The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

3.1 54
by Philip Pullman
     
 

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Upon its hardcover publication, renowned author Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ provoked heated debates and stirred a frenzy of controversy throughout the clerical and literary worlds alike with its bold retelling of the life of Jesus Christ.

In this remarkable piece of fiction, famously atheistic author Philip Pullman

Overview

Upon its hardcover publication, renowned author Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ provoked heated debates and stirred a frenzy of controversy throughout the clerical and literary worlds alike with its bold retelling of the life of Jesus Christ.

In this remarkable piece of fiction, famously atheistic author Philip Pullman challenges the events of the Gospels and puts forward his own compelling and plausible version of the life of Jesus. Written with unstinting authority, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a pithy, erudite, subtle, and powerful book by a beloved author, a text to be read and reread, studied and unpacked, much like the Good Book itself.

Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Fear not, for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy…for all its satanic fanfare and heretical rejiggering, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is—God forbid—kind of inspiring…Again and again, [Pullman] displays a marvelous sense of the elemental power of Jesus's instructions and parables. Even when he transforms the canonical stories to match his atheist perspective, he emphasizes the basic Christian theme of universal love…Yes, some Christians will be offended by this book…but any honest reader will find here a brisk and bracing story of profound implications. And it's bound to send some readers back to the Bible, looking more closely at Jesus's words and especially at all those other words crowded around Him.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This gospel retelling is relatively faithful in style, time line, and events to the four canonical gospels-though Pullman injects a very Pullman-like spin on it by splitting Jesus Christ into two men, among other creative twists. Twin babies are born of the virgin Mary, one called Jesus, the other Christ. After a childhood in which Christ is a goody-goody and Jesus the popular one, Jesus and Christ continue down separate but intertwined paths, with Christ sneaking around, spying on Jesus's ministry and writing down his every word and deed. Jesus becomes a philosopher-revolutionary and Christ is the politically savvy brother, who ultimately proves naïve. Pullman's gospel version reveals how the politics and structure of the institutional church were plotted by power-hungry men, who used the renown of Jesus and his well-meaning, devoted brother Christ as pawns in their corrupt game-a critique that will be familiar to readers of His Dark Materials. This is a tale of (almost comedic) mistaken identity and good intentions gone horribly awry. Readers will find the parables, the Good Samaritan, healings, and the Sermon on the Mount, among other familiar scenes.
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From the Publisher

“Inspiring . . . Again and again, [Pullman] displays a marvelous sense of the elemental power of Jesus’s instructions and parables. Even when he transforms the canonical stories to match his atheist perspective, he emphasizes the basic Christian theme of universal love. . . . The action moves toward a conclusion that’s inevitable but still startling and moving. Yes, some Christians will be offended by this book . . . but any honest reader will find here a brisk and bracing story of profound implications. And it’s bound to send some readers back to the Bible, looking more closely at Jesus’s words and especially at all those other words crowded around Him.”—The Washington Post

“[Philip Pullman is] one of the finest British writers of his generation. . . . The attention-grabbing title alone—The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ—has been enough to rouse his enemies, and reinforce his image as a church-baiting atheist who’s beyond redemption. . . . Yet this isn’t the indiscriminate anger of a proselytizing atheist. Pullman is too fair-minded. . . . Love his answers or not, Pullman’s honesty is hard to hate.”—Newsweek

“The erudite fantasy author, Philip Pullman, makes explicit his complaint against Christian dogma with [this] challenging deconstruction of the Gospels.”
Entertainment Weekly

“[With] His Dark Materials, his masterpiece trilogy . . . Pullman has written the most thrilling and imaginative novels in a generation. . . . The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a masterfully timed book, arriving just as the Catholic Church—Pullman’s enemy No. 1—convulses over priestly child abuse and papal cover-ups. . . . Give Pullman high marks for moxie: How many writers would dare to try to rewrite—no, to repair—the most famous, most sacred story ever written?”—Slate

