The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, by Philip Pullman

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel ChristThe Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Philip Pullman has opened the proverbial can of worms with his version of the life of Jesus. In his retelling, Mary gave birth to twins. Jesus is outgoing, charismatic, and humanist (and in this book somewhat annoying), while Christ is more reserved and analytical, devoting himself to picking up the pieces when his brother makes mistakes, and to chronicling his words and actions. There is little narrative tension or suspense, as the outcome is preordained. Well versed in the New Testament, Pullman sticks to the details presented in the gospels. But he leaves himself open to acrimony in his interpretation of events, as told by the brother Christ.

At heart, this short book is a critique of organized religion and the uses that the powerful make of simple facts. What is truth? Pullman demonstrates how the urge to make a story more influential leads writers to embellish, the better to attract and manipulate followers. His interpretation of some of the famous miracles, such as that of the loaves and fishes, demonstrates how a little spin can change meaning and purpose. He does not argue that the teachings of the historical Jesus are flawed.

Ostensibly, this is a book for adults who can scrutinize and evaluate ideals. While the message is clear, however, the prose is irritatingly simplistic, marring an otherwise worthy theme.

This review is based upon advance reader copy provided by Amazon.com.

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