The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ emits major levels of suckage, even according to a sympathetic reviewer at the LA Times.
Like so many atheists who approach the figure of Jesus, something goes wonky in Pullman’s brain. He can’t cope with the actual information we have about Jesus, so he just makes up a bunch of twaddle, tells us “I like my twaddle better than reality” and then proceeds to build an elaborate fantasy on the reality and declare himself a genius.
In this case, the conceit is that Mary had twins (after a proper seduction, of course) and named them “Jesus” and “Christ”. Jesus was the good guy, a proper 21st century English leftie who likes the stuff Pullman does. Christ (and what mother wouldn’t name her son “Christ”?) is the (I’m not making this up) evil twin who stalks Jesus and does all that awful stuff like faking the Resurrection and setting up a Church, etc.
In a funny way, the book proves a point I make at the end of Volume 1 of Mary, Mother of the Son:
But the fact is, throughout the history of the Church, enemies of Christ have attacked him, not directly, but as Satan did in the Garden of Eden: through those he loves. The Da Vinci Code is but the latest example of that ancient pattern. Very rarely does a critic of Christianity go after Jesus himself. In the vast majority of cases, the attack on Jesus proceeds as an attack on the body of Christ that, as the tired refrain goes, supplanted the “Jesus of history” with the “Christ of faith.” That’s what links together the mutually contradictory assertions from various foes of Christianity who, instead of claiming (like Marcion) that the body of Christ has corrupted the truth and made Jesus into a Jew or claiming (like Dan Brown) that the body of Christ has corrupted the truth and made him into God, instead tell us that the body of Christ has corrupted the truth(s) that
• Jesus was a woman.
• Jesus was a space alien and is buried in Japan.
• Jesus survived the crucifixion and is buried in Kashmir.
• Jesus was a Buddhist.
• Jesus was a Muslim.
• Jesus was a Mormon.
• Jesus was a magician.
• Jesus was a Gnostic.
• Jesus was the son of Mary and a Roman soldier.
• Jesus never existed.
• Jesus was never executed.
• Jesus was a social revolutionary when he was not a mere Mediterranean peasant.
• Jesus was an itinerant visionary whose real teachings exist only in distorted, fragmented form.
• Jesus was insane.
The key to every single one of these claims is that they attack Jesus by attacking the Church. As ever, “the accuser of the brethren . . . accuses them day and night before our God” (Rev. 12:10). And so, the Church has found it necessary to fight, not only to defend the truth of Jesus, but also those who “keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).
This doesn’t mean that any criticism of the Church or of Christians is really just a Satanic attack on Christ. To be sure, there are bad Christians who disgrace the gospel. There always have been such Christians, ever since Judas. But even so, the reality is that Jesus promised the Church he will remain with her always, guide her into all truth by his Spirit, and thereby ensure that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 16:13; Matt. 16:18). Therefore, because Mary is a figure of holy Church as Revelation 12 and the Fathers of the Church make clear, it follows that when attacks on Jesus are made via his body, those attacks necessarily involve Mary.
In this case, the novelty Pullman introduces into the normal “Jesus was okay, but his evil/stupid disciples totally betrayed his message” meme is that he makes a completely fictional “Christ” the whipping boy instead of, say, Peter or Paul. But the message is still the same.