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Philip Pullman's Jesus Paperback – 22 Aug 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Darton, Longman and Todd (22 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0232528063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0232528060
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,556,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Gerald O'Collins SJ was professor of theology at the Gregorian University, Rome for over thirty years. He is the author of 55 books, including Jesus: A Portrait. In January 2006, along with Nicole Kidman, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gra on 21 Mar 2011
Format: Paperback
Compared with the imagination Pullman shows in the His Dark Materials trilogy, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a very slight work and probably did not deserve a detailed response. If it did, then this is definitely not it! Unless it is intended as a parody of an expert's response to an ill-researched, "popular" work, then it fails on all counts. It criticises Pullman for his lack of familiarity with modern study of the gospels but appears to miss entirely the import of the recent work by Bauckham and Dunn on eyewitnesses and the Jesus tradition presenting them as if they had demonstrated that the gospels should be read as straight history and as if redaction criticism had never happened. Yet O'Collins reads the baptism of Jesus as a direct revelation of "the Holy Trinity" which itself is something more than history. Later he lists the important thinkers of early Christinaity some of whom ended their lives in martyrdom for their faith but fails to address the fact that the church later branded one a heretic (Origen) and another joined an extremist sect and split from the church (Tertullian). This requires an explanation since one of Pullman's main targets in his book is the institutional church which in part he represents by "the Scoundrel Christ". There is much to dislike in Pullman's book but this is not an adequate response.
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7 of 24 people found the following review helpful By trini on 31 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The short (100-page) book by Fr Gerald O'Collins SJ, published in August 2010, which is reviewed here, is itself entirely a review, and a condemnation, of Philip Pullman's book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, which appeared a few months earlier. I was tempted to use for the title of my review here the one-sentence verdict which O'Collins repeats (pages 44 and 99): "Should [Pullman's] book be renamed `The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Pullman'?" But I decided, after all, to leave that verdict as the proper fingerprint of O'Collins himself.

Since O'Collins's book is simply a continuous refutation of Pullman's story, outlining Collins's book will necessarily mean constantly referring to Pullman.

Pullman's dominating idea, the peg on which his whole 'STORY' hangs, is a far-fetched invention which fundamentally attacks the New Testament story.

The New Testament tells the story of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be and who came to be recognized as the Messiah (a Hebrew/Aramaic word meaning 'anointed', for which the Greek translation is 'Christ'), and so eventually Jesus of Nazareth came to be known simply as 'Jesus Christ', or 'Jesus the Messiah'.

But what Pullman does is to say that Jesus' mother Mary became pregnant not with one child, but with twins, one of whom Mary called Jesus, and the other whom she called Christ. [Pullman suggests moreover that Mary's pregnancy was not supernatural, as announced by the angel Gabriel, but through the human activity of a young man who crawled in through Mary's window.] Pullman's book then tries to rewrite the New Testament story of the one person Jesus Christ as the double story of these competing twin brothers, which he sums up in the title of his book: Jesus good, Christ scoundrel.
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Amazon.com: 1 review
7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The storyteller Pullman loses the plot 31 Oct 2010
By trini - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The short (100-page) book by Fr Gerald O'Collins SJ, published in August 2010, which is reviewed here, is itself entirely a review, and a condemnation, of Philip Pullman's book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, which appeared a few months earlier. I was tempted to use for the title of my review here the one-sentence verdict which O'Collins repeats (pages 44 and 99): "Should [Pullman's] book be renamed `The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Pullman'?" But I decided, after all, to leave that verdict as the proper fingerprint of O'Collins himself.

Since O'Collins's book is simply a continuous refutation of Pullman's story, outlining Collins's book will necessarily mean constantly referring to Pullman.

Pullman's dominating idea, the peg on which his whole 'STORY' hangs, is a far-fetched invention which fundamentally attacks the New Testament story.

The New Testament tells the story of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be and who came to be recognized as the Messiah (a Hebrew/Aramaic word meaning 'anointed', for which the Greek translation is 'Christ'), and so eventually Jesus of Nazareth came to be known simply as 'Jesus Christ', or 'Jesus the Messiah'.

But what Pullman does is to say that Jesus' mother Mary became pregnant not with one child, but with twins, one of whom Mary called Jesus, and the other whom she called Christ. [Pullman suggests moreover that Mary's pregnancy was not supernatural, as announced by the angel Gabriel, but through the human activity of a young man who crawled in through Mary's window.] Pullman's book then tries to rewrite the New Testament story of the one person Jesus Christ as the double story of these competing twin brothers, which he sums up in the title of his book: Jesus good, Christ scoundrel. Even here, in his own key assessment of his book, Pullman fails, because Christ is very often shown to be the one who prays, and knows his scriptures, whereas Jesus is the popular hail-fellow-well-met. In fact, using the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Pullman identifies Jesus as the Prodigal Son who wasted his inheritance living riotously, while Christ is the good loyal son who stayed at home helping his father. So Pullman fails to tell even his own story well.

