The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman [Book Thoughts]

A difficult topic handled well. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is an elegant exposition in historical narratives. Some heavy insights are on offer here.
-Imran

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Phillip Pullman is most well-known for the His Dark Materials Trilogy comprising Northern LightsThe Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. While the series is aimed at children, it deals with subject that is anything but childish. Pullman, of course, is no stranger to controversy and you probably tell from the title alone that The Good Man Jesus is about as controversial as it gets.

The Good Man Jesus is a fiction story inextricably entangled with the story of Jesus from the Bible, incorporating several aspects of his life, his legacy and the Church. I feel like it’s another one of those books where telling you what it’s about would ruin the experience so I’ll just quote a snippet from the back of the book and say that it’s: ‘a story of two brothers’. It’s not so much about religion as it is about historical narratives and about the things that matter to us as humans over time.

That being said, it’s one of those books where subject matter itself is so delicate that it has the potential to engulf the whole book. I can imagine plenty have condemned it without reading it and plenty have used it as a point in an argument – also without reading it. I can also imagine a massive polarization in opinions of those who do read it: many Christians and other religious people might go in from page 1 trying to attack it from every angle and many Atheists and anti-religious people might read it to use some of its content to smugly bash religious people.

And really, I feel like either approach would be a disservice to the book. While Pullman himself gives some commentary in a short essay at the back, this is first and foremost a work of literary fiction and the best way to gain something from reading it is to leave your prejudices, both positive and negative, at the door.

And if you have manage to do that and step aside from the controversy, then what you’ll find is a very interesting reinterpretation of a complex issue. It’s a book that’s as devoid of bile and condemnation as something like this could be while still bringing something meaningful to the table. It also poses some very interesting, and probably unsolvable, questions that are really worth thinking about, especially if you’re religious. It’s a shame that there’s so much controversy surrounding the book because it’s honestly one of the better works I’ve read this year.

A difficult topic handled well. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is an elegant exposition in historical narratives. Some heavy insights are on offer here.

See you next week

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