The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, by Philip Pullman

>> Wednesday, January 25, 2012

TITLE: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
AUTHOR: Philip Pullman

PAGES: 245
PUBLISHER: Canongate

TYPE: Fiction

Upon its hardcover publication, renowned author Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ provoked heated debates and stirred a frenzy of controversy throughout the clerical and literary worlds alike with its bold retelling of the life of Jesus Christ.

In this remarkable piece of fiction, famously atheistic author Philip Pullman challenges the events of the Gospels and puts forward his own compelling and plausible version of the life of Jesus. Written with unstinting authority, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a pithy, erudite, subtle, and powerful book by a beloved author, a text to be read and reread, studied and unpacked, much like the Good Book itself.
Days after finishing it, I'm still not quite sure what to make of this one. Unfortunately, I had to miss my book club's discussion of it -that might have helped. Basically, this is Pullman's version of the life of Jesus, an alternate explanation of what might have actually happened and still be recorded in the Bible as it is today. This includes Jesus Christ being actually a pair of twins: Jesus, who goes around preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God, and his brother Christ, who follows him, recording his deeds and words and putting his own spin on them.

This is not like, say, The Red Tent (, taking something from the Bible and providing us with more insight into the characters and why they do what they do. It kind of moves a little bit in that direction, but it's still very much a "this happened, and then this happened, and X told Y to do this and Y did it" type of thing, of the kind where you constantly go "hang on! Why on Earth did X agree to do it?". I found it very distancing, and found it hard to really care about what was going on.

I did think, however, that it was a clever book, and I enjoyed its exploration of what the truth is, and whether a more apt fiction can be more truthful than reality. Still, I think I probably would have appreciated it more if I was a bit more familiar with the New Testament, but alas, my religious instruction ended as soon as I was old enough to decide such things on my own. My knowledge of the Bible is a child's, plus whatever I've managed to absorb as a grown-up without really trying. This meant I probably caught only a fraction of the clever twists.

It feels a bit churlish, but given that in this blog I rate books purely for my enjoyment of them, and that my main reaction to this one was: "so what?", it's not a great grade.



Post a Comment

Blog template by

Back to TOP