The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

This post is an attempt at a book review. As you know, I’m not very good at reviewing anything, so it will probably be quite vague and short!

Mr C received  a copy of Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ for Christmas,  which was quite handy, as both Mr C and I had been wanting to read it since it came out. The book is based on an interesting premise – what if Mary, the mother of Jesus, had actually had two twin sons, one called Jesus who grows up to be a great teacher and preacher of the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the other called Christ, a studious and pious man, but weak and gullible, who lives in his brother’s shadow (although he is Mary’s favourite).

The book tells the story of Jesus (mainly as described in the Bible with a few significant alterations, ommissions and additions by Pullman) alongside the story of Christ who secretly  follows his brother’s ministry and tries to bring about the Kingdom of God, but not as Jesus (as portrayed in the book or the Bible) would have wanted it. I can’t really explain the story any further without giving away what happens, so I’m sorry if that’s not a very good description!

I wanted to like this book. I really enjoyed Pullman’s  His Dark Materials trilogy and related books and the couple of Sally Lockhart books I’ve read, but I can’t really say the same for The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. This wasn’t because I found the content particularly offensive, I just didn’t think it was very good. There were a few thought-provoking parts  (such as the one I quoted the other day),  but not as many as I expected there to be, having read some of Pullman’s other works, and on the whole I thought he made rather a lazy and predictable attempt at an exercise in trying to show people how clever he is. As a Christian and [as] a thinking person, I felt patronised.

So, there is my opinion, for what it’s worth. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is not a really bad book, but I don’t think it’s worthy of all the praise that’s been lavished on it by reviewers. More than anything else, I was disappointed by it.


4 thoughts on “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

  1. I also enjoyed “His Dark Materials” and have the trilogy on my bookshelf. As for the Sally Lockhart mysteries I thought the plots were trite and predictable. Consequently, although the writing was as grammatically correct as one would expect from Pullman, I did not enjoy them and have not tried any of his works since. Fortunately I can find the latest ones in library to try before spending money.

  2. I haven’t read it so can’t really comment on the book but I can see that it would be disappointing if you were looking for some valuable new insights and didn’t find them.

    Just before Christmas I was staying in a guest house with my husband and I read a bit of the Gideon bible which was in the room. I was thinking to myself that I wished I had a bible just like that particular one. The one I had at home was a different version and the print was a bit small.

    And guess what? On Saturday when I went to my local library there was a book sale which was buy one/get one free. And there was a Gideon bible just like the one in my guest house room! So I bought a book and got it free, so that was good!

  3. Just a note to the above comment. We stayed in a hotel for one night and a guest house for two and I think it must have been at the hotel that I read the Gideon’s bible, not the guest house. I don’t think they give out bibles to guest houses!

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