The Gospel According to Jesus Christ

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ

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A wry, fictional account of the life of Christ by Nobel laureate José Saramago

A brilliant skeptic, José Saramago envisions the life of Jesus Christ and the story of his Passion as things of this earth: A child crying, the caress of a woman half asleep, the bleat of a goat, a prayer uttered in the grayish morning light. His idea of the Holy Family reflects the real complexities of any family, and—as only Saramago can—he imagines them with tinges of vision, dream, and omen.

The result is a deft psychological portrait that moves between poetry and irony, spirituality and irreverence of a savior who is at once the Son of God and a young man. In this provocative, tender novel, the subject of wide critical discussion and wonder, Saramago questions the meaning of God, the foundations of the Church, and human existence itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156001410
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/28/1994
Series: Harvest in Translation Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 439,815
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

JOSÉ SARAMAGO (1922–2010) was the author of many novels, among them Blindness, All the Names, Baltasar and Blimunda, and The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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The Gospel According to Jesus Christ 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a Christian. Parts of this book should offend me, but do not. Why? Because the fresh perspective Saramago gives to the life of Jesus during the unknown years, and the last years of his ministry, forces me to ask questions I never considered. Would a loving God want an obedient Jew to whisk his child to Egypt to avoid Herod's wrath, yet not tell any other Jewish parent to do the same? At 53, after years of studying the Bible, I never asked this question until I read this book. Yet, I have had to think about it. Little twists here and there are applied to many of the lessons of Scripture, and the result is that I cannot automatically say that certain things were good where before I did. Do I want to follow this work as my belief about Christ' life as a man? No. But, is my faith enriched by having to think about the view that Saramago presents? Absolutely. My eyes were opened to the fact that in some cases I have just accepted a truth that perhaps needs more consideration. And, that consideration only enhances my life and my faith. Approached from this viewpoint, this work is a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Except of course all the details about god and demon, the life of christ is described as close to reality as it ever has been by a human being. Considering the rest of the world blindly took the bible given and never questioned anything in it. Some questions asked in this book are fundamental paradoxes of Christian religion and that is why Catholic church was so opposed to this book. Simple questions as 'free will' which really isn't free cause according to allmighty god all our actions are already predetermined. at any rate, i always thought that religion is a very offensive institution to intelectual human beings and i think this book raises a lot of questions that proves it. ppl who blindly believe in christianity shouldl not read this book they will get very mad
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book and I am a lucky man because, beeing Brazillian, I can read José Saramago in Portuguese. There are excellent question about god and cristianism, that's could let some of jesus and god belovers angry. Too many serious questions too think about the Bible by a genious. P.S.: Sorry about the english, I can't write in this language.
Atomicmutant on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is a distinctly non-traditional novelin both style and substance. I am intrigued by religious books by non-religious people. (Well, non-traditionallyreligious, and non-fundamentalist, certainly). It¿s a human attempt by a thoughtful and creative soulto cut through the centuries of accumulated baggage and try to drag some relevant human truthout of the biblical stories. I was intrigued by his treatment of Joseph, and amirror image of atonement that Jesus presents for his earthly father¿s sins, Iwas mesmerized by a misty encounter on a boat between Jesus, God, and theDevil, and I was stunned by the last sentence of the book. I really enjoyed therealistic portrayal of these well-known characters, especially the ¿Marys¿, who cameoff as real women and not as story props. Well done.I would be careful about who to recommend the book to, though. Religious folkwill be put off, I¿m sure and there are certainly doctrinal problems here, not the leastof which is an abortive reimagining of Jesus¿ raising of Lazarus--a wonderfullymordant existentialist take on that whole affair.Non-religious folk will have to have the determination to sit through ¿that old storyagain¿. Of course, I found the novel to be most compelling in the areas betweenthe familiar story, where Saramago has the broader canvas upon which to paint. Someparts felt like just going down the laundry list of events and miracles, but I suppose theyneeded to be there. I really enjoyed the writing style, I have read that it is a barrier to some readers of Saramago, but I was swept away by it. He tends towards run on sentences, andmissing punctuation, to poetic effect.Give this one a try if you're poetically inclined and philosophically curious aboutthe Christian tradition.