his brother and his beliefs.
"...I can see just what would happen if that kind of thing came about. The devil would rub his hands with glee. As soon as men who believe they're doing God's will get hold of power, whether its a household or a village...the devil enters into them." "Lord if you are listening, I'd pray for this above all; that any church set up in your name should remain poor, and powerless, and modest. That should wield no authority except that of love."
In the end Christ fills the "Judas" role, and turns Jesus over to the priests who turn him over to Pilate. Christ does this in the belief that the stories will turn into legend after Jesus dies. The "stranger" encourages him. Jesus dies on the cross. Christ is walking through the tomb garden and Mary mistakes him for his brother, which is Pullman's explanations for the Resurrection.
The Good Man Jesus...is thoroughly researched, and Pullman knows his Bible. It tells us that history and truth are not the same thing, the "miracles" may be fantastical exaggerations from third parties to promote Jesus' public relations profile. It raises debate over the power of the Christian church, its riches, and it power to extract more riches from the believing poor. It tells us about power to corrupt, and keep people in line. Now, in British life, we are becoming more and more secular, and control of the populace is more challenging. More than anything, at the time that Jesus and Christ were alive, the Romans were oppressing the Jews in Palestine and at a time of hardship and erosion of traditions and religion, the people needed something to believe in. The biggest story of them all was turned into a worldwide belief system.
It's a short read, I finished it in a day, and although the book was thought-provoking, it wasn't entirely attention grabbing. Having said that, as Christianity is now, in my view, fighting to hold onto its believers in an age of science and reason, it's a book to ponder on.
If you loved the Dark Materials Trilogy, or if you just have a fascination with religion with book will be a pleasant surprise.
If it's entertainment you want, then this book is for you. But, if you are looking for revelation about who Jesus is and why he lived and died; then it's a disappointment! Rowan Williams has described Pullman's Jesus 'as a voice of genuine spiritual authority'. I find this hard to swallow, because Pullman's Jesus does not even seem to know that he is supposed to be the Son of God, or why he is doing the things that he is doing (the teaching, healing and miracles, etc)! Pullman's 'Christ' shows a clearer insight into who and what Jesus is supposed to be about; but his brother simply refuses to listen to him! Perhaps the author reveals his own true colours when he changes the biblical Jesus' short and poignant Gethsemane prayer into a protracted and disillusioned atheistic monologue.
But if this book turns some readers towards a serious re-examination of the truth of the gospels, then perhaps Philip Pullman will have done them - and the real Jesus - a favour after all!
I couldn't put it down, it wasn't what I expected. I would recommend giving it a read.