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The Last Temptation of Christ [Paperback]

Nikos Kazantzakis
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Jan 2005
Hailed as a masterpiece by critics worldwide, "The Last Temptation of Christ" is a monumental reinterpretation of the Gospels by one of the giants of modern literature. Nikos Kazantzakis, renowned author of "Zorba the Greek, " brilliantly fleshes out the story of Christ's Passion, giving it a dynamic spiritual freshness. Kazantzakis's Jesus is gloriously divine, yet earthy and human, as he travels among peasants and is tempted by their comfortable life. Provocatively illuminating ever dimension of the Gospels, "The Last Temptation of Christ" is an exhilarating modern classic.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (17 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068485256X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684852560
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 13.5 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 514,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WHAT IF... 3 May 2003
Format:Paperback
The last temptation... Yes, it was the last temptation. Christ, as all of us, had a choice. He could turn left or he could turn right. When he makes his choice what happens to us? How does it affect us and how does it affect our future? Was he right when he made his choice? How difficult was it to make the choice? What did he feel? What was the temptation?
All these questions and many more I asked myself for years. I have to make choices every day. How difficult is it for me? Am I right making my choices? What are my temptations? Can I answer all that?
Nikos Kazantzakis selected a very difficult field when he chose to answer all these questions. How can you? But he did give us a great version of the possible answers. The book is full of knowledge, ideas and imagination, not counting one of the best writings ever created. My thumbs are up. I loved it and so would you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Powerful, Hypnotic 18 Nov 2004
Format:Paperback
Kazantzakis' most controversial novel explores the humanity and
struggles of the Christ in ways the Bible merely implies & intimates. Every aspect of the New Testament version explodes into gripping passionate emotional inner turmoil which you know is leading up to something BIG ... The novel is extremely well written, every character is human, believable and has an individual personality of which aspects are magnified. The battle of the spirit is ever present. You identify with the torment and future possibilities. It is every person's struggle at some point in his or her life. The book is rich in detail and description which making you feel you are living in that era. The outcome is inevitable but the drama and intensity is enormous and spell-binding! Erika Borsos (bakonyvilla)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 11 May 2014
By Carrie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved it. Even though a lot of this is fiction, it really makes you think about the temptations Jesus would have faced and overcome. Really powerful and beautiful!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT IF... 25 May 2003
Format:Paperback
The last temptation... Yes, it was the last temptation. Christ, as all of us, had a choice. He could turn left or he could turn right. When he makes his choice what happens to us? How does it affect us and how does it affect our future? Was he right when he made his choice? How difficult was it to make the choice? What did he feel? What was the temptation?
All these questions and many more I asked myself for years. I have to make choices every day. How difficult is it for me? Am I right making my choices? What are my temptations? Can I answer all that?
Nikos Kazantzakis selected a very difficult field when he chose to answer all these questions. How can you? But he did give us a great version of the possible answers. The book is full of knowledge, ideas and imagination, not counting one of the best writings ever created. My thumbs are up. I loved it and so would you.
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Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  119 reviews
86 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 - An excellent fictional account on the life of Jesus 16 Dec 2002
By Jack Fitzgerald - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Last Temptation of Christ is a fictional exploration of the life of one of history's most intriguing figures, Jesus Christ. This is not revisionist history, merely an author's viewpoint on how the Son of the Carpenter may have lived his life. It should be taken as a novel, and not a reinterpretation of the scriptures.
Nikos Kazantzakis presents Jesus as very human, a man struggling to ignore the voice of God while making the crosses that the Romans use for crucifiction execution. The people around him think he is mad, and at first the story is frustrating as the reader wants the character to show some guts and follow his destiny. Of course, what a destiny this turned out to be. How many of us could have done what he was purported to have done? That is the question, and as Jesus accepts that he is the Messiah, the story really gets moving.
This is not an easy read, both in its prose and its ideas. There is a lot here to challenge people from all religious backgrounds. Jesus is shown as a human, with human emotions and frailties, but it is this that makes for an interesting character arc in the presenation of the novel and the creation of a truly dynamic character.
Kazantzakis also provides beautiful description of the land of Jesus' birth and places we've read about in the Bible and heard of in the news. Nazareth, Judea, Galilee, Samaria and Jerusalem come alive in these pages, full of Jews, Romans, Pharisees, Scribes and ragamuffins.
The character of Judas Iscariot is also interesting, a militant religious zealot who wants the Romans out of Israel. In this story, he is the one follower that remains completely true to Jesus, and must accept the most difficult task given to him by Jesus. The other apostles are shown as weak and ready to desert Jesus at the earliest threat of danger to their lives.
A challenging aspect of this book is the visions, and one is never quite sure if what a character is seeing is real, imagined or a vision from God. A lot of strange things happen, and sections are full of Biblical symbolism so you might need to read sections twice or consult with the Gospels for clarity.
The scenes dealing with Satan are particularly bizarre, especially the period where Jesus is fasting in the desert.
Another interesting character is Mary Magdelene, a prostitute that scorns Jesus, then becomes one of his most ardent followers. She figures in the last temptation, but more important are the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. As Christ ascends the Cross, he experiences this last temptation and there is an interesting twist on temptations. To me, this section was not nearly so blasphemous as "religious" folks have made it out to be. They probably didn't actually read the book.
Here are a couple of my favorite passages:
"What are dreams, Rabbi?" she asked him softly. "What are they made of? Who sends them?"
"They are neither angels nor devils," Jesus answered her. "When Lucifer started his revolt against God, dreams could not make up their minds which side to take. They remained between devils and angels, and God hurled them down into the inferno of sleep..."
Another
"A prophet is the one who, when everyone else despairs, hopes. And when everyone else hopes, he despairs. You'll ask me why. It's because he has mastered the Great Secret: that the Wheel turns."
The only major problem I had with the writing was that there was a lot of point of view shifting within scenes, so it sometimes became confusing whose head we were in during the scene. One minute we're with Jesus, the next with John, then Peter, and so on. I don't mind multiple points of view, but I prefer to stay with one character throughout the duration of a scene.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who wants to examine their beliefs from an alternate point of view other than the one taught by organized religion.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Everything Has Begun!" ~ Reconciling God With Man 17 July 2006
By Brian E. Erland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read Nikos Kazantzakis' `The Last Temptation of Christ' back in '75. It was assigned as required reading for a college course I was enrolled in called, "Radical Christianity". Actually I faked my way through the assignment, who wants to read another book on the life of Christ? I certainly didn't. It wasn't until the end of the semester and summer was upon me that I actually opened the book for the first time and begin to read. Once I began I couldn't put it down.

