Newest Review: ... fanfare. Some chapters cover the life of John the Baptist as he has a place in the book as well. It carries on with the early life of Jesu... more
Man versus Myth
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ - Philip Pullman
Member Name: QueenElf
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ - Philip Pullman
Advantages: A book by Philip Pullman
Disadvantages: Could offend.
The retelling of the greatest story known to man.
I apologise to people with other faiths but the bible has been classed as the greatest book, and I've yet to read the torah or any other sacred books. My beliefs are varied and take in other religions but I'm still afraid to say the bible could be wrong. But after consideration I can say that this book is an excellent account of what could have been, knowing that men are infallible and even the best Historians can make errors. In fact I didn't see this book as anything more than a novel of fiction based on reading other people's accounts of the life of Jesus Christ.
Pullman has my deepest regard for taking on such a task and doing it with such a humane and human style. As he starts the book he says it's a story of Jesus and his brother Christ and how they lived and how one died. I don't see that as an attempt to re-write the bible, just to take an idea and write a story around that idea.
The book starts with Mary and Joseph getting married and continues it as a narrative without mention of heavenly intervention or any huge fanfare. Some chapters cover the life of John the Baptist as he has a place in the book as well. It carries on with the early life of Jesus and how he often gets into trouble because of his deeds in the temple and generally upsetting his family by choosing to preach from an early age. Like any other brother Christ will stand up for Jesus one minute and fight him in the next, but this only makes the brothers closer.
When Jesus starts his preaching after his ordeal in the wilderness and the baptism by John, Christ starts to make notes of Jesus' actions and eventually he becomes a chronicler, even going as far as having Jesus spied on by one of his disciples so nothing can be misunderstood. In this he is encouraged by a man who explains to Christ that future generations will need an account of Jesus and this account should be as pure as possible. The man shows up often and vanishes quickly, leading the reader (and Christ) to consider if he is an angel or a devil.
The story progresses with the main times when Jesus ministered to the sick and the miracles attributed to him. It culminates in the crucifixion and the resurrection as told in the bible, although Christ, not Judas, betrays him. In this lies the heart of the book and how Christians everywhere could be angered by this account. It concludes with the author's Afterword that explains the theory behind the book.
Once I started reading this as a story I soon felt more comfortable with it and found a lot of the stories about Jesus' ministry made a lot of sense. Often I felt that some aspect that had puzzled me seemed clearer and I thought how very cleverly the author had chosen to interpret that particular piece especially with parables that often contradict each other.
One such parable about the foolish virgins being unprepared and then another where Jesus chides his followers for 'worrying about tomorrow' are completely at odds with each other. Can it be that the words were taken out of context? After all, the gospels were written many years after the death of Jesus and must have been changed by re-telling so many times.
Naturally I felt uncomfortable with a Jesus who was just a man who made mistakes, but wasn't that the whole point of the Son of God made flesh? I also felt that Christ in Pullman's book got a very raw deal, after all he got no credit for faithfully recording the stories and being talked into betraying his twin brother. It does make a strange sort of sense though.
I think what really won me over was the fact that devil or angel, who ever talked Christ into recording the miracles and stating the reasons why this needed doing to make a pure and honest account for generations to come did so with much more success than ever expected. There are arguments put forward by Pullman on how a corrupt church could have been avoided if the ministry of Jesus was unadulterated.
If the church was the humble place envisioned by Jesus, the place where all could worship regardless of race, religion or social status. (Read tax collectors and moneylenders into this) then the two or three people gathered together in his name wouldn't need the fortune in estates and costly trappings of the modern churches.
I felt the concepts that Pullman puts forward makes so much sense with one man as the pure and holy Jesus and another the man who got things wrong now and then. Who left his parents behind and seemed to care little for anyone except his disciples. Even then he made one betray him and another deny him if we take the bible as true to every word. Doesn't it make more sense that there were either two men or that the gospels were corrupted?
Pullman also asks us the ultimate question. If we could go back in time then would we save Jesus that ugly death on the cross or would we be a Judas? The church needed a dead Jesus to front them; the poor needed a suffering and poor Jesus to show that God loves the least of us. There lies the crux of the matter, man or myth; we worship a dead and risen saviour, not a man who cried for his mother on the cross.
I think this book was written as part of an ongoing series of a popular writer taking a myth and re-writing it to make a modern telling. Whether you can read the book this way lies in your own hopes and fears. I read the book and chose to read it as a story that could have happened that way. It didn't undermine my beliefs, if anything it clarified some of the questions that have always haunted me. Like who was with Jesus in the wilderness to take down his temptations and his thoughts? Who was with him at the end when he had his trial in the garden of Gethsemane? We are told by all the gospels that the disciples were asleep.
Don't pass up this book because you are afraid it will clash with your faith. If it is strong enough it will withstand an honest attempt to take some aspects of the gospels and try to make them easier to read. The book is only 265 pages. It doesn't recreate the story of Jesus, but illuminates and tackles a touchy topic in an imaginative and beautifully written way.
Definitely recommended by me. Also, don't be afraid to comment freely, it's well worth discussing.
My book was a library book; this can be bought cheaply on Amazon and other discount shops.
Thanks for reading.
Summary: A story about two brothers.