4.0 out of 5 stars Simplicity is under-valued
I admit to being very surprised by the other reviews of this book. While I would never argue that this is Pullman's greatest work to date (far from it), it is a respectable part of his catalogue. I think that this book is best approached without carrying in your opinions about religion - be they Christian or atheist. The primary goal of this text is to explore the...
Published 16 months ago by Lyra Tallis
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a total waste of time
Reading the title of this book, I was expecting humour of the clever variety delivered by the likes of Monty Python in their movie, “Life of Brian.” “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" is nothing of the sort. It is a retelling of the Jesus story so that its authenticity would pass the critical mind of today’s scientific thinker. Jesus...
Published 8 months ago by Len
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a total waste of time,
This review is from: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Paperback)Reading the title of this book, I was expecting humour of the clever variety delivered by the likes of Monty Python in their movie, “Life of Brian.” “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" is nothing of the sort. It is a retelling of the Jesus story so that its authenticity would pass the critical mind of today’s scientific thinker. Jesus is still the gifted story teller, the man with a clever retort to any who might question his perspective of the world. He is not however, capable of magic. His healings are based on faith and his resurrection? Let’s just say that Christ is his brother who chronicles Jesus’s life until his crucifixion when he too becomes part of the story. Having not read the bible or attended church in some time, I did enjoy the summation of Jesus’s life however, on it’s own, I’m not sure I understand the reason for this book's writing. Jesus is supposed to be the son of God. He is supposed to have died for our sins. That’s the point of the story. He’s not just supposed to have been a wise and clever guy. That said, Mr. Pullman’s argument is better made through the illustration by a story than by an essay so, I would say that reading this was book was not a total waste of time.
4.0 out of 5 stars Simplicity is under-valued,
In all of his work, Pullman is interested in the idea of the story and its uses. In "His Dark Materials", it is Mary's stories that initiate the climax of the trilogy. In the Sally Lockhart books, Sally works to unravel what stories are spread about her family in the style of the Victorian sensation novel. This is a simple parable investigating the use of narrative to influence people.
Yes, the book is short. And yes, it is simple. But the narrative on which he basis the book: the Bible, is similarly simple. And the power of a convincing story need not only be effective through complex prose. Hemingway certainly didn't think so.
Truly, this is a book worth reading. As a Pullman fan, you should read it. If you are a student of literature, you should read it. If you are interested in philosophy, theology and the development of religions, you should read it. It won't take you very long at all to read, but it provides much to consider after the book is closed.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Story Re-Told,
We've seen it in movies, in books about Jesus Christ, in novels that retell his story again and again. Anne Rice's recent books Christ the Lord Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord The Road To Cana come to mind.
The Greatest Story Every Told, that of Jesus and his birth and the miracles he performed has been told and retold so many times that there's no possible way to give it a new spin for a modern age. Or is there?
Philip Pullman is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy and supplemental books, featuring Lyra Belacqua (or Lyra Silvertongue). The books received a lot of notice when they were first published as they are very anti-religion, very anti-God. This should come as no surprise to fans of Pullmans. Pullman himself as admitted that he is an atheist.
When I first heard that The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ was being written by Pullman, I wondered why an atheist had chosen to retell The Greatest Story Ever Told. I wondered if Pullman would colour the narrative with his own negative views on Christianity.
Thankfully, he keeps his views to himself. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is an incredible new retelling of the life of Jesus...and his brother.
Pullman sets up the story in the very beginning. Mary gives birth to two baby boys, twins. One, she names Jesus, one she names Christ. Christ seems to be a bit sickly and thin whereas Jesus seems strong and thriving.
When the three Wiseman come, following the star, they see two babes in the manger. When they ask Mary which one is the messiah, which one will be their saviour, she points to Christ. He's a little sickly and can use the attention, she thinks.
This sets in motion events that no one could have foretold, not even the angels. As Jesus becomes more and more well known, and his miracles become more and more exaggerated, Christ begins to receive visits from a stranger who seems very interested in him.
Who is the mysterious stranger? Will Christ ever be out of Jesus' shadow? And when Christ begins to write down Jesus' doings and exaggerating them beyond all truth, the consequences for Jesus and for Christ will be dire indeed...
I'll admit, this book surprised me. I didn't expect a book about the life of Jesus written by a well known and vocal atheist to be any good. But it wasn't just good; it was fantastic. Not only did Pullman give us a new retelling of the life of Jesus that seemed entirely plausible, he kept the story historically accurate.
Pullman has obviously done his research and has written a story that is at once historical novel and modern parable. Though a lot of people will and have react badly to the idea that Jesus Christ was actually two children, Jesus and Christ, it makes the reader stop and think about the history of the story.
It makes us stop and remember.
That, in the end, is the true power of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. You remember it long after you've turned the last page. Though it is written in very simple language, though it is written in a style much like a fable, it makes you stop and remember.
I found myself remembering pieces of scripture as I read it, remembering the commandments I had been raised on. It also helps to make you remember what it was like when you were a child and the whole world was at your fingertips. All you had to do was reach out and grasp it.
Though this is the greatest story ever retold, you've never ever read it this way before. The ending is cataclysmic and the book will leave you breathless. Told in simple, lyrical prose, The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ is indeed The Greatest Story Every Re-Told.
6 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Philip Pullman's first major failure as a writer,
This offering, however, is the the total opposite of his well presented trilogy. The entire novel can be stated in a single sentence; Mary gave birth to twins, one of which preached the New Testament Gospel while the other one served as both Judas and the man who initially recorded the Gospels. While I fully understand that Pullman's principle thrust was to show that, like the writings of the Bible, this, too, is just a simple and protracted story. But, the plot and direction of the book could have been written by a middle school student! It does not take a professional writer to casually rewrite the first four books of the New Testament, nor does it take a Rhodes scholar to make the judgement that the Bible was never meant to be taken as a literal history book. It, like this novel, is nothing more than a long story, some of it has a level of truth, most has a great deal of exaggeration and projection.
