Book Review: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman
It’s very hard to write a review on Philip Pullman’s new addition to Canongate’s Myth series, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.
When publishers choose the best known fantasy writer/atheist in the world to rejig the Jesus myth, they have made a very commercial decision to make a barrelful of religious zealots foam up money for them.
And impressed though I may be, it’s hard to step willingly into that barrel.
Luckily, Pullman writes so well that once you have got over yourself and actually picked up the book… the controversy settles into a very interesting, and personal, read. As an agnostic brought up Christian, I can relate to Pullman’s self description as a “Church of England atheist”. I am also very familiar with the Gospels he has both unwoven and condensed.
The skill of Pullman lies in his ability to retain the beauty of Jesus’ philosophy of universal love and humility, while teasing out the biblical strands which underpin the prideful structures of the Christian church. It is up to each reader to weigh up the two mythical men Pullman fashions out of his own magical dust – the good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ – and decide for themselves how much resonates with their own experience of Christianity.
Personally? Pullman inspires me to take pride in what I revere from my upbringing and yet have the courage to actively, and angrily, decry that which I believe to be evil, masquerading as The Word. As for whether or not a book this controversial should be written at all… no one addresses this question better than Pullman himself:
Many of us won over by His Dark Materials consider Pullman to be a leading moral intellectual in the world today. And at this time, described by Pullman himself as the “twilight of enlightenment”, we need to hear him more than ever.
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman is available at Lobby Books for R140.