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The Umbrella Organisation

The Umbrella Organisation

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The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman
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rakspatel wrote in mycroft_brolly

On Wednesday 30 November, I attended an event at St James's Church, Piccadilly, chaired by Lucy Winkett (Rector of St James's), where Philip Pullman and Chris Rowland discussed Blake’s argument with the Bible. The event was held to celebrate Blake’s birthday and the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible in 1611.

I am a HUGE Philip Pullman fan and His Dark Materials is one of my favourite books of all time (His Dark Materials is, of course, a trilogy). I have been on Philip Pullman's trail for ages, but I have never got to see him live or hear him speak before this event because his talks have always clashed with some other commitment that I have on.

I LOVE His Dark Materials and all the companion books, but I have not read much else of Philip's work. However, in preparation for this discussion and Q&A, I read "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ". Embarrassingly I am going to have to admit that, because theatre and film have taken over my life this year, I have precious little time for anything else, including television, and so this is the ONLY new book that I have read this year (I have reread some old favourites, including many Canon stories). I have had the book itself for the best part of 6-9 months but it was only because this event was coming up that I finally prioritised reading it.

All I will say is that I loved "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ". It is a very short and simple book, very easy to read. What it gave me was a good overview of all the Gospel stories relating to Jesus, with a new take/spin on them. It made me think. It proved once and for all how WHO writes history is critical, and also how history is often changed and reinterpreted when it is written. There is no such thing as a "true" history, all history is seen through the eyes of the person writing the history. I am thoroughly recommending the novel, to Christians, followers of other faiths, and atheists alike. Philip Pullman knows how to tell a good story and this book more than adequately shows that.

Buy it in hardback here for £9.14 (this is the version I have):
Buy it in paperback here for £6.59:

Cut and pasted from the Amazon website:

This is a story. In this ingenious and spell-binding retelling of the life of Jesus, Philip Pullman revisits the most influential story ever told. Charged with mystery, compassion and enormous power, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ throws fresh light on who Jesus was and asks the reader questions that will continue to resonate long after the final page is turned. For, above all, this book is about how stories become stories.

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

However, His Dark Materials is better - way better - so, if you have not read that, read that first as a priority!

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Thanks for reminding me about this book. I am always interested in different theories about history and/or Christianity, and remember hearing about this book (and the inevitable controversy around it) when it was first published in hardback. Must take a look at a paperback copy now...

P.S. I too enjoyed Philip Pulman's trilogy. One of my favourite concepts was the subtle knife, cutting a window from one universe to another. :-)

I LOVED the whole concept of daemons!

Just finished reading the The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, which was another of the books I received as a Christmas present.

Very interesting. As a person brought up without family worship and only the usual school-based Christianity, I have never had Faith with a capital F and generally prefer to see God through science. Whilst I believe the historical fact of a man with followers called Jesus, I don't need miracles, etc to give him my regard, and see the Bible as a powerful product of man-made processes in a historical context.

Philip Pulman's concept in this short book appeals to the realist in me – that there was no resurrection, just people conjuring up what they wanted to see in their grief. And of course, the enhancement of backstory to better befit a Messiah – I wouldn't go as far as to put all this onto the shoulders on one man, even less a brother who betrays his own, but the point is made thus as an example of how it could have been. Curious though that as a Godless man Pullman still inserts a mysterious agent or angel into his retelling of the Gospels. But then he too is a storyteller...

I thought the last part of the afterword especially powerful. How would things be now had this man Jesus not died as and when he did? Would we all prefer that he suffered to preserve the status quo? That is a very uncomfortable question for everyone, whether we have Faith with a capital F or not. We all fear the unknown.

Without Jesus himself, would there be no Christianity? Part of me believes, given that the Jewish people were looking for a saviour, another person would have acquired that mantle of prophet, caused the same problems for the authorities, suffered the inevitable fate, thus the religious movement would have happened anyway. Sometimes the time is simply ripe for a movement to take place.

A deceptively simply written but extremely thought provoking book!

"A deceptively simply written but extremely thought provoking book!". You named it in one!

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