Jesus and his twin brother, Christ - Macleans.ca
 

Jesus and his twin brother, Christ

In Philip Pullman’s ‘fable,’ Mary gives birth to two geniuses, one spiritual, one religious


 

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There’s always been something visceral about Philip Pullman’s atheism. The brilliant children’s writer is as convinced of the intellectual case against God as Richard Dawkins or any of the other so-called new atheists he’s associated with. But what really seems to animate him—certainly through the course of The Golden Compass, his most famous novel, and its two sequels—is a contemptuous anger for the institutional Church, both Catholic and Protestant, and the more sordid parts of its history. So it’s a bit surprising to see a few (a very few) kind words come the Church’s way in Pullman’s provocatively entitled new novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

Perhaps they arose from the equally surprising relationship—one of mutual respect—between the author and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. “The novel grew out of an onstage conversation that I had with the archbishop,” says Pullman in an interview. “He pointed out, correctly, that although I had attacked religion in my trilogy, I hadn’t grappled with Jesus. The idea wouldn’t go away, and I began thinking about the differences between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Christ of Paul’s epistles.”

So it is, in Pullman’s self-described “fable”—one of publisher Canongate’s series of ancient myths reworked by modern authors—that Mary gives birth to twins. Jesus is the spiritual genius, the one who preaches love and forgiveness, demands justice for the downtrodden and believes in the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom on earth. But Christ is the religious genius, the one who can envisage—with the help of a shadowy, never-named stranger (“the ultimate clerical bureaucrat,” Pullman calls him)—an entity called the “church” that will carry on his brother’s message, or as much of it as ordinary people, in the judgment of the church, can handle.

So Christ retells Jesus’s acts and rewords his parables to make them more miraculous, more ethereal, more appealing, to create the sort of story that would inspire men and women—as the Gospels have through human history—to comfort the sick and feed the hungry. In the end, Christ even betrays his Jesus with a kiss, for the man must die for the story to live. Afterwards, Christ impersonates his dead twin at key moments, feeding the rumour of resurrection. (Naturally, Doubting Thomas was never allowed close enough to touch the imposter’s wounds: that’s a good story Christ wrote up later.)

Much of this is Pullman having casual fun— some of it mean-spirited—with details he doesn’t really care about in the miracle stories he appends to the beginning of his novel, in the manner of Luke’s Gospel, the main source for the most beloved Christmas stories. (Pullman almost visibly rolls his eyes in his account of the “virgin” birth.) The grandson of an Anglican clergyman, Pullman had a childhood “steeped” in traditional Christianity, and recalls Luke as “the most cheerful evangelist, everyone’s favourite.”

The tenor, not to mention the quality of the prose, of Good Man Jesus undergoes a sea change when, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the story arrives at something Pullman does care about. In a powerfully written 10-page soliloquy the author says he composed with “quite some intensity,” Jesus offers the gospel according to Pullman, who despises the Christian and Platonist split between flesh and spirit. This world is all we have, Jesus says to the night, and it’s lovely, “every inch of it, every blade of grass and drop of blood.” There might as well be nothing else, “because these are enough to gladden the heart and calm the spirit. Body and spirit?.?.?.?is there a difference? Aren’t they the same?” And this church his brother speaks of? “My whole heart and mind and body revolts: as soon as men who believe they are doing God’s will get hold of power, the devil enters into them.”

But Pullman is an artist—at least most of the time—and not a polemicist, and his entire novel is suffused with irony. The back cover reads, “This is a story,” a declaration with multiple meanings: please don’t shoot the messenger; see how the man Jesus might have been transformed into the divine Christ; and, especially, look carefully at the soul of a writer. Pullman’s Christ has more than one motive to do what he does, including a genuine belief it’s what’s best for Jesus and humankind, but what compels him to keep at it, even at times of doubt, is what Pullman calls “his storyteller’s itch to take a story and make it better. Just like the Gospel writers.” Hence the title? “Yes: all storytellers are scoundrels.”


 

Jesus and his twin brother, Christ

  1. This is as insulting to Christianity as Satanic Verses was to Islam. Fortunately for him, there will be no fatwah, but he'll pay the ultimate price for his heresy at the return of Jesus.

    • Ahahaha you're hilarious. Call yourself a Christian, wishing damnation on a fellow soul? Isn't that God's prerogative? Pretty arrogant. Pretty lacking in humanity. All men are brothers, are they not? Yes, I'm sure I read that in the Bible. It was Jesus that said it, wasn't it? And you dare anticipate God's judgement when He looks into Pullman's soul? Who are you, tiny mortal, that you presume to stand on the highway of Divine command? Look to your own soul, fool, and like Jefferson tremble when you remember that God is just.

      • I'm not wishing damnation, nor am I being hypocritical. I am just stating a fact about the consequences of Pullman's folly. Of course God is the final arbiter.

