Friday, September 30, 2011

‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’ by Philip Pullman

30 September 2011

With the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy of children’s books Philip Pullman clearly decided to cock-a-snook at organised religion. In ‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’ he goes a step further in attempting to retell the life of Christ. It’s an odd book: it seems to be an attempt to present a believable account of ordinary events that could have created myths that became the Gospels. Pullman suggests that Jesus had a brother (how would we know what happened to Jesus in the wilderness or in the Garden of Gethsemane unless there had been someone else there?) and even uses this device to explain the resurrection. But the tone often veers from rational explanation into the cheeky or facetious – which can be quite funny, depending on your beliefs. Though his prose is modern (and often quite forthright) the book is structured like a Gospel. It’s an interesting read but I found Pullman’s lengthy Afterword, which discusses the narrative structure of the Gospels, much more interesting. Here you realise that his real interest in writing the book was not in exactly what happened two thousand years ago but in the way the story was told. 



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