Thursday, 29 December 2011

No Life of Brian

In an attempt to decrease the size of "the pile", a quick catch-up review of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by the UK author, and prominent atheist, Philip Pullman.

Very disappointing. The central idea, that the Biblical Jesus is a composite character of two very different people (an actual good man, Jesus; and a "scoundrel" responsible for the Church, Christ), is a good one, but Pullman largely stuffs up the execution. The writing is uniformly good, but from my perspective Pullman is inconsistent in his presentation of Jesus. A sensible approach for a polemicist like Pullman might have been to present Jesus as an ordinary man and the supernatural tales about him as simple exaggeration on the part of contemporaries, but the novel's Jesus jumps between being a good man and actually performing miracles [*]. So the reader, this one anyway, is left confused about what Pullman is trying to say. Life of Brian, to name one similar Messiah-questioning artwork, handles all of this much more clearly and self-consistently. The "scoundrel", Christ, is also nothing of the sort most of the time, which might, I guess, be part of Pullman's aim. Overall, I left with the feeling that the novel was a bit of a wasted opportunity, particularly so since Pullman had put so many of the pieces in place.

[*] Unless, of course, this is another novel that I've misread!

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