    • hi really, you guys need an objective view of things. i was a christian but after i had learn more about the bible both greek & hebrew i beginning to doubt more. In lev11:20-3(4 legs insects) lev11:4-6(camel chew cubs) & Is40:22(disc-like flat earth). As for new testament with many geographical inconsistencies eg. Lk4:29 Nazareth isn't built on/near the cliff ?? with all these horrible discrepancies and more i had came to a conclusion that the bible is full of nonsense and its a foolish act to take it too seriously like most of you did. Look, if you can believe a flat earth & 4legged insects surely, you have no problem accepting the twin brother concept of Jesus !!!!

  2. the equally surprising relationship—one of mutual respect—between the author and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

    I'm not religious and neither Pullman nor the concept of this book offends me, but I have to call shenanigans on this lede. Williams is well-known as the most PC, barely-religious, crunchy-leftist head of the Church of England to date; friendship with irritatingly aggressive atheists is really no more surprising than his advocacy for punitive green policies or the use of sharia law.

  3. Fred-What is it with Christians like you who get so worked up when anyone writes something that doesn't fit into the accepted view of the Church? All I can picture is an angry man frothing at the mouth over the very thought of someone suggesting that the story of Jesus did not occur literally as was written in the Bible.

    You try to imply that Christians will not take violent action against Pullman though I have to wonder how you'd justify the death threats that he has received. You also seem to enjoy the thought that the man is going to receive a violent punishment at the hands of a man who from what Christians tend to insist is a man of peace, love and tolerance.

    • I am not "frothing at the mouth". I truly feel sorry for Mr Pullman because he is so self-deluded.

      You don't understand Mr Burke how many can "get so worked up" because you are ignorant of the implications of Mr Pullman's insult.

      It's not simply questioning whether the gospels should be taken literally, that is a philosophical or idealogical questions to be debated by scholars. What Mr Pullman does instead is try to make a mockery of the Bible and those who believe it.

      It is a deliberate provocation, so it's no wonder that some are provoked. I am not so easily manipulated by such a fool.

      • As most modern people have come to understand, the gospels are not to be taken literally. The Bible is a story written and re-written through the ages by man. Therefore, there's no possible way it could be taken as anything but a fable, like those from Aesop or One Thousand and One Nights. It has lessons to teach, but believing that its narratives actually occurred in any genuine fashion is simply delusional.

        Pullman is simply providing an innovative, unique commentary on the ongoing debate between spirituality and organized religion. They are two very different things and it's obvious that as society becomes more educated and individualistic, people choose to experience spirituality in their own way, devoid of the corruption of the Church. Many people in West do believe in something, and have come to conclude that the preachings of old white men are not any more devout than one's own beliefs.

        • "most modern people" who speak as you do, do so out of ignorance because they have likely never sat down and read the Bible for themselves. They have certainly not spent any time studying it. Of course the gospels are meant to be taken literally.

          I'm tired of hearing about the corruption of the church from people who never walk through the doors of one.

          • You may actually want to study how the Bible you're now reading was created before you start accusing others of speaking from ignorance about it.

      • Actually it's not necessary to mock the Bible when those who believe it are already doing it so well. If you allow yourself to be provoked by deliberate provocation you are voluntarily submitting to Pullman's manipulation. If you look at the meaning of the words you wrote you'll find that, yet again, you've made a fool of yourself. It's what comes of restricting your reading to books that came out when the ultimate in consumer goods was a fishing boat. Try reading something relevant, like something that was written…oooh, in the last 1000 years or so? Also, Jesus says that it's a sin to be so obnoxious about your faith that you put other people off. If that's true, you're good and SCREWED.

  4. Lets not forget that the book says right on it "This is a story." Treat it that way; you can choose to read it or not.

  5. Sounds like the story is a pretty favourable depiction of Jesus. Seems Christians are taking offense to allegations that the Church is corrupt and has questionable motives. It's run by a bunch of quite fallible men, so I'm not sure why anyone should even be surprised by this view. If you ask me, Jesus would have been horrified by the Church based on everything that was attributed to him in the Bible.

  6. Frankly, I'd read the book before commenting on it. But I agree with Andrew, that Pullman's story Have a rather positive slant toward Jesus.
    Surely showing how the Church will become corrupt when it starts gathering wordly power is a realistic premise. It has little to do with the Church as Christian, but much more with religions (any religion) as worldly institutions. Power corrupts.

  7. hi

    i have read the replies and the debate … really i was reading Lev 11:20-3 the other day when Ywhw told the writer that insects like locust ,cricket & grasshopper have 4 legs to walk ,that itself is already very far fetched from factual reality & there are many such cases of factual inaccuracies in the bible well, many of them said is a mistranslated or a mistakes of the copyists but walking on 4s mentioned 3X in the same passage so i concluded that this is hardly a mistake. we should really sit down and do lots of gathering of the facts about jesus if there is any because the bible is just mixes of many informations & many of them can hardly be verifiable. Those fanatical christian out there are really making a fool of themselves…. therefore, the twin traditions of jesus christ could very well be truth if there is enough evidence to suggest that.

