Customer Review

607 of 639 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and clever story, 9 April 2010
This review is from: The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ (Myths) (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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Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 11-20 of 40 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2010 14:23:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 Apr 2010 16:13:20 BDT
Pumpkin Head says:
T. Deegan

Thanks for your reply. My comment to Karen was a general one regarding the validity of the gospel stories. I highlighted this as she referred to Pullman's book as "insulting trash" before reading it, thereby rendering it invalid in her view. My point was that the jesus story (which I assume, she believes in) could, in fact, have a more naturalistic explanation - not necessarily Pullman's, but an alternative none the less.

There may well have been a political radical called jesus, but the stories surrounding him (feeding the 5 thousand, turning water into wine, the resurrection etc) may well have been embellished to enhance his status among his followers. Considering that the gospels are not eye-witness testimonies and were written some decades after the death of jesus, such embellishments would be easy enough to fabricate and difficult to refute.

You wrote: "In fact the credentials of the gospels are extremely strong..."
Can I ask what you meant by this? Credentials pertaining to what, and on what basis are they strong?

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Apr 2010 17:02:55 BDT
D. O. Kinsey says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Apr 2010 18:00:00 BDT
Pumpkin Head says:
D O Kinsey

But how reliable are these accounts of jesus and his miracles? If the gospels are not eye witness accounts, how much credibillity do we give to the _supernatural_ acts that are alleged to have taken place?

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Apr 2010 16:14:23 BDT
Oh dear. I don't know id this post is a troll, but as a Christian myself, I find it embarrassing. We don't need to be defended by using the law to prevent free speech.
God wants from us most love. Love can only be freely given - it can't be compelled, which is why, IMO we have free will. Even if I'm wrong, I don't think that as a Christian I have any right to impose my will on others, even if I do believe that I am right and they are wrong in terms of my belief.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Posted on 18 Apr 2010 14:10:03 BDT
H. Waddell says:
I came back to the discussion of Philip Pullman's book to find out if there had been a reply to a comment I had made. Although I couldn't find that discussion, I have read LC James's review and reactions to it with great interest.

I haven't yet read Pullman's book, but do intend to, and from what I have read in its descriptions and reviews, I think that H.Spanner would seem to be right in saying that Pullman has a lot of respect for Jesus. A more "naturalistic" explanation or retelling of the story of Jesus seems essential to point out that he was indeed only human. If we are able to understand this then there would be no need for "fairies at the bottom of the garden"-type complaints. A parable is an analogy that illustrates a moral lesson. I think Jesus would find it incredibly frustrating that a Christian has suggested banning the clarification of this. I don't think Pullman is just after fame and money with a sensational bit of blasphemy. He may well have sounded childishly spiteful in His Dark Materials (I haven't read those books) - I myself harbour a lot of anger about the way Christianity was used in my early life and so do a great many others. It IS important to differentiate between the church and a personal relationship with Jesus. However, Christian teachings (in my experience) demand the attendance of church services and allegiance to the church, and I think it's important for believers to be tolerant and try to share their beliefs about the good Jesus tried to do without any expectation of this. People who feel it's all a lot of supernatural poppycock are not going to be won over by hectoring dogma, so there's no point going into it with a zealously self-righteous attitude (Karen. Tsk tsk!) that will just further alienate them.

Posted on 19 Apr 2010 15:37:25 BDT
shpadoinkle says:
Great review. I am reading about Jesus and find it very enlightening and uplifting, however I dont really want to be part of The Church. Its a dilemma.

Posted on 19 Apr 2010 20:15:27 BDT
Sou'Wester says:
What an excellent and well-balanced review L C James has written. What a shame, though, that it has provoked so much intolerance and bigotry from both believers and non-believers in many of the comments that followed ......

Posted on 19 Apr 2010 21:12:46 BDT
The cynic says:
Thanks for this review, as a person I think I could relate to I am now interested to read this book, I also enjoyed His Dark Materials.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2010 11:41:34 BDT
Karen,

People said the same thing about Monty Python's Life of Brian, but if you watch it most of it is not blasphemy at all, but satire on the church, which is what LC James' review suggests.

Whether it is blasphemy may depend on your perspective, but pretty much any representation of Jesus outside of the gospels (including films such as The Passion of Christ) might be construed as blasphemy.

Not having read this I will reserve judgement until I do (probably not for a long, long time as I still have yet to read His Dark Materials - tried twice and got bored both times).

As a theologian, you have nothing to fear from reading this book because your own critical faculties should help you to determine truth from fiction. The danger is in those who are not quite so critical reading this.

Wayne

In reply to an earlier post on 29 May 2010 20:13:15 BDT
mfl says:
I think this is a good measured review of a novel. I also agree that Pullman has a sound knowledge of his subject enough to make an intellectual argument to augment his angst. It makes it a clever book but not necessarily a great one. Wayne you also make a sober assessment "you have nothing to fear from reading this book because your own critical faculties should help you to determine truth from fiction".

What is though unerring, lest we forget this is a book review site, is the amount of readers who are voting positive / negative based on their beliefs and NOT on the quality or foresight of the review itself. It's not about scoring points: if you read it and reviewed it, please don't come back to trawl through reviews to vote on those who disagree with your opinion or your beliefs.

My point is that a large number of well intentioned and sound reviews are being marked down and one can only assume because the voters are taking a Christian or Atheist viewpoint.

Don't be so quick to judge those with a genuine interest to grind your axe. If you want to judge the book or an opinion, leave a comment for others to debate. For serious reviewers on religious topics, we attract such churlish voting; saying little about the effort made and more about those who choose to judge it based on prejudice on the subject, however worthy either way you claim.

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