I've just finished reading Pullman's book 'The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ'. Here are some of my thoughts:
NB Forgive the lack of structure, my writing reflects what I thought depending on where I was in the book at the time.
My first thoughts are: there's a lot of redaction. A messy amalgamation of biblical stories are used to drive home Pullman's point that Christ, Jesus' brother, is trouble. You've heard of the parable of the prodigal son haven't you? Well Pullman substitutes the two sons with Jesus and Christ. I'm sure you can guess who the celebration was for. One has to be reminded though that this is a piece of fiction - and not a very good one at that! This is not my way of expressing that I've taken offence - it takes a lot more than this I assure you.
The magazine 'Slate' says: "How many writers would dare to try to rewrite - no, to repair - the most famous, most sacred story ever written?" What do you think is meant by 'repair' here? No scholarly theologian (nor armchair theologian for that matter) would disagree that there are contradictions within the Bible - an expected assumption from a text written by human hands and with human fallacy. So what is Pullman supposedly repairing?
Christ: "I believe the Kingdom is coming, of course I do. But he thinks it will come without warning, because God is impulsive and arbitrary." - Why does the lack of a details for the Kingdom of God mean that God is arbitrary? Does your partner tell you of the exact time they're going to propose to you? Are we supposed to know when, where and how we are supposed to die? No. If we argue from logic this is an unfounded assumption. Looking at it from another viewpoint it can be suggested that this 'impulsive' behaviour has been incorporated into God's larger plan.
"And he is the history and you are the truth." ANATHEMA! Any Christian knows that the historical figure of Christ cannot be separated from the man who is the Son of God. Now tell me, who was right, Arius or Athanasius? Monothelitism or Dyothelitism?
So why is Christ a 'scoundrel'? Because he wants to place emphasis on the Law? Then he is no different to any of the Pharisees or Sadducees who question Jesus. That does not make him a scoundrel.
But wait, I understand! Christ manipulates Jesus' actions and words so that they reflect the spiritual and eschatological significance rather than the historical truth, thus making him a scoundrel. But can it not be argued that what Pullman's character Jesus taught had eschatological significance?
Is Pullman calling Christ a scoundrel because of the way he acts? But Christ is human. He is tempted by a prostitute and and he worries about his family. He loves his brother and is short of temper. When he realises his sins he prays and asks for forgiveness. So shoot the guy.
Why does it not surprise me to read this: "As soon as men who believe they're doing God's will get hold of power, whether it's in a household or a village or in Jerusalem or in Rome itself, the devil enters into them."
Later, Pullman gives an insight into what Jesus said whilst in the garden at Gethsemane. He voices the opinion, the thoughts that many faithful share: one where crisis permeates everyday life, where no voice can be heard in reply to one's prayers, where one questions whether God is really there. I have to say, Pullman has surprised me here. He asks questions that many faithful do but do not readily admit.
For a second my opinion about this book had changed, but I realise that Pullman simply wants to suggest that the story of Jesus was a fabrication by his twin Christ, who was also the one who betrayed him. This novel is heretical on so many levels but I knew that would be the case before I opened the book.
If you're looking to see how the Gospels would have been written by an English writer from Norwich, then read this, although I'm not sure it's worth it's £7.99 price tag. For that price you're better off reading C.S Lewis' 'The Problem of Pain'. Not Catholic, granted, but you'll learn a thing or two.