  8. I am in awe of the ignorance and inhumanity of man towards man ( insert 'woman ' if it reads better for you )…How about if the books called the "Bible" are a spirtitual history of man's understanding of a Transcendent Being ? Abraham …( in the 'big inning ' ) says OK -if you do this and that and thus for me – You can be my God . To finally having One walk amongst us to show how we are to " Be " and the Way to Love one another …Jesus …spirituality is such a wonderously beautiful part of humanity…yes , I am always disapointed how willingly we throw stones at those who desire to exercise their spiriyual nature in a ( any ) religion .I get a better understanding of the end of the Jesus walk when He says " Father forgive them for they know not what they do …"

  9. You go on and on Cockhold John, but get your facts straight first. God told Eve that He would greatly increase her pangs in child bearing now that she had eaten of the apple.( Genesis 3-16) This happened before they we're sent out of the garden, hence Eve was already having children before Cain and Abel we're conceived
    You people can take the Bible in a literal or a none literal sense, I really don't care. We all have to find our own way through. I won't comment on Pullmans book because I haven't read it. I will comment on a book I have read.
    Christian

    • you can say whatever but lets put things in perspective the bible, is a mixture of various types of info. Unfortunately many things that wrote in the bible was full of inconsistencies and worst in direct disagreement of natural facts. like lev11:20-3 (4 legs insects) lev 11:4-6(camel chew cubs) & Is40:22 (disc like flat earth) and many geographical inconsistencies in the new testament Lk 4:29 nazareth isn't built on/near the cliff ?? & bible believers sorry, you just have to shaved them down your throat as Facts. so dumb christains

  10. I have to get this book!!!
    From the writeup here it would help enable the bible to make some sense!
    Fred from Manitoba says " Of course the gospel are ment to be taken literaly"" I wonder if he refuses to eat certian food that's listed in the bible?
    According to the Bible the earth is only about 6000 yrs –Does he really believe this in this day & age?
    According to the Bible – Adam & Eave onle had two sons(Cain& Able) – one killed the other–So–Mother & Son must have been making a lot of BABIES TOGETHER!
    I could go on & on!
    SO-Given the Many, Many discrepencys in the bible-Why in the world who any possible explanation(Mabe"Clairification) be such an insult !
    Cuckhold Don

  11. To me, it sounds like Pullman wrote his latest novel while working through some of his own personal questions about Christianity. As stated in the article, the idea grew out of a challenge from the Archbishop of Canterbury suggesting the Pullman hadn't "grappled with Jesus." Many works for literature and art are the result of an artist trying to come to make sense of a complex issue that doesn't have a black or white answer. It's not wrong to ask questions, or consider the world from different perspectives. I think it's sad that many (not all) Christians feel threatened by, and in some cases persecute, those who are not afraid to ask questions. This is the very reason I decided to leave the church when I reached adulthood. It's fine if you don't agree with Pullman's book. But at least read the text from cover to cover before you form an opinion. If not, your judgements are based on ignorance, and don't hold any water.

  12. Furthermore Lets see if pullmans book or any other of these theology's stand the test of time. 6-7 & 0r 8 thousand years.
    I certainly know the Bible has.

  13. People are funny as all the above. Old testiment verus the new testiment should be quite obvious that the bible was writen by man or by many men as King james is the one who re-wrote the old testiment and called his version the New testiment which has held as well as the old testiment, if not more now because everyone does go by the new testiment because King James version was more palitable to absorb and acceptable than the old testiment.

  14. if not more now because everyone does go by the new testiment because King James version was more palitable to absorb and acceptable than the old testiment because there was problems with the old testiment being way too harsh and a lot of it was unacceptable by many of the followers back then.__You can take a hundred people and have them read the exact same book, then get each and every individual to write a short essay of what they read in that book. (It could be the bible, a story of a bird learning how to fly or any kind of book). __You will find that not one person will have the exact same interpretation of what that book is saying or about and it does not matter what book or Article you may read

  15. Most laws are all made and governed by the 10 commandments of various interprentations from one way or another. Some religions are very bad because if you look at history; Most if not all wars are over religions etc.
    Religions have their good points as well as their bad points which is left to all of us on how we all interpret them and use them. This is a means and purpose for all of mankind to follow in order to make sense why we are all here on this earth.
    We are supposed to be the care givers of this planet we call earth and we are doing a pretty poor job of it, now Are We?