“Imaginative and thought-provoking . . . A compelling portrait of Jesus . . . [Pullman] is asking readers to move beyond theology and religion. As a literary work, Pullman’s story examines perspective and how it influences storytelling. [He] provides a superb example of how history relies on narrative and narrative relies on point of view. . . . This is, at its core, a book about the power of storytelling and storytellers. . . . The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ asks us to read and then to think—really think—about what we have read, and that is precisely what we all should do.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Thought-provoking . . . Add to [Pullman’s] passion his considerable gifts as a storyteller, and you have the ingredients for a powerful treatment of a familiar story. . . . There is no lack of . . . inventiveness . . . but it is always framed by Pullman’s keen awareness of the gospel narratives. He knows just how much of a revered story needs to remain intact in order to make its metamorphosis compelling. . . . Pullman gives us an affecting portrait of faith in extremis, of a man continuing to pray even as he doubts there is any auditor to his prayers.”—Garret Keizer, Barnes & Noble Reviews

“Compelling and challenging . . . The writing is crisp-lyrical . . . precise . . . Successful in showing how all the contradictions of a life can become distorted, so that the most important lessons disappear into history.”—Jacob Schraer, Portland Mercury

In The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, we have what is both a perfect and perverse pairing: Philip Pullman and the ‘myth’ of Jesus Christ.”—The Globe and Mail

“Incendiary . . . A small gem or, given its explosive story and exquisite artistry, a hand grenade made by Faberge. Pullman is a craftsman of the highest order.”--Sunday Times

“Provokingly bold . . . Pullman’s rebel scripture belongs in a strong tradition of its own.”—The Independent

“Pullman is a supreme storyteller who . . . has done the story [of the Gospels] a service by reminding us of its extraordinary power to provoke and disturb.”—The Telegraph

“A wonderfully fresh reworking of the Gospel stories [concerned with] extricating what is ethically beautiful and of permanent value in Jesus’s teachings from the religious institutions that fallibly mediate and self-servingly distort them.. . . . Pullman’s imaginative and highly thought-provoking innovation . . . is told with a self-effacing, yet incisive limpidity. . . . [The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is] a work of genuine discretion—deeply involved and involving, but with a great instinct for what to leave tacit.”—The Independent

“A simple, powerful, knowing little book . . . Like a small grenade, it will ricochet uncomfortably around the mind of any Christian believer for some time to come.”—Financial Times

“[The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is] Pullman at his very best, limpid and economical. . . . Pullman leaves the Christian reader with a genuine paradox to ponder.”—The Guardian

“Told in simple, unadorned prose that is nonetheless beautifully effective, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ traces the familiar journey toward the cross and makes it fresh. . . . Pullman’s retelling of the central story in western civilization provides a brilliant new interpretation that is also a thought-provoking reflection on the process of how stories come into existence and accrue their meanings.”—Sunday Times

“A fast-paced little parable that puts a common sense tweak to a number of the miracles, while reminding us how much of the Gospels is devoted to social justice and compassion.”—Sacramento News & Review

“Short but ambitious, exhilarating . . . [The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ] mixes Christian mythology with speculative fiction. . . . Pullman approaches his biblical source material with respect.”—Winnipeg Free Press

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a compassionate meditation on the nature of faith.”—CBC News (Canada)

Library Journal
Pullman (www.philip-pullman.com), author of the award-winning "His Dark Materials" trilogy, takes a unique and respectful look at the life and legacy of Jesus as told from the point of view of Christ, Jesus's identical twin brother, whose not-entirely honest telling underscores the questionable reliability of such historical accounts. Pullman himself reads, his deep and soothing British-accented performance carrying the story along admirably. Recommended for all listeners, especially fans of religious fiction. [Also available, exclusively from the iTunes Store, is an iPhone ebook app combining Pullman's full-text, synchronized reading and including a video Q&A with the author.—Ed.]—Scott R. DiMarco, Mansfield Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802196989
Publisher:
Canongate U.S.
Publication date:
04/12/2011
Series:
Myths Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
370,864
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Mary and Joseph
 
This is the story of Jesus and his brother Christ, of how they were born, of how they lived and of how one of them died. The death of the other is not part of the story.
 