Kazantzakis is a brilliant writer who looks at the world and perceives the intangibles around us like no other author I've ever read. His narrative is surreal, hallucinogenic and disturbingly earthy all at the same time. His ability to look into the human psyche and translate its intensely personal contents into concrete terminology is truly amazing. At times his writing seems more akin to poetry than composition.

This life of Christ is unlike anything you've ever come across before, which explains why there was so much turmoil and Christian backlash over the release of the movie adaptation by Scorsese in '88. They still haven't learned that a closed mind can never be a truly spiritual mind. Don't pass on reading the book because you saw the film. The difference between the two is the difference between night and day.

One of my Top Ten Books of All-Time! My Highest Recommendation.
82 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jesus with Flaws 29 Oct 2003
By Paul McGrath - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
So Jesus finally reads what Matthew has been writing about him for the last several months and is flabbergasted. "This isn't the truth," he says. "These are lies! I was not born in Bethlehem. I've never set foot in Egypt in my life. I don't remember any magi! And the dove did not say, 'This is my son,' while I was being baptized!" Matthew tells him he knows this, but nevertheless he has been writing what he has been told to write by an angel, who visits him in the evening. Matthew himself questioned this truth, but the angel told him that he knew nothing of the truth. The angel told him there were many truths, the truths of men, which are many, and the truth of God, which is one. Matthew was to record the truth of God. And he did.

The truth. Yes, indeed, the truth. It can make one uncomfortable on occasion, and Mr. Kazantzakis' version of the truth can certainly be said to do that. His Jesus is quite a bit different than the one we've come to know and love from catechism class and from the Bible. His Jesus only performs a few of the miracles recounted in the Bible. There is no mention of the crippled man lowered through the roof. There is no Sermon on the Mount. No wedding at Cana. The walking on water story was a dream of Peter. But he does recite some parables, heal the centurion's daughter, and raise Lazarus from the dead.

He agonizes over his fate, is often unsure of his divinity, and rails at God, whose hold on him is described as ten claws gripping his skull. He preaches the doctrine of love, but is somewhat vague as to how to put it into practice. He goes to Jerusalem and screams at the Pharisees and the high priests, stating he will smash the temple to pieces. He claims that all must repent, for the baptism he provides will be fire, not water, and will burn the four corners of the earth.

His disciples are weak and vacillating, except for Judas, who is a fervent anti-Roman revolutionary. Magdalene becomes a prostitute after her love for him is spurned. Joseph is stricken and paralyzed the day Jesus is born, and remains that way for the rest of his life. His mother Mary is a miserable wretch as Jesus fails to do any of the normal things that a mother wishes her son to do.

No, this is not your typical Bible story. Nor should it be. It is fiction after all. But as the story is of Jesus, it is fiction which must be held to higher scrutiny. The question is, does it work?

To a large degree it does. The fact is, Jesus was a man. At one time in his life he was a baby, a ten-year old, a teenager, an adult. At which point during these times of his life did he finally realize he was the son of God? The Bible itself gives us many examples of his humanity: he shows love, anger, strength--and fear. Even on the eve of his death, he cries out to God to spare him from his fate: "Let this cup passeth over me."

Mr. Kazantzakis gives us an interesting interpretation of this life, and one which to some degree is in conformity with Biblical events. It is a fascinating piece of work and one which displays a great deal of passion and imagination. It is clearly written by a man with a burning, spiritual yearning.

