Book Review: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

This is a retelling of the gospel account of the life of Jesus, his words and works and written in an easy to read modern style of writing.

2000 years ago, twins were born to a fair maiden and her older husband. The first was a strong, happy and honest child named Jesus. His twin brother, Christ (so named because he was mummy’s favourite) was small, weak, sickly and incredibly manipulative. Yet both had magical powers.

Jesus was careful with his, used them sparingly and entered into a life of preaching against the abuses of power. He rubbed people up the wrong way and during his life he suffered and was revered in equal measure.

Christ on the other hand saw an opportunity to impress people and build a cult of personality around himself and eventually create a movement that would influence the world and control people’s lives. He manipulated, charmed and tricked his way into a position of influence and eventually founded the church.

Controversial stuff undoubtedly and because of that there are many people who will not read it. This is a shame because as a parable it works rather well about the dangers of religion, its power-hungry and totalitarian nature and how the ends always justify the means. Jesus has his flaws and Christ has redeeming qualities that give the pair depth beyond merely being good cop-bad cop.

Its a little short though. 240 pages in big script using not a great deal of the page, probably no more than 50,000 words. As a consequence I read this in a single day. It would be easy to read in a single sitting of about three or four hours perhaps?

It flows well; the prose is very easy on the eye but largely lacking in too much detail. I usually don’t like this skeletal approach, finding it dry and uninspiring but the story takes you in and the familiarity of the story and the period means that not much would have been required.

Having looked up the book’s details on the internet, I discovered that it is part of a series of books that re-imagine ancient myths and tales. These are known as The Canongate Myth Series.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

  1. Hmm, but did you like it?

    I very much enjoy Pullman’s style of writing; and this is another book on my list of books to read, but I just haven’t gotten to it; but I haven’t heard very much about this one.

    Thanks for the link on the Canongate Myth Series. I didn’t know it was part of a larger effort.

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