The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

Title: TheGood man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
Author: Philip Pullman
Language: English
Year of Publication: 2010
Number of pages: 245
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2996-3

I added a "Possible spoilers" before talking about the characters, because even though the book follows Jesus and the story of Jesus and people probably know it, the characters are a bit different. So there might be some spoilers, but they're not huge. 

The book is a retelling of the story of Jesus. It’s basically about Jesus and his twin-brother Christ. He isn’t actually named Christ, but his mother thinks he is the Messiah, so she calls him Christ. I have never actually read the Bible so I don’t know exactly what happens, but I have had religious studies in school, from the age of 7 to 18 so I know roughly what happens to Jesus. Pullman’s book starts with telling about Mary and Joseph. Then they go onto the life of Jesus and Christ up until the crucifixion of Jesus.
During the story Christ comes off as the pious and religious and he does many of the classic “Jesus-things,” he stays at the temple for example. Christ has been told by his mother that he is the Messiah and Jesus becomes Joseph’s child more than Mary’s and he’s the carpenter’s son, not the Messiah. Christ is Mary’s favorite and is raised to think he is an important religious figure.

Eventually Jesus becomes “Bible-Jesus” he goes to Jerusalem, he rides the donkey into the city, he throws out the moneychangers in the temple and he heals people. I don’t feel like I’m giving anything away because it’s the story of Jesus, so it is quite close to the Bible-story.


The important characters are obviously Jesus and Christ. Jesus comes off as this tough, carpenter’s son who eventually reaches his destiny. When he becomes this person people assume is the Messiah he is this relentless, determined man, he also seems cruel sometimes, he only lets certain people into his flock. He has no patience for people who don’t believe in God and he doesn’t really have patience with God either, which I found really interesting. He tries so hard to get people to believe and to be moral men and women. I also like his ideas of the church. He is quite critical to the church that his brother wants to establish because he believes it will be used to control its subjects, and that is not what he wants, making me think of the church of today. If he would ever establish a church he would want it the priests to be poor and accept everyone. And this is how I would like to think Jesus was if he ever existed.

Christ is Jesus’ twin brother, and he’s small and sickly when he’s born and his mother thinks he’s the Messiah so she treats him accordingly. Christ grows up as this pious, whiny kid who rats on his brother and who tries so hard to be the perfect son. He becomes one of Jesus’ followers and he starts writing down what Jesus does. He is also kind of calculating guy who believes in establishing a church. He thinks this is a way to spread Christianity and he is sort of controlled by a man he thinks is an angel. He calls him “the stranger.” I have to be honest and say I’m not sure if the stranger is an angel, but there are certainly mystical things about him. I think I see where Christ is coming from although my slightly agnostic and liberal tendencies make me instinctively think I should not like him. I prefer Jesus’ view on church and in many ways religion. Christ is more realistic though I guess. He is smart, he wants to do the best thing, he wants to spread the word of God through church, but he is also ambitious and calculating, and he is willing to do pretty tough things to prove his faith, a bit like Abraham, and he is a bit whiny about it. It’s not like Jobs’ sort of stoic acceptance, he whines and that really annoyed me about him.

As I said I haven’t read the Bible, but I imagine it’s written sort of like the Bible. There are short chapters and the headlines explain what will happen in the chapter. The writing is good, cause you know Philip Pullman is awesome. He makes the people come alive, which is sort of a pretentious thing to say, but you know. The writing isn’t very Bible-y, but I don’t think it needs to be, I liked it so much. Obviously it is a bit blasphemous, and that is always interesting, but it’s subtler (I’m not sure that’s a word, more subtle) than in the last blasphemous book I read, so I like it. I think Pullman is an exciting writer, he’s clever and interesting, and I like him so much.

In conclusion, a big thumbs up for The Good man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.