Again, Pullman tries to paint the `good' Jesus as a man, and the `scoundrel' Christ as having divine attributes. But this distinction is never clear, nor is it consistent throughout his book (see e.g. O'Collins, p. 30) - a real confusion.

O'Collins points out that, almost everywhere, Pullman corrupts the gospel story of Jesus. Specifically, for Pullman, there were no miracles in the original 'true' gospel story, because miracles simply could not happen. Here are some examples.

The marriage feast at Cana: no miracle here, for Pullman: when the wine ran out, the chief steward thought again, and found some more - gallons and gallons - that he hadn't noticed before. The feeding of the five thousand: no miracle here either; once Jesus asked about feeding the five thousand without having to go and buy food, the five thousand suddenly discovered that they had all brought plenty of food with them - they had merely been shy about sharing, until their consciences were jogged. All the miracles of healing by Jesus? Nothing more, for Pullman, than people feeling better after Jesus was nice to them.

All of this means that, in every case, Pullman ignores the very point for which the New Testament gospel writers told their 'story': that the healings and signs that Jesus performed were precisely miracles which showed that he was fulfilling the role of the expected Messiah.

Pullman also needs (and uses) the peg of the twin Jesus-and-Christ brotherhood to support the deceit with which Pullman surrounds his 'retelling' of the last days of Christ, his passion, death and resurrection, For Pullman:

It was 'Christ', not Judas-one-of-the-twelve, who betrayed his twin brother 'Jesus' to the Temple authorities in the garden of Gethsemane with a kiss.
It is 'Jesus' who dies on the cross (but Pullman cannot decide whether 'Jesus'' knees were broken or not - all sorts of absurd 'might-be's are proposed by Pullman about this); Pullman is certain (totally contradicted by the biblical account) that it was the Roman soldier's lance that killed 'Jesus' (p. 235).

Since Pullman does not believe that the resurrection of Jesus happened, in order to explain how the first Christians came to believe in it, Pullman has to introduce the most far-fetched (im)possibilities, long dustbinned by serious scholars. Perhaps, for Pullman, Jesus didn't die on the cross, but merely swooned; so he was taken down alive, and came back to his senses in the tomb, from which his friends then rescued him. (He must have healed rapidly enough (miraculously?) to appear as `risen' to his friends.)

Or maybe, some modern doubters suggest, by some sudden inspiration in the minds of the Twelve (and the women?) Jesus (though mangled, scourged, crowned with thorns, dead, pierced with a lance, unrisen, rotting in the tomb) nevertheless `rose in the hearts of the disciples' as the long-expected Jewish Messiah/Saviour without needing to rise physically from the dead.

Unbelievably, Pullman's preferred choice is that after Jesus had been laid in the tomb, his friends took his dead body away, leaving the 'empty tomb'; so his look-alike twin, 'Christ', from then on pretended to be the risen 'Jesus', and it is 'Christ' who is reverenced as the risen 'Jesus' by Magdalene and by the disciples on the way to Emmaus and by `doubting Thomas' (very mixed-up episodes in Pullman), and at all further resurrection appearances of 'Jesus'.

Pullman's own fantastic story (`fantastic ridiculous', not `fantastic marvellous') of the not-killed twin `Christ' being mistaken for the killed-and-not-resurrected `Jesus' of course would destroy the story of Jesus' Ascension and the whole Pentecost episode in the Acts of the Apostles (to which Pullman never refers), because `Christ' would have been still around after the supposed ascension of `Jesus'. Pullman gets around this by saying that at some later stage "Christ was living under another name in a town on the sea-coast, a place where Jesus had never been" (p. 239), married to `Martha'. Well, well.

Lack of space prevents more than the barest mention of O'Collins's handling of the `Stranger' whom Pullman introduces out of the blue, and never clearly identifies: is he a Jewish priest or a Greek philosopher or an angel or a devil, or `legion' (but not Satan)? It is this `stranger' who tries to get `Christ' to corrupt the words and work of `Jesus', and who persuaded `Christ' to pretend to be the `risen Jesus'!

Sadly, too, I must pass over now, for lack of space, the crucial (but more `learned') consideration of what Pullman's book totally failed to account for - the massive New Testament testimony to the divinity of Jesus

On pages 62,63 O'Collins repeats his verdict: "Pullman blames Christ and the smooth-tongued, malevolent 'stranger' [for rewriting the story of Jesus]. But are they not puppets in the hands of their brilliant and imaginative creator, Pullman himself? Who then is 'the scoundrel'?"
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