This is a magnificent novel, worthy of comparison with that other great Jesus novel, Kazantzakis' "The Last Temptation". Saramago's theme is fairly common, one that has worried theologians for centuries: how can a loving god permit so much evil and suffering to exist in the world? The real villain of the book is not the devil, who seems almost sympathetic, a reluctant accomplice in the divine scheme, but the old testament Jehovah, a tyrant willing to sacrifice no end of martyrs, beginning with his own son, to achieve his ends. Saramago has faith in the goodness of people, perhaps indicative of his communist sympathies; there are several instances in the narrative where strangers come to the aid of the young Jesus as he goes in search of his ancestry and his destiny; he is sympathetic too with Joseph, whose guilt about not warning the parents of the murdered innocents results in an untimely death. All but the most liberal Christians will be offended by this book, and many will dismiss it as a communist indictment of religion. If, however, you can accept the book's didactic purpose, its passionate disavowal of the idea that there is any kind of divine grace or love, you will be enchanted by Saramago's wordy, often unpunctuated style, his wry, ironical tone, and his brilliant weaving of realist and mythical elements, complete with lengthy "evangelical" glosses. The best novel I have read since "One Hundred Years Of Solitude".