The Curmudgeon


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Christ on a Tandem

A theologian of the Catholic Church, which has done so much for the ethical and intellectual standing of Christianity during that peculiar faith's seventeen-hundred-year decline, has kindly undertaken to provide a bit of free publicity for Philip Pullman's amusing parable, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Pullman splits the Christian messiah into twin brothers: a simple, practical preacher and a tormented, bookish moralist who ends up betraying him. The miracles are given naturalistic explanations, as is the Resurrection; and Pullman also hits below the belt with his version of the Virgin Birth. Both the Good Man and the Scoundrel are far more human and appealing characters than the vindictive fanatic in the Gospels, and Pullman also recasts several of the parables (whose originals, as Aleister Crowley pointed out, are largely concerned with the wailing and gnashing of teeth which will commence when Daddy gets home) into more uplifting versions. In the Good Man's story of the ten virgins, for example, the girls share their oil out equally; and when some wicks burn faster than others, one whose lamp has not gone out asks the bridegroom to admit those who have been less lucky, since she will be unable to enjoy the festivities knowing that others have been excluded.

None of this has pleased Father Gerald O'Collins, who criticises Pullman for writing fiction that is not true, for writing a fantasy tale that does not match Father Gerald O'Collins' idea of a historical novel, for writing a book that expresses disagreement with something its author disagrees with, and for "distort[ing] the history of Jesus, in the interests of what he sees as higher truths", in the manner of the Tarsus Inquisitor, the Emperor Constantine, the compilers of the New Testament and various other heretics and blasphemers. Father O'Collins also says that Pullman "rewrote episodes rather than retelling the story" with added weather and psychology, the way it ought to be done. It is not clear whether Father O'Collins feels the same way about the Gospel of Matthew, which makes unwarranted additions to that of Mark; or about the Gospel of Luke, which distorts and sentimentalises the previous two; or about the Gospel of John, which must be one of the least satisfactory biographies ever penned, and hardly better as a historical novel.


  • At 12:17 pm , Blogger phil said...

    quis custodiet ipsos custodes

    and so on and so forth

    also "better than you Gunga Din..."

  • At 5:42 pm , Blogger brokenbiro said...

    I was browsing on the Vatican website (for linguistic rather than moral edification, I hasten to add) and came across this wonderful line when they were quibbling about the Hebrew word ruah (which means spirit/ghost/breath/wind) and could reach no agreement:
    "In this regard it is better to give up in part the pretenses of neat reasoning in order to embrace broader perspectives."
    Which is what they like to do.
    They've been making things up for years - give someone else a shot at it, I say... any giant polar bears in this one?

  • At 6:45 pm , Blogger Philip said...

    No polar bears that I noticed; but perhaps I took the whole thing too literally.


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