Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

Title: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Canongate
Rating: WARTY!

Having read of the religiously-motivated controversy surrounding Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, when I came across this audio book, I was curious to find out what he had to say. Pullman reads it himself, and it makes for entertaining listening, although I confess I'm not sure what his motivation was in writing it or what he hoped to achieve in doing so.

I'm not religious and I do not believe there ever was a Messianic son of god roaming around what is now Israel some 2,000 years ago. Certainly there never was a "Jesus Christ" - which is all Greek to me! Yes, there were people named Yeshu, or Yeshua or Yehoshua - it was a common name as was Miri (Mary) and Yusef (Joseph). There may even have been one or more rabbis going by the name of Yeshu, one or more of whom may have been crucified. That doesn’t make the contradictory stories in the New Testament true. There's no evidence that any of those poor victims of Roman barbarity ever rose from the dead.

Pullman tells it like it's true, but he puts a spin on it which is unique to my knowledge: that Jesus Christ wasn't one man, but two: Jesus, and Christ, brothers, both of whom could perform miracles, but only one of whom, Jesus, took on the mantle of Messiah. Directed by a creepy anonymous benefactor, Christ remained in the shadows recording and documenting Jesus's words and activities.

Pullman tells the story very much like it’s told in the NT, including some little known tales from New Testament era apocrypha, but on some occasions he puts a slightly different spin on the stories, heightening the interest and drama, while all the time, Jesus is becoming more well-known and popular, and the authorities increasingly taking an interest in his activities.

And so it goes, but in the end I can't recommend this as a worthy read because it really didn't offer anything new or startling - apart from the aforementioned and rather schizophrenic aspect of it. Kudos to Pullman for reading his own stories in the audio versions, but this isn't something I really enjoyed or would want to read again, unlike the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, which I adore.