The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

by Philip Pullman


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The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is the remarkable new piece of fiction from best-selling and famously atheistic author Philip Pullman. By challenging the events of the gospels, Pullman puts forward his own compelling and plausible version of the life of Jesus, and in so doing, does what all great books do: makes the reader ask questions.

In Pullman’s own words, “The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.”

Written with unstinting authority, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a pithy, erudite, subtle, and powerful book by a controversial and beloved author. It is a text to be read and reread, studied and unpacked, much like the Good Book itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802145390
Publisher: Canongate U.S.
Publication date: 04/12/2011
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 250,056
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, in 1946. He has won many awards, including the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. His acclaimed trilogy, His Dark Materials, has been published in thirty-nine languages. . The Amber Spyglass, the trilogy’s astonishing finale, was the first children’s book in history to win the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. It was also nominated for the Booker Prize. When he is not writing books, Pullman enjoys drawing, woodworking, and playing the piano. He lives with his family in Oxford, England.


Oxford, England

Date of Birth:

October 19, 1946

Place of Birth:

Norwich, England


Exeter College, Oxford University

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The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 78 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.
roblong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is alright, not a patch on His Dark Materials, but diverting enough for a quick read. To simplify somewhat, it uses the conceit of a 'good' twin Jesus - the prophet and idealist - and the 'bad' Christ - the church builder and tradition beginner - to discuss what Pullman sees and good and bad aspects of religion. Jesus brings a spiritual message of seemingly genuine authority, but Christ, wanting it to last forever and apply to everyone, flavours its chronicling with miracles, rituals and plans for a great Church to spread the Word across the world. The style of it is generally good, echoing the New Testament, but is broken annoyingly a few times for 'now this is the point' sections - sudden, several-page-long digressions on the wrongs of the Catholic Church, and a rather forced change of heart for one of the characters towards the end. Thought provoking at turns but not massively so.
abbottthomas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Other reviewers have commented on Pullman's atheism - I thought he left quite a lot of room for God, even if it is a God with no concern about his creation or at least no interest in human-kind. The author can't, of course, accept the virgin birth, miracles or the resurrection so knocks the props from under Christianity despite approving Jesus' attitudes, teaching and integrity. His main dislike is for established religion, a creation of imperfect, if not greedy and power-hungry mortals.Pullman's explanations of the supernatural are neat, if not particularly original, and Christ is given the responsibility for writing up the history to ensure that Jesus' story will last through the ages. The one enigmatic character is the commissioner of the history who is never named: he visits Christ regularly and guides him in the manner of manipulation of the truth. This commissioner might have been one of the Sanhedrin but, if one didn't know better, he might have been intended to be Satan.
ASmallHolding on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"This is a story." proclaims the back of the book, leaving the Reader in no doubt that the Author wants to make this clear and possibly in anticipation of reaction to the book. The book quickly establishes that this is "the story of Jesus and his brother Christ" and even before we learn that these brothers are twins, the title has already suggested to me that we may be in "evil twin" territory. Sadly the book does not develop well enough to support my first impressions and it becomes, quite simply, a retelling of a well known story and of possibly lesser known Gospels. I very nearly stopped reading at the end of the first short chapter. I felt as if I should be reading this aloud to a child. And, whilst there are some big words and bigger issues as the story progresses, I am still left feeling that I have been patronised. The style is simplistic. Maybe the Author intends to provoke our own thoughts, but he promised me a story and I feel as if I have been short changed. If I had no knowledge of the Bible at all I would have been left totally bewildered as to what this story was about. It is a story and has the makings of a good one but it is not well-rounded and I am left feeling as if I have read a synopsis.