As the world knows, their mother was called Mary. She was the daughter of Joachim and Anna, a rich, pious and elderly couple who had never had a child, much as they prayed for one. It was considered shameful that Joachim had never fathered any offspring, and he felt the shame keenly. Anna was just as unhappy. One day she saw a nest of sparrows in a laurel tree, and wept that even the birds and the beasts could produce young, when she could not.
 
Finally, however, possibly because of their fervent prayers, Anna conceived a child, and in due course she gave birth to a girl. Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate her to the Lord God, so they took her to the temple and offered her to the high priest Zacharias, who kissed her and blessed her and took her into his care.
 
Zacharias nurtured the child like a dove, and she danced for the Lord, and everyone loved her for her grace and simplicity.
 
But she grew as every other girl did, and when she was twelve years old the priests of the temple realised that before long she would begin to bleed every month. That, of course, would pollute the holy place. What could they do? They had taken charge of her; they couldn’t simply throw her out.
 
So Zacharias prayed, and an angel told him what to do. They should find a husband for Mary, but he should be a good deal older, a steady and experienced man. A widower would be ideal. The angel gave precise instructions, and promised a miracle to confirm the choice of the right man.
 
Accordingly, Zacharias called together as many widowers as he could find. Each one was to bring with him a wooden rod. A dozen or more men came in answer, some young, some middle-aged, some old. Among them was a carpenter called Joseph.
 
Consulting his instructions, Zacharias gathered all the rods together and prayed over them before giving them back. The last to receive his rod was Joseph, and as soon as it came into his hand it burst into flower.
 
‘You’re the one!’ said Zacharias. ‘The Lord has commanded that you should marry the girl Mary.’
 
‘But I’m an old man!’ said Joseph. ‘And I have sons older than the girl. I shall be a laughing-stock.’
 
‘Do as you are commanded,’ said Zacharias, ‘or face the anger of the Lord. Remember what happened to Korah.’
 
Korah was a Levite who had challenged the authority of Moses. As a punishment the earth opened under him and swallowed him up, together with all his household.
 
Joseph was afraid, and reluctantly agreed to take the girl in marriage. He took her back to his house.
 
‘You must stay here while I go about my work,’ he told her. ‘I’ll come back to you in good time. The Lord will watch over you.’
 
In Joseph’s household Mary worked so hard and behaved so modestly that no one had a word of criticism for her. She spun wool, she made bread, she drew water from the well, and as she grew and became a young woman there were many who wondered at this strange marriage, and at Joseph’s absence. There were others, too, young men in particular, who would try to speak to her and smile engagingly, but she said little in reply and kept her eyes on the ground. It was easy to see how simple and good she was.
 
And time went past.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England in 1946 and grew up in Zimbabwe and Wales. He worked as a teacher for many years and his first children's novel, COUNT KARLSTEIN, came out in 1982. THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE, the first of the Sally Lockhart quartet of Victorian thrillers, was published in 1985. He is also the author of the award-winning titles, HIS DARK MATERIALS and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Oxford, England
Date of Birth:
October 19, 1946
Place of Birth:
Norwich, England
Education:
Exeter College, Oxford University
Website:
http://www.philip-pullman.com/

