Re-examining the Bible with Philip Pullman

As part of The Myth series, Philip Pullman retells the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection with a twist in his novel “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.” His big twist? Instead of there being one baby boy born in the manger that fateful day, Mr. Pullman proposes that there are 2 – one strong, healthy boy named Jesus and another weaker one named Christ.  This twist completely changes the story, obviously, turning this biblical story on its head.

In my opinion, this is a particularly interesting re-telling.  Mr. Pullman paints Jesus as a man who preaches his beliefs not to create a religion but simply to spread the word.  In fact, he expressly does not want to create a religion because of all the negative things religion can bring, for example, war.  This is also why he prefers not to perform miracles and provide proof that he is the son of God.

Christ, however, approaches things differently.  He believes that miracles are a great way to “market” Jesus’ word, and based on the encouragement of an “angel” starts to keep track of Jesus’ accomplishments and preachings, retelling history as his view of history – truth with a a bit of embellishment.

As an atheist, Mr. Pullman pokes holes in many of the common beliefs surrounding the Christian faith – for example the resurrection and the “miracle” of one loaf feeding an entire city. He also writes the entire story in a similar voice and style as the Bible, lending his novel some of the solemness of the Bible itself.

Would I recommend it? I’m not sure.  I think the story is interesting, but obviously the writing style, although I understand why he chose it, makes the novel a bit of a dry read.  The book is, however, short.   If you have some spare time, and are interested in religion (in more of a theoretical literary sense versus in a faith-based sense) I find his retelling to be fairly interesting.

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