mandochild on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the trilogy "His dark materials" except for the fact that I thought the idea of killing off God was very underplayed and very anticlimactic. The being that Lyra kills off isn't even God but someone masquerading as God - a very weak, ineffectual substitute. There is no infinity or direct power involved in what she does. She truly does kill off an idea rather than anything else. God is more remarkable for his absence than his presence.In such a dramatic story, I felt that this aspect was skirted around and handled on tip toes with disappointing results. I therefore wanted to see whether Pullman addressed the topic more effectively in "Good man Jesus..." And he does. Interestingly, it is immediately obvious that the absence of God is once again the theme; only this time the absence is active, forceful and tragic. The whole "Why hast thou forsaken me" line takes on heartbreaking significance.But what I love about this book is that it isn't really about a "scoundrel" at all. The whole story is very sympathetically and movingly portrayed. Jesus is at times powerful and reverent, at times apparently lonely, angry and even unloving. But apart from his dramatic monologue towards the end, he is seen nearly entirely through the eyes of others, so it is hard to really feel identification with him. Christ is a different matter. And the true tragedy of the book is that he is no scoundrel. He is a man full of faith and devotion, to God and to his brother. It is he who believes in a God for all people, not just the Jewish people. And he truly believes, at least in the beginning, that truth is greater than history, and can be made to "irradiate history". He believes, unlike Jesus, that human frailty must be accepted and that people must be helped to be the best they can be, through carefully ministered loving order, rather than set up to fail to achieve perfection, unaided.It is the absence of God that betrays both Jesus and Christ. The church, like the crucifixion, is necessary only because it is the best possible substitute (or so Christ believes) for a genuine divine presence in people's everyday lives. The loneliness, the good intentions and the love, of both Christ and his brother Jesus, are portrayed in a way that is at once believable, sympathetic and powerful. I am delighted to finally see what I felt was missing from "His dark materials" and am very glad I took the time to read further.
Garth_Jones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A clever idea well executed and always having the ring of a possible truth.
neiljohnford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Phillip Pullman's post script for this he explains that he does not prescribe what the book means - it's up to the reader to bring their own meaning. I really enjoyed it as a work that explored some of the mythology of Christianity - and how there could be a rational explanation for some of the miracles described in the new testament. It also got me thinking about the difference between faith and religion. That historically there was a man called Jesus who had a message on how people should treat each other, but that the gospels that make up the new testament take a dogmatic approach to recording this. Reading it as an agnostic it makes perfect sense but I'd imagine it would be a difficult read for anyone with religious beliefs. I think what I liked about it was that it wasn't deliberately provocative (as you might expect bearing in mind the church's reaction to His Dark Materials). Instead it offers a rational explanation for the actions of Jesus and explores the difference between this and the story as it's portrayed in the gospels. This is based on a historical approach to interpreting the (often contradictory) gospels, including the lesser known gospels that have been suppressed by the church. This is a good read for anyone who's reflected that Christianity sometimes doesn't seem very Christian...
Devil_llama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this fantasy for adults, the author sets up a situation where Jesus was born a twin. His twin, Christ, follows him around and chronicles his activities, reporting on them to the mysterious stranger who appears at crucial moments. An interesting twist on an old story.
aketzle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eh. Nothing compared to The Golden Compass.
christinelstanley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting reworking of a bible story! It will absolutely offend some, and I would say to anyone with faith not to read it. I, however, enjoyed it. As always, Pullman's story-telling is wonderful.
eeio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this retelling of the story works pretty well. i has an undercurrent of humor that blends really well with the more serious tone. a friend (ann) recommended this book to me and initially i wasn't entirely convinced about reading another jesus story, although i was curious about Philip Pullman's version since he has been known to have an anti religious streak. it took until the conversation between jesus and christ where the latter is describing the future of the church to convince me. funny and dark. pretty irreverent. the language is simple but well crafted. although i don't care much about it, this story manages to be respectful. in a way the author seems to really like aspects of the jesus character and there is homage paid.
Beezie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A decent part of a fantastic series. Hopefully, Canongate will continue publishing them.
kewing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This retelling of the New Testament is spare, pared to the bone, but far from simplistic, The dualism between sacred and profane, between truth and myth, between fact and fable, between Jesus the believer and the belief, become the central parable. I expected something more radical, more daring, but in the end was satisfied it was not. The last third of this quick read is the more daring.
