The Gospel According to Jesus Christ

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ

4.2 11
by José Saramago

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A wry, fictional account of the life of Christ by Nobel laureate José Saramago


A brilliant skeptic, José Saramago envisions the life of Jesus Christ and the story of his Passion as things of this earth: A child crying, the caress of a woman half asleep, the bleat of a goat, a prayer uttered in the grayish morning light. His idea


A wry, fictional account of the life of Christ by Nobel laureate José Saramago


A brilliant skeptic, José Saramago envisions the life of Jesus Christ and the story of his Passion as things of this earth: A child crying, the caress of a woman half asleep, the bleat of a goat, a prayer uttered in the grayish morning light. His idea of the Holy Family reflects the real complexities of any family, and—as only Saramago can—he imagines them with tinges of vision, dream, and omen. The result is a deft psychological portrait that moves between poetry and irony, spirituality and irreverence of a savior who is at once the Son of God and a young man. In this provocative, tender novel, the subject of wide critical discussion and wonder, Saramago questions the meaning of God, the foundations of the Church, and human existence itself.

Editorial Reviews

Ilene Cooper
As provocative as "The Last Temptation of Christ" and already as controversial in its native Portugal, this fictional life of Jesus is as haunting as a dream and as real as a baby's cry. From the opening scene, in which an angel, dressed as a beggar, comes to announce the birth of Jesus, to the last moment of Jesus' life when the voice of the Lord seems to mock him as Jesus' blood drips into a bowl, Saramago mixes magic, myth, and reality into a potent brew. Among the most eyebrow-raising depictions in the book is that of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute to whom Jesus surrenders his virginity in a scene that is both erotic and tender. More than his mistress, Mary becomes the catalyst that allows Jesus to see the world in a new way. With little paragraphing and no quotation marks, the text is at times difficult to follow. But there is method to Saramago's formlessness. This is a book that can't be read quickly. The typographical density forces us to reread sentences and conversations, and in the course of rereading, we find multiple levels of meaning in the narrative, leading us in turn to ponder the larger questions Saramago's tale elicits.
Kirkus Reviews
Now making its US debut, a novel from noted Portuguese writer Saramago (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, 1990) that—despite its provocative conclusions and sometimes irreverent tone—is a profoundly different but no less significant life of Christ. Here, the Christian story is told from the point of view of Jesus, a young man very much of his time and place in spite of his great destiny. And it is this emphasis on Jesus's appreciation for the ordinary joys and virtues of human life—sexual love, family, nature, friendship, honor—that make the conflict between the desires of God, here indeed His father, and what He himself perceives to be earthly virtues, so tragic. All the familiar stories—the Annunciation, the Slaughter of the Innocents, the Miracles, and the Crucifixion—are related with a nod to postmodern sensibilities, but they're secondary to Saramago's main purpose—to suggest that Jesus had to live and die as much for the benefit of God as for the Devil, both of whom appear in person. Saramago's God, who resembles a successful CEO, wants to use Jesus and the church He will found to expand His dominions; and when Jesus wants to know, "How much death and suffering Your victory over other gods will cause?" God answers with a long list of martyrs, wars of faith, and institutions like the Inquisition. Even the Devil, an ambivalent figure who often intervenes positively in Jesus's life, is moved to repentance, but God rejects his offer: "Because I cannot exist without the evil you represent. Unless the Devil is the Devil, God cannot be God." Jesus goes on to His destiny, but with a caveat: in the hope of averting the bloodshed implicit inthe founding of Christianity, he asks to be crucified as King of the Jews, not as the Son of God. Fiction that engages the mind as much as the spirit as, in eloquently supple prose, it seeks to understand faith.

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Meet the Author

JOSÉ SARAMAGO (1922–2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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The Gospel According to Jesus Christ 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a Christian. Parts of this book should offend me, but do not. Why? Because the fresh perspective Saramago gives to the life of Jesus during the unknown years, and the last years of his ministry, forces me to ask questions I never considered. Would a loving God want an obedient Jew to whisk his child to Egypt to avoid Herod's wrath, yet not tell any other Jewish parent to do the same? At 53, after years of studying the Bible, I never asked this question until I read this book. Yet, I have had to think about it. Little twists here and there are applied to many of the lessons of Scripture, and the result is that I cannot automatically say that certain things were good where before I did. Do I want to follow this work as my belief about Christ' life as a man? No. But, is my faith enriched by having to think about the view that Saramago presents? Absolutely. My eyes were opened to the fact that in some cases I have just accepted a truth that perhaps needs more consideration. And, that consideration only enhances my life and my faith. Approached from this viewpoint, this work is a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Except of course all the details about god and demon, the life of christ is described as close to reality as it ever has been by a human being. Considering the rest of the world blindly took the bible given and never questioned anything in it. Some questions asked in this book are fundamental paradoxes of Christian religion and that is why Catholic church was so opposed to this book. Simple questions as 'free will' which really isn't free cause according to allmighty god all our actions are already predetermined. at any rate, i always thought that religion is a very offensive institution to intelectual human beings and i think this book raises a lot of questions that proves it. ppl who blindly believe in christianity shouldl not read this book they will get very mad
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book and I am a lucky man because, beeing Brazillian, I can read José Saramago in Portuguese. There are excellent question about god and cristianism, that's could let some of jesus and god belovers angry. Too many serious questions too think about the Bible by a genious. P.S.: Sorry about the english, I can't write in this language.
VelvetESmooth More than 1 year ago
What an interesting depiction of Jesus from conception to death. It is definately fiction, and keeping that in mind, it attempts to portray Jesus as a regular kid in not so regular situations. I've often pondered over Jesus' childhood and his 'step-father' Joseph. This was one man's vision of how those early years may have been lived. I could not put the book down. Liked it, mostly. The good vs. evil, not so much.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the BIG stories of the past two millenia is compellingly retold, imparting a spiritually dreamlike state on this reader. Great middle of the night reading, although sure to create problems with some segments of society. A Jesus more real than the one in the other book? For some, yes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was duped into reading this book by the caché its having won the Nobel gave it. What a waste of money! If the subject is Jesus Christ, I expect to be offered something more than someone´s imagination by way of edification, and Saramago has done no meaningful research, that I can detect. Mary Magdalene is once again cast as a prostitute, a historical error promulgated by one of the early popes. Mary, Jesus´ mother, is little more than a resigned baby machine. Saramago´s male chauvinism is even more offensive than the Church´s, since secular works have as their mission intellectualism. Some of the questions Saramago raises are sound, but overall, he renders the impression that he is gaining a predictable audience by bashing an easy victim: Christianity in general, and the Roman Catholic Church specifically.