The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Phillip Pullman

I love the Canongate Myth series. And I say that having only read two books now from it. But I love the idea of the series. Taking myths from all different cultures and retelling them, reinterpreting them, looking at them from different angles, different viewpoints, and gathering new insight from them. Nymeth wrote an amazing post on this newest installment in the Canongate Myth series and I won’t try to top that, but I urge you to go read it as it generated some wonderful comments. One thing that it brought up that I absolutely loved is the fact that we often become so anthropocentric in our own beliefs that we are quick to judge other cultures beliefs as “mythological” but ours are completely off limits for being discussed as myth.

There are many pagans still practicing in the world today, yet the idea of witches to many people are seen as nothing but a myth. They Hindu gods and goddesses are seen as myths to so many people these days. The Greek gods and goddesses have been written about for centuries now as “mythology” when there are those who believe them to be true. Even if this idea is alien to us, should we not respect those hold these divine beings as their own? But I’m getting off topic here. I’m getting away from a book review, and getting into other things. But I guess I’m addressing the inevitable. That people will see Pullman’s name attached to a book about Jesus and say “absolutely NOT!” What I can say is that Pullman has the utmost respect for the history, the teachings and the life of Jesus in this book and that it’s a beautiful story. And like the other myths that addressed the religions of other believers of other religions, it respects the source and presents an alternate take on the original story.

Pullman’s take is that Jesus was born as a twin. His brother was named Christ and followed Jesus in the background recording everything that Jesus taught and did, forming the gospels in a way. Pullman stays true to what I remember of the New Testament. I recognized many of the stories here and I have to say that the tale was beautiful and oh so human. It was touching in so many ways.

The Jesus that is presented in the New Testament is sort of divided in half into the two brothers by Pullman. Jesus is the man that the public sees. The man who preaches, the man who works miracles, the man who people follow. While Christ is the brother in the background who tries to push Jesus forward to become more than a man. Jesus himself is not ready to accept being the son of God and while many may be turned off by this, it helped me relate to him more. It made him more real to me. Here is a man that is good, that wants to see good in the world, but that does get frustrated with the bad, that does see that there is evil.

As anyone who knows the story of the New Testament, the ending is sad, but Pullman has his tricks up his sleeve to make it interesting as well. I truly enjoyed this latest installment in the Myth series and can’t wait to read more. I’ve recently ordered Baba Yaga Laid an Egg and that will be the next one to hit the nightstand!


7 Responses

  1. Like I said on Ana’s review, this book sounds interesting but I think it will be several years before I could possibly pick it up. After the 2008 elections and all the religious interference with Prop 8 (specifically Mormon interference), I just got so burnt out on anything that deals with religion. In any way. Well, not all religions, just Christianity. I’m not anti-Christian or anything, but I don’t want to read books dealing with those beliefs for a few years.

  2. Amanda, Yay! Someone read this post :p I didn’t think anyone would since I posted my other post so soon after :p I just had to post the oil spill post. I totally understand not being able to read this one right now. It is an interesting book and I think that some day you’d enjoy it, but it definitely doesn’t sound like the time to read it right now.

  3. I read part of this at a bookshop the other day, and the first few chapters, at least, felt a little – well, a little obvious. I’m hoping when I read it in full, I’ll enjoy it more.

  4. Some of the best fantasy books are based on what we would call “myths” – whether from our culture or others. And I completely agree with you about how absurd it is that we should be calling certain beliefs “myths” when there are people who believe them to be true. And who are we to know whether theirs is any more or less true than something that we believe?

    Anyway! I haven’t heard of this series before – you said this is the second one. What’s the first one? Do you have to read them in order, or are they kind of stand-alones that are all just reworkings of different “myths”?

  5. I’m going to agree with Jenny’s comment. Although the book is intelligently written, it feels a little simplistic, a little obvious as Jenny says.

    I thought the idea was good, and the writing mimics Biblical style well, I just felt it lacked the punch I was expecting.

    Ah well, I’m still a Pullman fan and look forward to his future work. If interested, my review is here:

  6. […] Reviews: Chasing Bawa, Ela’s Book Blog, Page247, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On, Things Mean a Lot Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it […]

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