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The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ Paperback – 7 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (7 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857860070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857860071
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.9 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 186,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Pullman was born in Norwich on 19th October 1946. The early part of his life was spent travelling all over the world, because his father and then his stepfather were both in the Royal Air Force. He spent part of his childhood in Australia, where he first met the wonders of comics, and grew to love Superman and Batman in particular. From the age of 11, he lived in North Wales, having moved back to Britain. It was a time when children were allowed to roam anywhere, to play in the streets, to wander over the hills, and he took full advantage of it. His English teacher, Miss Enid Jones, was a big influence on him, and he still sends her copies of his books.

After he left school he went to Exeter College, Oxford, to read English. He did a number of odd jobs for a while, and then moved back to Oxford to become a teacher. He taught at various middle schools for twelve years, and then moved to Westminster College, Oxford, to be a part-time lecturer. He taught courses on the Victorian novel and on the folk tale, and also a course examining how words and pictures fit together. He eventually left teaching in order to write full-time.

His first published novel was for adults, but he began writing for children when he was a teacher. Some of his novels were based on plays he wrote for his school pupils, such as The Ruby In The Smoke. He is best known for the award winning His Dark Materials series, consisting of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

Product Description


A supreme storyteller . . . Pullman has done the story a service by reminding us of its extraordinary power to provoke and disturb. (Salley Vickers Telegraph)

Striking and suggestive. (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

Beautifully written, humane, memorable and resonant. (Philip Hensher)

A fierce and beautiful book which . . . will move even those who disagree with it . . . Though he wears his scholarship lightly as befits a master storyteller, there is no doubt in my mind that Pullman has a complete grasp of the intricacies of the quest for the historical Jesus. (Richard Holloway Observer)

Beautifully effective . . . Pullman's retelling of the central story in western civilisation provides a brilliant new interpretation that is also a thought-provoking reflection on the process of how stories come into existence and accrue their meanings. (Nick Rennison Sunday Times)

It is a small gem or, given its explosive story and its exquisite artistry, a hand grenade made by Fabergé. (Brian Appleyard Sunday Times)

The Gospel according to Pullman, precisely because it is so skilfully constructed, will prompt many readers to turn once more to consider whether or not they should accept the apparently bizarre testimony of the early Christian witnesses. (A.N Wilson Literary Review)

Pullman's rebel scripture [is] striking and suggestive . . . Sets a rhetorical feast before critics of ecclesiastical pomp and pride. When this Jesus prays, prior to his betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane, he delivers a Dawkins-esque soliloquy. Not only does the anarchic prophet predict a future priesthood of hypocrites and persecutors who will "torture and kill" heretics and infidels. He even spots child-abuse scandals to come. (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

Provokingly bold (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

Pullman has an extraordinary imagination . . .[and] there are moments of heart-rending personal drama. (Independent on Sunday)

A writer of great skill and feeling. (Adam Gopnik New Yorker)

Book Description

Philip Pullman retells the story of Jesus in this Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling novel

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

607 of 639 people found the following review helpful By L C James on 9 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm disappointed that so many people here have got stuck arguing about whether this is `blasphemous' or not. I'm a Christian and I think this is one of the best books I've read in a very long time. Pullman, whatever his own beliefs, knows his bible (Including the apocrypha) extremely well and has written what I think is an extremely clever story. Many people know how the story ultimately ends; with the death of Jesus on the cross and claims of his resurrection, but along the way Pullman retells some of the most profound stories of our Christian life in an enlightening, and I would even say, a revelatory, way.

The book is a quick read, with short chapters detailing particular bible events. But readers should not think that a quick read makes it a "light" read. There is much to ponder in the writing. The book invokes questions about how history and story are interlinked as well as considering the difficulty of discerning truth from history. That truth can be discovered in story is self evident in the reading of this story.

I don't think this is an anti-Christian book; although it is, very definitely, an anti-church book; but Christianity and the church are two different things. Pullman's description, spoken through the mouth of Jesus in this book, of what the church is and what the church should be, is one of the most finely tuned expose of where we (Christians) have gone wrong.
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94 of 103 people found the following review helpful By TomCat on 24 Dec 2010
Format: Paperback
TGMJATSC is essentially a re-telling of the Gospels of Mark and Matthew (there's bit of Luke: no John) i.e. the Jesus story. The miracle of the clay sparrows is also included, showing that Pullman is at least passingly familiar with the apocrypha. The significant point of difference is that Jesus now has a twin brother called `Christ'. The Jesus character is familiar: an itinerant preacher held in suspicion by both the Romans and Jewish elders. Christ is his less-gifted but loving brother who follows Jesus, secretly writing down his teachings so that others may learn about Jesus' ideas. (The lit. theory dorks amongst you might call this an inter-textual narrative: as the story that Christ is writing on his journey is supposedly the exact one you're now reading centuries later).

Poor Christ is soon corrupted by a mysterious stranger (whose identity is never revealed; possible contenders include: the Devil, a Sanhedrin elder, a Roman spy or even an angel) who insists that in order for Jesus' teachings to flourish, Jesus must die. Christ unwittingly fulfils the role of Judas, betraying his brother so that Jesus' word will become immortal. Pullman stringently plays-down the supernatural aspects of the story: and so instead of Jesus rising from the dead, Christ pretends to be his brother risen: creating a doppelganger scenario that explains the resurrection without any supernatural or divine impetus. It's the Jesus story mythologized for a secular audience.

The real controversy lies behind Christ's motivations: the `mysterious stranger' convinces Christ that everyday folk are too stupid to make moral decisions or to be their own masters: only an all-powerful church can be responsible.
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169 of 188 people found the following review helpful By S. Welham on 2 April 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A beautifully written retelling of the story of Jesus Christ. This is an easily read book where the words flow to cover the pages and keep you engrossed. I found the passages on the sermon on the mount and the agonising in the garden of Gethsemane strangely moving. There is no doubt that this book will cause great offense to some people and others will regard it as irrelevant but I think we need authors like Mr Pullman who make you think. Maybe we need to step out of our comfort zone and take a long hard look at the story of Jesus and the subsequent history of the organised church.

As far as I know there are no contemporary accounts of the life of Christ existing in their original form and this book points out the problems with recording accurately events and words spoken. The recorder will be seriously tempted to insert words, invent words and tell of events in such a way as to enhance the beliefs and opinions of the recorder! From then on it is a vast game of Chinese whispers!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is willing to keep an open mind and be provoked to think!
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63 of 70 people found the following review helpful By pigsmayfly on 4 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I feel a bit of a fraud writing a review on a book that re-tells stories (albeit different versions) from the Bible. Most of the reviews I have read were written by people who know (or claim to) their Bible. I do not.

Having said this, you do not need to be a biblical student to recognise the salient points Mr Pullman has picked out - the Sermon on the Mount, for example. A lot of reviews detailed Mr Pullmans story - some almost re-wrote it. I don't feel thats what a review should be about and I won't do it here. What I will say is it is simply written and is thought provoking. It asks questions about how we treat others, who really has the right to judge others, and.....dare I say?......questions the church and its motivations.

It was inevitable a section of the community was going to crawl out of the woodwork screaming blasphemy. Perhaps these people don't like some of the questions Mr Pullman subtley poses. In the words of the author, it is a story. Which makes it no different from the Bible then.

Any book that gets such a varied response, people thinking and discussing ideas surely has to have a thumbs up.
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