Mr. Pullman please return to realm that you do best; allegories based on fantasies that have a scientific base. Please leave the support and/or criticism of the Bible to the historical scholars. Or, maybe the old maxim is true that each of us has only one good publishable book that lies within our soul. All else is nothing more than words on paper that are sold on the open market to the highest bidder.
7 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A new retelling of an old revision,
Also, right off the start, I want to acknowledge that I am aware that the cover of Pullman's book states loud and clear that, "this is a story" as if that disclaimer preemptively answers any criticisms to his reinvention of the gospel narratives. I realize this is a fiction, Pullman's own version. However, since he is presuming to deconstruct and reinvent something as pivotal and as immense as the life of the historical Jesus, he cannot duck out of criticism simply by saying, "hey, I told you this is a story". So...to the book.
Unlike some of the reviews I've read, I was not wowed by the ingenious originality of this tale, mainly because there was very little originality to be found. In fact, much like my experience of The DaVinci Code, as I was reading I couldn't help thinking at least once a chapter how old and tired this all sounded. Like Dan Brown's shameless robbery of the central premise and many of the details of the authors of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, Pullman turns the "de-mythologizing", pseudo-scholarship of Liberal theologians of the past two centuries into a fictional account of the life of Jesus Christ and the origins of the Christian religion. In this project he proceeds along the familiar lines of separating the supposed tiny kernel of historical Jesus (just a good Jewish moral teacher) from the vast and distorted post-Christ mythologizations of those who used Jesus as an opportunity to construct a cult to challenge the existing power structures and replace it with their own. Like a one man Jesus Seminar, Pullman seeks to sift out the probable historical events and teachings from all supposed glosses, inventions, edits, and manifold additions of post-Christ church leadership. The literary device he uses to accomplish this in a narrative work is to divide the historical Jesus into twin brothers: Jesus, a human, red-blooded, honest Jewish teacher of the golden rule with a keen perception of human nature, and Christ, his underhanded, lowlife, back stabbing, power-hungry alter-ego of a brother whom one can nevertheless identify with. I think this is the only original part of this book.
Pullman rewrites his way chronologically through the gospel story, systematically attacking one cardinal orthodoxy after another, from the virgin birth (a naïve Mary consents to sleep with a town boy because he tells her he is an angel messenger from God and she has been chosen for a special honour), to Jesus' miracles (which are just acts of kindness or bold statements that the growing excitement of the crowds turn into rumours and stories of the miraculous), to the death and resurrection (the body was taken by those who wished to perpetuate the stories of Jesus divinity in order to use them to accomplish their own political ends), and many things in between. Again, nothing particularly new here as the gospels were long ago sifted by those wishing to retain the title `Christian' but were embarrassed by all the super-natural baggage and salvation language that such a handle brought with it.
The true center of this book is the prayer of Jesus in the garden just prior to his arrest and trial. Far from the emotional struggle of the biblical account, where Jesus, knowing his vicarious death was hard upon him, desires in his humanity to avoid the pain and separation, but trusts his heavenly Father and famously declares "nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done", here Jesus' last prayer is an angry outburst of frustration at the silence and indifference of a God he has finally lost faith in. To call this a thinly veiled projection of Pullman's own feelings toward the God of the Bible would be gross understatement. It is yet one more example of the two controlling tenets of atheism: 1) there is no God, and 2) I hate him.
I must take exception to another reviewer's opinion as the prose in this book was anything but lyric and I believe Pullman himself would agree with me. Due to the nature of this story the plain, unadorned prose suited the genre better than flowery description which one never typically finds in mythology or in the Bible (but for the poetic books). From my perspective, however, the style was the only strength of this book and if zero stars was an option on Amazon, that is what I would have rated this book. Strictly considered, I found this to be a well written (from a technical perspective, genre constraints considered) fictionalization of some worn-out secularist liberal theological railings against the historicity of the Bible's accounts of Jesus life and works. That is to say, it was like an incorrectly balanced ledger, where all the numbers and totals are nevertheless written with admirable penmanship. But however aesthetically pleasing the handwriting might be, the sums will leave you in trouble with the tax man when he audits you.
This book is the rebellious attempt to remove redemption from the redemption narrative by a man who refuses to admit his own spiritual bankruptcy and need of the Jesus Christ he is trying to rid history of. But one recalls the age old maxim, that the Christian faith is an anvil that has worn out many hammers. For those wishing to read something from an intelligent pen that takes a very different perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, try Malcolm Muggerige's JESUS: THE MAN WHO LIVES., G.K. Chesterton's EVERLASTING MAN, THE, C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity or, N.T. Wright's Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense orThe Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary.
1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An atheist by any other name is still an atheist,
However, Mr. Pullman has crossed the line, He has taken his personal view and weaved it into a series of books for children. Children are easily influenced, I believe in
their right to chose, But he is poisoning their minds with his own personal opinions.
All I am saying is this, Call a spade a spade. Advertise these books for what they are up front and honestly, An atheists view. Don't compare to Tolkien or CS Lewis, Mr. Pullman is in my opinion, attempting to reach the minds of children, a form of brainwashing.
I'm aware you are going to argue that the bible is also a form of brainwashing, However the bible is up front about what it is, a book of God.
Again, Call a spade a spade.
1 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A work of FICTION,
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Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Myths) by Philip Pullman (Paperback - Oct 7 2010)
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