ElectricRay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read a number of retellings of the central Christian story recently: C K Stead wrote a fascinating and surprisingly faithful (irony intended) secular retelling from the eyes of Judas Hiscariot; I was fortunate enough to attend a performance of the famous, once-in-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria, and now I've stumbled over the famously atheist Philip Pullman's take - which involves a fair bit more licence than Stead's but is otherwise of a similar demystifying disposition: rationalising miracles into ordinary materialistic phenomena, and rebasing Jesus from mystic to idealistic, but nonetheless political, historical figure. Pullman's licence is to pull Jesus Christ apart into two figures: Jesus (an idealist if naive populist) and Christ, his twin, a more introverted, but more intelligent, dark inversion. Curiously, the Passion Play - which is entirely reverend to orthodox Christian doctrine in a way that Stead's and Pullman's works are not - also de-emphasises the spiritual in favour of the political machinations of the Sanhedrin and the political dimension of Christ's mission. All three, in some way, accordingly miss what's so special and clever about the passion. But we live in rational times - or so we like our chroniclers to tell us. All three also bring the character of Judas into sharp relief: Stead and Oberammergau by his prominence, Pullman by his notable absence. The thing is, unless read purely as a pantomime villain, Judas is the not only the central driver of the passion's narrative, but also the most interesting and recognisably human character of the lot: he means well, but is naivety/stupidity/vanity/self importance (delete as applicable) lets him down. His is the character arc which gives us lessons: if this were a Shakespearian Tragedy he would be the lead: a complex, brooding anti-hero in the vein of Macbeth. Jesus, by contrast, is a rather cardboard cut-out good guy not unlike the fated Duncan: At key points in the drama, Christ remains passive and stays pointedly silent. By contrast Judas agonises, soliloquises, and, for better or ill, acts. While Judas is not represented by name here, his actions are, and it is telling how Pullman has re-designed the whole myth to accommodate them (it would spoil it to say more: you'll have to read the book to see what I mean). Much of Pullman's industry is to illustrate that there is no such thing as truth other than the compelling story contextualised and carved out of events which, in their unfinished natural state, don't have a moral or didactic dimension. Jesus provides the unshaped events, Christ the chronicle. Christ is, by turns, appalled by and drawn to the power he derives from his narrative talent. This brief book is written stylishly and evenly in Pullman's curt and economical prose. He might seem a controversial choice to retell this particular story, yet despite his inventions Philip Pullman generally does not let his atheism get in the way of the thrust of Jesus' central message. Indeed, as a storyteller of the first order, you wonder whether he doesn't see a little of the tragic scoundrel Christ in himself. If you like this, try C.K. Stead: My Name Was Judas
YossarianXeno on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pullman's re-imagining of the Jesus myth is simply, gracefully written. A short book, the ultimate conclusion echoes that of author's masterful Dark Materials trilogy - that the Christian church was founded by those who misappropriated the story of a good, charismatic individual, mythologised it and used it as the basis for founding a vast bureaucracy that became increasingly corrupt as it sought to defend it's position of power.Central to the story is the idea the Jesus and Christ were actually twin brothers. The former was a good man, who eventually abandons his belief in god, the latter not so much nasty as sad and manipulated into betraying his brother.
msbosh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I knew I'd like this, and I was right. Imagine Jesus was a twin. He's still a very devout Jew who attracts followers wherever he goes because he's so sincere, so committed to spreading good news about the coming Lord, and knows how to tell a great story. But it's his twin brother, Christ who is responsible for Jesus going down in history as the son of God and founder of the Christian church. In Pullman's take, the resurrection is staged, historical events are embellished, and Christ is the real Judas. The Garden of Gethsemani scene is the heart of the book. Here Jesus asks god for a sign, any sign, to prove his existence. There is none, of course, and what Jesus thinks to himself then turns out to be incredibly prescient. In a way his worst nightmare has come true. As in all Pullman's work, the whole point of the exercise is to tell a good story, and he accomplishes this quite well.
Glorybe1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have just finished this book and have to say that by the end I quite enjoyed it! When I started I have to admit I was very disappointed, it read very much like a book for children, being very simply written, but I suppose the fact that Philip Pullman has written a lot for children and young adults I shouln't be too surprised!!The Story is about the theory that Jesus and Christ were twins, with Jesus being the GOOD one whilst Christ is a bit more 'realistic' in his views.It takes you through most of the well known stories told in the bible about healing, changing water into wine and the money changing in the temples etc.. with a sight twist! Christ is the one noting down all that Jesus says and does, without his knowledge and it is Christ that eventually betrays Jesus to the Romans.I am not a religious person myself, but found the story very clever, although it did take me until over halfway to appreciate it as just that, a story.
labeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very interesting and thought provoking. A great recommendation is that lots of Christian fundamentalists/conservatives hate it!
