You are hereThe Good Man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ By Philip Pullman

The Good Man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ By Philip Pullman

A book about Jesus? Risky business. The son of God has inspired libraries of works on the quest for his true historical life. Geza Vermes’ controversial Jesus the Jew, which takes Jesus back to his Jewish roots, proved JC is a tough nut to crack. Norman Mailer’s The Gospel according to the Son shocked readers with its no-frills, psychological portrait of Jesus as a self-hating egomaniac. Then we get the “scoop” on Jesus’s private life – the bestselling DaVinci Code, which can be summarized as: Jesus has descendants who can heal (mainly migraines) and so probably wasn’t the son of God.

Now Pullman throws his Costa Award-winning hat into the ring. His addictive brand of fantasy fiction is adored by millions and is used to ingenious, surprising effect here. Pullman divides his Jesus into twin brothers. Jesus abandons carpentry to become the figurehead we all know. His brother Christ instead decides to plan world dominion.
Pullman’s Jesus is about moral teachings and motivational charisma but the famous miracles are reduced to Derren Brown-style antics. Pullman displays a fidelity to older Jesus tales rather than the colourful ones in John’s Gospel (which bears some resemblance to the fantasy genre itself). We don’t get a whiff of father + son = God stuff from this Jesus.

 Christ, our villain, has a shadowy sponsor (a Grand Inquisitor-type and sinister architect of the Church), who persuades him to write a fabricated history of his brother’s career (the Gospels). Christ then betrays his brother and goes on to pose as his Jesus to propagate the Resurrection myth.

Pullman offers the reader a myth about the historical Jesus that is both readable and compelling. The coarse style mimics the New Testament and exudes authenticity; meanwhile Pullman uses the fantasy genre to maximum effect. This clever work retells this oldest of stories with derring-do and panache, exposing organised religion and making the current corruption in the Catholic church all the more poignant.                         

By Joanna Elias


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