The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
Philip Pullman, Text
Philip Pullman wrote a famously “anti-Christian” series of children’s novels (His Dark Materials). Challenged by the Archbishop of Canterbury over the omission of Jesus from the popular series, Pullman has responded with The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.
The book bestows on Jesus a twin brother, Christ. Where Jesus is full of passion and no compromises, Christ is a thinker who follows the path of compromise all the way down.
After Jesus’ ministry starts, a “stranger” visits Christ and suggests to him that he should chronicle what passes to build a church that could give people, hungry for divine comfort, what they need.
This leads the well-intentioned Christ to his greatest challenge: Will he record the literal facts of history or the truth as the faithful so badly need it to be?
“Which is better: to aim for absolute purity and fail altogether or compromise and succeed a little?” asks the stranger of Christ.
This little compromise ultimately instigates the betrayal and execution of Jesus, the staging of a resurrection and the birth of the Christian Church.
The simplicity of this book drew me into deeper thought about the gospels than familiar Jesus stories and sermons sometimes yielded to me. The themes of the power of storytelling and the perversion of good intentions are important ones that Pullman skilfully layers with a detailed knowledge of the Bible.
While deeply challenging to organised religion, the book is an enriching experience to people of thought and of faith.
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