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The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Ausonius More than 1 year ago
Worth noting at once, THE GOOD MAN JESUS AND THE SCOUNDREL CHRIST is a novel. It is not scholarly or particularly theological. It is fiction, drawing loosely on Christian canonical and apocryphal scriptures. That said, it is imaginative, creative and rapidly retells (and spins) highlights of what early Christian writers had to say about the founder of their religion. ***** At some level this novel is a game of "what if." I have played it myself. What if the rich young man who had walked away sadly rather than sell all his goods to the poor -- what if he had come back to Jesus (see Mark 10: 17 -22)? In Athens, Saint Paul spoke before crowds and persuaded some that Jesus was the Messiah (Christ). Presumably, others were NOT convinced. But did they remain unconvinced? "What if" speculation on sacred texts can, at its best, be a healthy form of contemplation, I submit. ***** Author Philip Pullman, let me suggest, rethinks scriptures to make them solve certain problems he has with organized Christianity and to unload some of his dislikes. Pullman, through the mouth of Jesus, has harsh things to say about "church." A mysterious stranger, who Jesus's twin brother Christ thinks is an angel, pressures Christ to chronicle Jesus's words and deeds and to create a church to preserve the memory of both Jesus and Christ. If the two brothers are remembered, confused as if one person, and if the composite Jesus Christ is believed to have risen from the dead, then it will take an organized group of true believers -- a church -- to do the necessary. ***** The novel rapidly reviews highlights of the life of Jesus as recorded by early Christians, both orthodox and gnostic. Jesus, like John the Baptist, is virile, a straight shooter, who tells it like it is: repent and get ready, the Kingdom is about to arrive. Brother Christ is weakly, imaginative, ultra-cautious and slowly persuaded to prettify Jesus's message of loving thy neighbor and foresaking wealth and family to follow Jesus. ***** Much of the fun of reading this novel is to realize that your interpretation of what author Pullman wants readers to believe is likely different from mine. To me, the mysterious Stranger who manipulates Christ is Satan. Either God does not exist in this novel, or He has turned our world over to devils. The preaching of Jesus is mildly frightening to Satan. But if he can persuade Christ to channel Jesus's visions, commands and energy into safer channels -- scriptures, Church, rituals, garments, worldly power, then Satan will remain top dog, so far as we mortals are concerned. A clever piece of imagination, this novel. Wise? I leave that to other readers to judge. -OOO-
Queengeek More than 1 year ago
I imagine that there will be a lot of people who are going to be angry that Philip Pullman, an atheist, dared to write a novel about the life of Christ. They'll also gripe that it deviates from Scripture, and that it portrays Jesus/Christ as a man, not as the Son of God. These will be the exact same people who condemn both the book and the film of Nikos Kazantakis' novel THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. This novel is much in the same vein as LAST TEMPTATION, but taking the tale of Christ in some unexpected new directions. I found it both exciting and intellectually exhilarating. Now, I happen to be an atheist, but I can understand the attraction, both intellectual and emotional, in the Christ myth, and this book made me understand this attraction all the more. I've also talked to a number of religious people about the book, and the opinion is sharply, sharply divided. Some of them loved the book, others completely hated it. Make up you own mind. Read the book yourself. It may be a book you'll despise, or it might be a new favorite (like it is for me), either way, you will probably never forget this book!
Mihobu More than 1 year ago
Part of the allure of this story is the notion of a straightforward, human explanation of how Christian mythology might have been born. Instead, Mr Pullman weaves an unsatisfying fabric of everyday events together with selected mystical elements carried over from the Christian tradition. The book is a quick, enjoyable read, but you might find yourself wanting a bit more by the end.
Niveus More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed The Golden Compass trilogy and was so excited to see this new book come out. Although it was about the life of Jesus, I knew if anyone could make me question things deeply it would be Pullman. I was a little disappointed with this book. You could read the first two chapters and the last two chapters and get the story.
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
Pullman "retells' the basic Gospel story with some very interesting twists. Somewhat akin to Maquire's "retelling" of the Wizard of Oz, Pullman provokes a deep consideration of the interplay between actual events and the historical record. In doing so, Pullamn challenges what Gospel is in the midst of real, human life. An excellent book for personal reflection or group discussion. Highly recommended.
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