Archive for the ‘Philip Pullman’ Category

Given all the controversy and the excessive press coverage that surrounded its publication, I think I was expecting The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman to live up to all that hype.  Perhaps I was expecting something challenging and offensive, certainly I was expecting something fresh and original.  However, after reading this slim volume, I was singularly underwhelmed.

By now, I’m sure that most people have heard the premise of the story: Mary is visited by an ‘angel’ (who looks suspiciously like one of the boys in the village) and conceives twins who, when born, are named Jesus and Christ.  Jesus is an energetic and mischievous child, hugely charismatic, while Christ is weaker, happier to study and pray than to play with the other children.  When Jesus begins his ministry, Christ is convinced by a mysterious stranger to document his brother’s teachings, to keep records of what is said and of what ‘miracles’ Jesus brings about.  This was perhaps the only aspect of the book that I found at all intriguing: Christ as Jesus’ PR rep.  Rather than always reporting them as the truth, Christ’s intention after Jesus’ death is to refine the stories, to essentially create a more dramatic narrative of his brother’s life, using artistic license where need be (‘if the child born in the stable had been not just a human child, but the very incarnation of God himself, how much more memorable and moving the story would be!’ P. 243). 

I suppose I was mostly disappointed simply because the story didn’t seem very creative.  Yes, the twin-angle was new but everything else, all the secular explanations of what had actually happened, seemed like the kind of thing that children puzzle out, trying to come to terms with the fantastical stories in the Bible, trying to determine what bits might actually be rooted in truth. 

Monty Python’s Life of Brian still does it best.

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