Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

Title: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: Literature
Price: $24.00
ISBN: 978-0802129963

This book isn't for the religiously faint of heart. Pullman, notoriously outspoken about Christianity and religion in general, pulls apart the well-known tales of Jesus Christ, from his auspicious birth to his betrayal, death, and resurrection, and creates the intertwined lives of brothers Jesus and Christ. The book reads in turn like a novel, a history, and the Bible itself, delivering short chapters filled with subtle meaning and heavy in irony. The idea, it seems, is to present a different version of the Biblical stories those of us who grew up under the influence of Jesus' story knew. The story makes sense and still (surprisingly if you know anything about Pullman's feelings regarding religion) is complementary to what Jesus tried to do within his ministry. While it's certainly not pro-religion or pro-Christianity, it's not against it either. If anything, it's pro-common sense and doing good.

I really enjoyed this book. I have always been interested in religion and have found Jesus to be an endlessly fascinating person, even when my own Christian beliefs have dissipated somewhat. Pullman frames Jesus and Christ in such a way that you can't help but like and dislike them both (the title is deceiving in that sense, I think). I also like how Pullman taps that Biblical tone, but still manages humor, mainly in the vein of irony. I also love Pullman's takes on seemingly miraculous events such as the virgin birth and the fish and bread story--both make complete sense and for me, resolved some issues I've had with Christian "mythology" without diminishing the significance of particular events. 

Comparable Reads:  I've got to say, I can't think of anything that would fit into a similar category, however, I do know that this book is a part of a group of books being published by several authors (Margaret Atwood, Karen Armstrong, and Salley Vickers, are just a few) called the Myths series. Each author has a different take on a myth from our world's past. Some of the topics include: Dream Angus, Penelope from Odysseus, and Atlas and Hercules. It all sounds really interesting!

Who this book is for: Young adults and "regular" adults who have an interest in gaining a new perspective on Jesus. I don't think people who firmly believe Jesus is exactly who he's said to be in the Bible with change their minds--I don't think that's the goal. The book does a wonderful job in making you think of not only who Jesus was or could be, but also how myths are made, how there could be a difference between truth and history and who gets to make that decision. I think reading this book could result in a lot of interesting discussions, either with yourself or with others and it can be done without having to touch upon the dogma of religion that can so divide us.