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unlike many literary retellings of Jesus' ministry, which are really just conflations of all four gospels with more eloquent language, Saramago's The Gospel According to Jesus Christ reinterprets Jesus' ministry and sense of self-identity entirely. He begins his story with the daily life of Mary and Joseph as a young, struggling couple; but Joseph is additionally marred by the unforgivable sin of negligence when he learns of Herod's plan to slaughter all Bethlehem infants and he doesn't warn any other parents but only takes his own family and flees to Egypt. So Jesus is safe, but at a high cost of blood.So begins his ministry, in some sense, as he opposes the oppressive violence that is integral to power. But what does that mean for God? Jesus becomes appalled by Temple sacrifice, as a loving God would not demand blood like the corrupt Roman government does. But in this way the narrative arrives at an impasse about the nature of power: either God isn't all-loving or God isn't all-powerful. This conflict does not just make Jesus uneasy, but outright unwilling to carry out God's plan for him.Jesus' ministry is shaped by compassion and a rejection of violence as a means of power, but it is never clear where exactly God - powerful but definitely not pacifistic - fits into it exactly. It's a beautiful and difficult book, that brings to life the human Jesus, full of doubts and overwhelmed by God's presence in his life.
luzestrella on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found it darkly funny. I'm a christian, so obviously I have read the gospels. And I just thought that he was so creative in incorporating both, facts from the 4 gospels and plots from his own creation. It was immensely enjoyable and intriguing. The ending it's just marvelous with that allegory to the holy grail at the end. Worth reading, great fiction book.
jaaron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful, wonderful book. I barely noticed when the story diverged from orthodoxy. It created a new, beautiful gospel.
krizia_lazaro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't help but compare this book with my favorite Saramago book, "Blindness". They are so different in many ways. "Blindness" has its anonymity, "The Gospel..." has God and Jesus. As a Catholic, I know God and Jesus like I know my mother and father. I grew up hearing stories about Jesus. Reading "The Gospel" was a challenge for me because it was a different story I've heard and I can't help but feel guilty reading it. Saramago can be persuasive and if your faith does not have a good foundation then you'll probably be an atheist after. It was written so well that you can't help but believe it. However, it might be written so well but I think it still lacks emotion/feeling which "Blindness" has. I thought i would at least feel some deep emotions because its about Jesus but all I felt was remorse that the book ended the way it did. Saramago took his time with this book then suddenly the ending felt too hurried. He just wanted Jesus to die. He has given more thought on Joseph's death than on Jesus'. Overall, it felt biased and maybe it is since the book it suppose to be about the humanness of Jesus but still, I felt uncomfortable about it. its up to you if you want to read it or not because this is a book that has no limit which is both good and bad.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this captivating and intriguing novel, Saramago portrays Christ as an Everyman, an imperfect but deeply sensitive man plagued by doubt, insecurity, and passionate feelings toward and opinions about others, particularly Joseph and Mary Magdalene. It begins with the story of Joseph, a loving husband and good provider, and his young wife Mary, in the days leading up to Jesus' birth in a cave at the edge of Bethlehem. Soon afterward, Joseph overhears a group of soldiers discussing King Herod's premonition about the recent birth of the future King of the Jews, and his plan to kill all male children under three years of age. Joseph chooses to flee with his wife and young son, and his failure to warn the villagers of the plan results in the Massacre of the Innocents, an event that will plague Joseph the rest of his life and have a great impact upon the young Jesus after his father's death.After Jesus learns of his death he undertakes a journey to escape his father's crime and to determine what his legacy is meant to be. He falls under the wing of a mysterious Shepherd, who seemingly knows a lot about Christ's past and future without being a Jew or a man of God. Jesus later encounters God in the desert, and there he learns about God's plan for him. The most surprising and controversial aspects of the novel follow, as Christ engages in a relationship with Mary Magdalene after she treats and dresses his infected foot, and becomes conflicted with God's plan to instill Christianity throughout the world, which will result in the death and suffering of millions of believers and opponents.The Gospel According to Jesus Christ left me stunned and agape at several points, and I can certainly understand why it engendered such strong opposition, particularly by the Roman Catholic Church. However, I'm glad I read it, and I did find it to be most enjoyable and unforgettable.
markon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book closes abruptly with an image of Jesus on the cross, blood dripping from his side into the bowl his mother used to serve soup to a beggar while the man who brought the bowl walks away carrying a bucket of vinegar and water.The book opens with a similar image of the crucifixion, with the addition of four Mary¿s, four angels, a weeping sun and moon, the two thieves crucified with Jesus, and yes, the same man walking away carrying vinegar and water.In between is a narrative rich in images, metaphor, and philosophical questions.I picked this book up on the recommendation of kidzdoc, and because I like reading stories I already know from a different perspective. It took me a long time to get into the story. I kept thinking that it wasn¿t all that different from the story I knew, well, it¿s true this version doesn¿t claim a virgin birth, and Mary & Joseph aren¿t convinced of the specialness of Jesus¿ birth, just aware that a suspicious beggar came by the day Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, and they were left with a bowl of sparkling dirt that they and the synagogue officials were afraid of, so they buried it outside the door and a plant no one recognized grew out of it.And that¿ s what Saramago¿s writing is like, one long run-on sentence after another, in a rhythm that keeps you reading to see what¿s next.I do understand why there was controversy in Portugal over this story, what with the questions it raises about the nature of God, the nature of ¿good¿ and ¿evil¿ and guilt. Who is guilty? Joseph? Jesus? God? And who is Pastor? Satan? A satiricial caricature of the church? Why does he seem the most compassionate character in the story?This is my first 5-star reading for the year, and though I¿ve enjoyed a few 4-star readings more, nothing can match this one for the fertile imagery and symbolism. Recommended for those comfortable with asking uncomfortable questions.
mattviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Saramago deftly embraces historical facts, myth and reality and juggles them in this extraordinarily fictitious account of Jesus Christ. The novel is an in-depth psychological portrait of a savior who possesses a touch of humanity so much more substantial than the Bible claims. Jesus who is at once the Son of God, the beginning and the end, men's destiny, and a young man of the earth is an interweaving of letters, irony, spirituality, irreverence, humanity, and foible.The novel hinges on the fact that Jesus' father, Joseph of Nazareth, out of cowardice and selfishness of the heart, failed to alert the parents that King Herod had issued a decree to kill boys under the age of 3. He could have spared the lives of 27 children had he spoken up. Joseph felt the scruple of running off to save his own son but had forfeited the lives of others. The guilt he felt was exactly guilt a man may feel without having sinned or committed the actual crime himself. It was the sin of omission.To assuage his remorse that incessantly plagued him, Joseph, as he truly believed he was acting out of his own accord and obeying God's will, made strenuous effort to beget more and more children to compensate for the 27 lives. When Jesus learned about Joseph's crime, Jesus felt poignant for his father but asserted that his father was to blame for the deaths of innocent children. Joseph's sin was illustrated to full actuality as Jesus envisaged infants dying in perfect innocence and parents who had done nothing wrong. Jesus was embittered and broken at the fact that never was a man more guilty than his own father, who had sinned to save his life.Joseph's death, which was rather dramatic and undeserving, bore the scruple of his own conscience and arose the question of what awaited him after death. Would it be possible than everything ended with death? What would happen to the life's sorrow and sufferings, especially the sufferings right before the last breath? What about the memory if time is such an undulating surface than can only be accessed by memory, would memory of such suffering linger at least for a short period of time? Saramago has repeatedly made claims to explore the notion of after-death and its correlation to human existence throughout the novel.Jesus under Saramago's pen is not as perfect, impure, and righteous as the Bible portraits him to be. One sees that the savior succumbs to temptation, to not receiving the cup of death, to choose to remain on earth and not to be crowned with glory. The most provocative and controversial aspect of the book is when Jesus intervened the stoning of an adulteress, which brought him to awareness that he was living in sin with Mary Magdalene, and thus living in defiance to God's will. The sin of adultery (sexual immorality as the Bible claims) brought Jesus into open conflict with the observed law. The book is not deprived of interesting dialogues in spite of the serious overtones of theology. My favorite is the conversation in which the Devil pleaded with God to admit him into the kingdom. God curtly denied the request asserting than the good God represented would cease to exist without the evil Devil represented. In regard to the meaning of human existence and the pursuit of holiness, Saramago does leave us with an enlightening thought (with such sober dignity) that the soul, in order to be able to boast of a clean and blameless body, has burdened itself with sadness, envy and impurity.
VelvetESmooth More than 1 year ago
What an interesting depiction of Jesus from conception to death. It is definately fiction, and keeping that in mind, it attempts to portray Jesus as a regular kid in not so regular situations. I've often pondered over Jesus' childhood and his 'step-father' Joseph. This was one man's vision of how those early years may have been lived. I could not put the book down. Liked it, mostly. The good vs. evil, not so much.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the BIG stories of the past two millenia is compellingly retold, imparting a spiritually dreamlike state on this reader. Great middle of the night reading, although sure to create problems with some segments of society. A Jesus more real than the one in the other book? For some, yes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was duped into reading this book by the caché its having won the Nobel gave it. What a waste of money! If the subject is Jesus Christ, I expect to be offered something more than someone´s imagination by way of edification, and Saramago has done no meaningful research, that I can detect. Mary Magdalene is once again cast as a prostitute, a historical error promulgated by one of the early popes. Mary, Jesus´ mother, is little more than a resigned baby machine. Saramago´s male chauvinism is even more offensive than the Church´s, since secular works have as their mission intellectualism. Some of the questions Saramago raises are sound, but overall, he renders the impression that he is gaining a predictable audience by bashing an easy victim: Christianity in general, and the Roman Catholic Church specifically.