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The Gospel According to Jesus Christ [Hardcover]

Jose Saramago , Giovanni Pontiero
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1994
A controversial novel of the life of Jesus Christ portrays his family as complex as anyone's family and with a realism that is filled with visions, dreams, and an omen. 10,000 first printing.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Like other earthy fictionalized accounts of the life of Jesus, this loose interpretation of the Gospel provoked an outcry: published in the author's native Portugal, it was subsequently withdrawn from consideration for the 1992 European Literature Prize. Saramago ( The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis ) explores the psychological motivations that led Jesus to become a prophet. Joseph overhears a conversation that allows him to save his fledgling family from the slaughter of the innocents. Because he lacks the courage to warn others in Bethlehem, God turns him into a spiritual pariah and, as part of God's justice, he is mistakenly crucified. Tormented by his earthly father's guilt, Jesus leaves his family, wanders around in the wilderness with a freethinking Devil, is told of his destiny by God, performs some miracles and, in a fast summing up, ends up dead. Saramago, who takes some pointed digs at both the Catholic church and monotheism generally, seems too uneasy with his material to enjoy his tongue-in-cheek portrait. The work is frequently static and halfhearted, a far cry from the riveting passages of the New Testament, and though often amusing (his conversations between Jesus, God and the Devil may remind Anatole France aficionados of Revolt of the Angels ), the work never achieves the irony the author seems to have intended.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This thoughtful, provocative study of Jesus' self-understanding as both son of God and an all-too-human family member caused debate in the Portuguese parliament and is likely to generate discussion here. Saramago reveals a deep knowledge of scripture, theology, and Christian history, but his true gift may lie in evoking the physical world. Christian writers have often downplayed the earthier aspects of the Incarnation, but here Jesus is "identified as a shepherd by the smell of goat." God says that it is "dissatisfaction, one of the qualities which make man in My image and likeness," which led him to desire a son on Earth. "There will be a church," God tells Jesus, giving a lengthy martyrology as evidence. Jesus dies as do many of us, lamenting "a life planned for death from the very beginning." For serious religious collections.
- Kathleen Norris, Lemmon P.L., S.D.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Some topics always provoke controversy even though they shouldn't. Religion and religious convictions are one. If one has faith, then that faith, by its very definition, should be able to withstand a work of fiction even though that work of fiction is very well written. Jose Saramago's THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST has, I think, provoked much more controversy-and condemnation-than it ever should have. But the very fact that it has, I think, is testament to its greatness and its ability to provoke thought.
I think there is much to admire in this beautiful book...and it is quite beautiful. The prose is lyrical and poetic and, at times, magical and heartbreaking. People who say Saramago is "difficult reading" may just not like his style of writing. The only punctuation he uses are commas and periods and his sentences and paragraphs go on for pages and pages and pages. Saramago tells his stories in torrents of words...wonderful words...and if a reader lets himself get caught up in those words, they carry him along, effortlessly, through the book. Saramago is far too good a writer to be "difficult." He's so good-a definite master-that his writing appears to be effortless.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST tells the story of Christ from Christ's own point of view. This causes him to be supremely human, something that is missing from most other accounts of Christ's life. Jesus, in this book, is a fully realized human being, one who has desires and temptations, one who sometimes fails and one who, above all, questions his life and its meaning and even comes to doubt Judaism and its intense focus on sacrifice and suffering.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revisionist life of Christ Oct. 17 2003
Format:Paperback
This book is probably not for the intensely religious, true believer type, for it paints a very radical view of the life of Christ. From negating the Virgin birth to the real reason for the crucifixion, this book tells us the tale of a very confused individual pushed and pulled by a God with His own selfish agenda for the future. It shows a conflicted man whose entire life is an enigma leading to an ending preordained by a higher power. That being said, it is tremendously well written, with moments of high drama and low comedy. The characters are exceedingly well drawn and the story moves along very well to its tragic conclusion. It turns much of the New Testament on its ear, but does show the power and the future glory of Jesus. There may be a sceptic behind the writing, but there is religion also, and a belief in the ineffable power of God. I'm sure the author may disagree quite violently with me, but he has more faith than he is willing to admit. This book did not shake my own faith or belief, for I recognize that it is fiction, and the author's idea of what happened all that long ago in Israel. He is entitled to his opinion, and I to mine, and that's how intellectual debate lives on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little Healthy Skepticism Sept. 1 2003
Format:Paperback
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
Let's get this warning written upfront first...if you are a born again Christian or in any other way easily offended by an unorthodox and even blasphemous portrait of one of the most revered and worshiped figures in human history, skip this book entirely. Saramago is not exactly an atheist, but he is a skeptic, and this is a skeptic's look at the Gospels. Saramago plays fast and loose with the canonical Gospel accounts of the life of Christ to create something very different than the comfortable picture of Christ most of us have grown up with. And to my mind, the questions that Saramago raises in his book are good ones, ones that every sincere person of faith should ask. They are not questions that can break a strong faith, but they are ones that hone it and refine it.