But if there is a flaw it is that it fails to capture the true greatness of Jesus. Whether you believe in his divinity or not, it can not be denied that his influence on humanity was as great or greater than any person who ever lived. He began a religion two-thousand years ago which to this day continues to be practiced by millions of people on every continent of the earth. His teachings formed the basis of the greatest institutions that mankind has created; institutions based on freedom, equality and justice. He must have had, to say the very least, a remarkable personality.

And this is where it stretches credulity. For Kazantzakis' Jesus is perhaps just a little too human: too weak, too unsure of himself, sometimes too timid and sometimes too shrill. It is often a little hard to believe from this novel that he inspired the faith of his own disciples, much less the millions who followed.

But to be fair, who is to say what the truth is? Mr. Kazantzakis, after all, is simply recording the truth of man. One man. One of many. He must be commended, for by doing so he maybe came a little closer--and perhaps brought his readers a little closer--to the truth of God.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant ideas, less than brilliant execution 16 Jun 2005
By J. Renaud - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For the record, "The Last Temptation of Christ" is one of my favorite movies, one that I have seen many times, and I unfailingly find it to be moving, uplifting and inspiring. I expected to enjoy the book equally, but unfortunately I found that I had a number of reservations about Nikos Kazantzakis' book.

As a reader, I tend to appreciate good, detailed research: the better the author has done his homework, the more that I feel I can really appreciate and get into a story. Unfortunately, Kazantzakis' research seems to have been minimal at best. The people populating the world of "Last Temptation"'s Jesus are basically modern Orthodox Greeks in first century Jewish clothing. There are endless references to later Christian notions of hell and heaven, in addition to guardian angels, saints, devils, monasteries, abbots, friars, rosaries, etc.; there is absolutely no attempt to recreate an ancient Jewish mindset- in fact I was almost expecting Jesus and his friends to attend mass and perhaps light a candle in front of an icon. As "Last Temptation" is mainly about the psychology of a human Christ, who was born and raised a Jew, this greatly weakened the impact of the novel for me. I was not really sure how I could believe or sympathize with a character who, for me, was in no way convincing.

There are other weaknesses too. If the indifference to Judaism isn't bad enough, there are also references to things that came along centuries, if not millennia later, such as gunpowder, ears of corn, velvet, cashmere shawls, and- most unbelievably- palm-reading Gypsy fortune-tellers. There are also general inconsistencies. For example, Mary Magdalene, who is always called 'Magdalene' even as a girl, is described as a daughter of a rabbi from Cana. She does move to Magdala later, but why isn't she called 'Mary of Cana' if that is where she is originally from? For that matter, if everyone knows her father, why isn't she just called "Mary bat [daughter of] So and So"? It's little things like that which completely distract me from the no doubt powerful and moving story the author intended to tell.

The misogyny is also appalling; all the women in the story are forever saying things like, "You forget that we're women, and weak," and, "You must learn that a woman is like a wounded doe. She has no other joy, poor thing, except to lick her wounds." I also find the style to be flowery yet without being interesting, rather in the manner of Anne Rice, although this might be a problem with the translation. (However, authors like Flaubert and Tolstoy possess exquisite styles, which have come through many, many translations.)

On the bright side, Kazantzakis tackles the subject with energy and bravura, and his ideas are truly brilliant. I do apologize to all the Kazantzakis fans out there, but I really believe that Scorcese improved the story in his film. In my opinion, he made it more concise, authentic and emotionally powerful, and softened the unpleasant denigration of women and earthly things that seems to be a constant thread throughout the book. Many people love this novel, and get a lot out of it, and I think that's great. However, I personally can't get into it. Ah well- that just means that it's time to watch the movie again!
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pat Robertson ... eat your heart out 10 April 2000
By "darwinpoodle" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The seed is love"! I was raised in a christian household where we didn't question the literal truth of the bible and Jesus was a white man who was not of this earth. When I grew up and became a man, I resented the teachings I was given and rebelled against the church (and became a die hard athiest) After reading this book I was overwhelmed with a sense a inspiration and awe that no minister could ever plant in my soul. I saw for the first time the passion of Christ through the eyes of Jesus the man. I still am very much against organized religion and all its hippocrites, but I now refer to myself as agnostic. For someone to write these beautiful words about such a loving and tolerant man, proves that there must be some sort of an oversoul (like Emerson's). This is a must read book for the open minded soul who has questions about their fundamentalist upbringing. It is not for those who are intolerant, close minded, and think they have all the answers. Jesus spoke of love and compassion, he didn't judge his fellow man like most all christians do today (gays, muslims, jews, different races, hindus, drug users, and anyone who doesn't agree with them), Jesus would have not tried to change them by condeming them. Jesus would have loved them - nothing more. Fanaticism breeds contempt, the more fanatical and judgemental you are the more people will stop listening to you! By the way, Jesus was more than likely not a white, european, english speaking man. He was a Jew who probably looked more of Eygptian descent. Open your mind and heart and read this book - Absolutely mind shattering and sure to be a tear jerker for the compassionate soul.
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