JuliaF on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting take on the difference between the church (represented by the character of Christ) and Jesus (represented by the character of Jesus). These characters are twins. This is a work of fiction - a story. In this novel, Jesus dies and his twin brother takes his place, having made notes throughout about what his brother said in his lifetime. The message is twisted, and turned into a more worldly version, with reasons, excuses and rationalisations given by the help of a sinister stranger. It is the vision of religious authority, more concerned with power than humility and service. It is a criticism of religious power and arrogance and not an attempt to rewrite Christian history.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just finished The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman. I read somewhere on LT that His Dark Materials series wasn't atheistic but just anti catholic. Two thirds of the way through this book I thought maybe that was right. Jesus and Christ are twin boys born to an innocent and easily confused young wife Mary who was tricked into bed by a local boy who said he was an angel. Jesus is healthy and lovable from birth, Christ is sickly and kind of a mamma's boy (this is not his usual feminist writing). Jesus gets into trouble with boyish pranks while he's growing up, and Christ has to get him out of it -- by performing miracles. Or by the end of the book one thinks perhaps those miracles didn't happen as first described but were tales concocted by Christ. As they grow, Jesus becomes so charismatic crowds of people are drawn to him. The loaves and fishes tale is shown to be less a miracle and more that Jesus was able to feed a large group of people by convincing members of the crowd to share what they had with others. He "heals" people by giving them hope and a new sense of self worth. Christ is only a little jealous, but wants to support Jesus in his preaching by maybe starting a church. He goes through the whole system of hierarchy explaining how it could bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth. Jesus wants nothing to do with it.As Jesus goes preaching around the area, Christ begins to become his chronicler, writing down his sayings even though he makes god and salvation seem contradictory and arbitrary. At some point Christ is confronted by a stranger (whom you might think of as the devil, but he says he isn't, and since Pullman is an atheist I can only think this stranger is a farsighted entrepreneur). The stranger tells him that there is a truth that goes beyond time, that is the handmaid of posterity rather than its governor. Meaning, as you write down what Jesus says, feel free to edit it so that it makes sense of the larger picture, the worship that we want to bring about in the church we can create. Christ is a good editor.In the Garden of Gethsemane finally the atheism becomes clear. Jesus is praying but doesn't know if there's anyone out there to pray to. He says, "I can imagine some smartarse of a priest in years to come pulling the wool over his poor followers' eyes, 'God's great absence is, of course, the very sign of his presence' or some such drivel...The priest is worse than the fool in the psalm who at least is an honest man. When the fool prays to god and gets no answer, he decides that God's great absence means he's not bloody well there." Jesus then goes on to describe accurately all the evils that could be perpetuated by a church. "As soon as men who believe they're doing God's will get a hold of power...the devil enters into them. It isn't long before they start drawing up lists of punishments for all kinds of innocent great palaces and temples to strut around in...levy taxes on the poor to pay for their luxuries...start keeping scripture secret too holy to be revealed to ordinary people so that only the priests interpretation will be allowed... They will become more fearful because the more power they have the less they'll trust anyone...But any priest who want to indulge his secret appetites, his greed, his lust, his cruelty will find himself like a wolf in a field of lambs where the shepherd is bound and gagged and blinded." Then he asks god "And where will you be? Will you strike these blaspheming serpents...To ask the question and wait for the answer is to know there will be no answer."Then there's a rather expected description of the resurrection and its consequences. It doesn't leave much doubt that Pullman isn't just anti church.This is an interesting book, part of the Myths Series, which I didn't even realized existed. Lots of myths rewritten, though I note no one has yet been willing to risk a fatwa by rewriting the myth of Mohammad.
Rhinoa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another in the Canongate Myths series and this time it is Phillip Pullman taking on Christianity. It is a retelling of the life of Jesus Christ with the twist that Jesus and Christ are actually twin brothers. It begins with their conception and the idea is proposed that their father is a boy from the village posing as an angel. This is left up to the reader to decide and from there the boys grow up with very different personalities.Lots of key events from The Bible are described but with the two boys taking on different characters. It goes right through to the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection as Christ and puts a whole new spin on some of the most famous stories ever told. It addresses some of the issues with the way the stories of Jesus were recorded and how they are open to misinterpretation.It was an interesting read and it¿s a shame so many seem to have got bogged down in whether it is blasphemous or not. Being part of the myths series rather than in the religious section along with copies of The Bible and Qu¿arn etc, I feel that it is irrelevant whether people are offended or not. It¿s Pullman¿s fictional take on the stories as an artist and author and it poses some very interesting questions like many good books. It¿s not anti-Christian, but it is very clearly anti-Church. Sometimes you do have to wonder though has Pullman written this just to live up to his reputation of being controversial as obviously he knew the types of response such a novel would elicit.