From the first glowing chapter of this book, I was hooked. Saramago begins the work with a poetic description of the traditional icon of Christ's crucifixion. But from that moment, he wanders far from the Gospel accounts. The first half of the book concerns the events of Christ's birth and boyhood. Joseph, by not warning the citizens of Bethlehem of the murder of the innocents, incurs a bloodguilt that he cannot absolve except by his own mistaken death on the cross years later. This death of his earthly father along with the accompanying sense of bloodguilt haunts the young Jesus and sends him off on a journey to find his own true purpose in life. He spends years as a shepherd apprentice with a man named Pastor who ultimately is the Devil. He meets and falls in love with Mary Magdelene, with whom he lives without the benefit of marriage. He discovers his amazing powers healing and miracle working long before he has any idea of how he is to use them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another view of a life we all wonder about... Sept. 16 2003
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book because it tells the life of Jesus with an emphasis on the fact that he was a human being, like all of us. like the blatantly sacraligious scenes of Joseph and Mary having sex, or Jesus becoming aroused when he sees a naked woman for the first time. It reveals his human emotions, his fears and doubts. He questions God and his reasons every step of the journey - a message that told me that it is in our nature to doubt, and God or whatever there is wants us to constantly question our existence - or else there is no reason to live.
Saramago's sense of humor and creativity come out in the conversations between Jesus, God, and the Devil. The dialouge seems just perfect, and I wouldn't be surprised if that is exactly what was said.
Full of great twists and drama ... even though we all know the ending, I couldn't put it down.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars book rating
book in good condition,the best of Saramago, he is with God now, enyone who contemplates about HIM shall read it
Published on Jan. 6 2012 by zen-on
3.0 out of 5 stars A gospel of narrative tricks
This novel doesn't seem to me to be as provocative as Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ which dealt with Christ's humanity in a much more serious tone. Read more
Published on June 27 2004 by C. Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh air
Your other reviewers don't get it.
Saramago is an atheist lefty who enjoys lambasting the preposterousness of the Jesus story but makes of his reworking of it a love story,... Read more
Published on May 7 2004 by T W Gulliver
5.0 out of 5 stars Jesus from another perspective
This novel has to be one of the best books I have ever read in my life!
Saramago's writting is fantastic! The content of this novel will definetely amaze you. Read more
Published on March 12 2004 by Camikazee
5.0 out of 5 stars OF GLITTERING DUST, GUILT AND SACRIFICE
Ever wondered what Jesus was really like, as a kid, a teenager, a young man? Portuguese writer Saramago did, and by making use of his fertile imagination and his undisputable... Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2004 by Jorge F. M
4.0 out of 5 stars An alternate perspective that magnifies irreverence
Saramago deftly embraces historical facts, myth and reality and juggles them in this extraordinarily fictitious account of Jesus Christ. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004 by Matthew M. Yau
5.0 out of 5 stars Enforce your faith and enjoy great writings
Yes, after reading it you enforce your faith in God only if you are really a beleaver. I couldn't leave it as soon as I take it because the vision of Jesus with a real human life,... Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2004 by El aprendiz de Sabio
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent view of Jesus life according to Saramago...
I love Saramagoï¿s writing, it was my first book from this author. ï¿The gospel according to Jesus Christï¿ is just wonderful, I am catholic and think that... Read more
Published on June 13 2003 by Denisse Comarazamy
5.0 out of 5 stars A mind-blowing work of genius
"The Gospel According to Jesus Christ" is going to offend a lot of people and one can understand on reading it why it sent the Vatican into a terminal fit and caused Saramago's... Read more
Published on June 6 2003 by JLind555
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