  16. Did Jesus write or make the bible or not? Answer is Yes and No! If you read the teachings and what is in the bible you would know that Jesus as a little boy sought out various other religions like the Kings churches (Roman Catolic) before the Bible, The Buda relion etc.
    In later years he wrote his own version or teachings which he wrote as sermons as a Preacher or Minister would do before making a speach to his followers and it was his followers who placed all of Jesus's teach all together to create the Bible plus probably some of their own interpretations.
    Yes it is very possible that Jesus did have a twin who did marry and had children of his own. It is also possible that Jesus did die and was just an ordinary man and his twin continued his brothers teaching leaving a mistery for the followers so that his brothers teachings would last untill eternity. Anything is possible.
    I actually believe we are all descendants of Aliens who made whoopy with Monkeys, I also believe in Greek mythology of Saturn ridding on a rocket. I believe Moses went to heaven in a flying saucer and not a firey Chariat as claimed in the Bible etc.

  17. It does not really matter what a person believes in or who they actually believe in; It is the teachings that has been writen over the generations of time for the benefit and welfare of man that is important.
    I do believe there were many wise men who all got together and did come up with an idea and came out with something called a Bible for the main reasons and Intent to make their fellow humans lives to have a more meaningful reason for existance, purpose etc which would be beneficialficial for all because they did not like what they saw what was going on around them and they had decided to do something about it by comming out with something called the Bible.

  18. Not many people have had the experience of dying and where able to come back and remember it as I did. Some are aware of it, but are afraid to admit that they had an out of the body experience which I had when I died for Nine Minutes after a tonsilitus operation.
    Why? is quite obvious that they did not wish to remember it and thought it was just a dream etc or were afraid of being ridiculed or called a liar which is not right for someone else to do to another person, because they themselves cannot prove that it happened to that person or not and they will always give a negative reply; look or answer to the person that did have the experience like I had.
    I do know for a fact that my whole way of thinking has changed and do know that there was a reason for me to come back to the living and that I do have a purpose which I will not fully know and understand untill the day I do die again.
    How many of you can say that and not have any doubts in their minds of what they do believe to be true or not?

  19. please be persuaded not to read an INSULT TO JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD AND SAVIOR,,, THE PERSON DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT SHOULD GIVE YOU A HINT AT THE HEIGHT OF HIS IGNORANCE ALONE CARRY ON WITH YOUR USELESS DISCUSSIONS' AND AS FOR SATANIC VERSES' BE SURE THERE IS A DEVIL AT THE HEIGHT OF HIS CLUTCHES AND DEVOURING WHOM HE MAY ,…. GOD IS GOD , & JESUS CHRIST IS JESUS THE CHRIST, AND BE HAPPY YOU ARE NOT A MESSENGER FROM EITHER …. YOU ACT LIKE YOU BEHAVE … IMMATURE !!!!!

    • let put things in perspective the bible, is a mixture of various types of info. Unfortunately many things that wrote in the bible was full of inconsistencies and worst in direct disagreement of natural facts. like lev11:20-3 (4 legs insects) lev 11:4-6(camel chew cubs) & Is40:22 (disc like flat earth) and many geographical inconsistencies in the new testament Lk 4:29 nazareth isn't built on/near the cliff ?? & bible believers sorry, you just have to shaved them down your throat as Facts. so dumb

  20. There are so many searching in this world, either for what the world has to give or what a world beyond could offer. Be careful, there are many out there that will tell you I have found him (Truth), he is over here or over there. Take heed, many will be deceived, even some of the elect. Work out your salvation in fear and trembling. He knows our wisdom is like filthy rags, yet He still chose to Love us. Yes the Devil is like a prowling lion, looking to whom he may devour. The fight is not flesh and blood, it is a fight of powers and principalities unseen to man, and we are right smack in the middle. Let us be on our guard. Take our place with grace and be on our way.

    Christian

    • ou can say whatever but lets put things in perspective the bible, is a mixture of various types of info. Unfortunately many things that wrote in the bible was full of inconsistencies and worst in direct disagreement of natural facts. like lev11:20-3 (4 legs insects) lev 11:4-6(camel chew cubs) & Is40:22 (disc like flat earth) and many geographical inconsistencies in the new testament Lk 4:29 nazareth isn't built on/near the cliff ?? & bible believers sorry, you just have to shaved them down your throat as Facts. so dumb christains

  21. hi really, you guys need an objective view of things. i was a christian but after i had learn more about the bible both greek & hebrew i beginning to doubt more. In lev11:20-3(4 legs insects) lev11:4-6(camel chew cubs) & Is40:22(disc-like flat earth). As for new testament with many geographical inconsistencies eg. Lk4:29 Nazareth isn't built on/near the cliff ?? with all these horrible discrepancies and more i had came to a conclusion that the bible is full of nonsense and its a foolish act to take it too seriously like most of you did. Look, if you can believe a flat earth & 4legged insects surely, you have no problem accepting the twin brother concept of Jesus !!!!