The gospel according to Jesus Christ is a book written by the author José Saramago, who was Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. This work, caused a huge controversy since several Christian and Catholic sectors branded it as blasphemous and demonic.
This novel offers a different version of the life of Jesus Christ, relying on the most famous episodes of Jesus in the Bible, in the Canonical Gospels, although this story has more interest in the first years than in the episodes of the Gospels, putting in special doubt, the conception of Jesus.
📖 Summary and Synopsis
The novel opens with the conception of Jesus in the spiritual and divine presence of God. This birth is announced by a mysterious person who says he is an angel. Then, in Bethlehem, Jesus was born in a cave and three shepherds (including the angel) go to visit him.
As it is written in the book of Matthew, King Herod hears about the birth of the King of the Jews, however, in the novel this fact is announced in dreams by the prophet Micah. Therefore, King Herod orders the killing of all newborns. Joseph hears the plan from some soldiers in Jerusalem, so he runs back to Bethlehem to save his baby son. Failing to warn the Betlemites of the terrible massacre that was approaching them, God decides to punish Joseph by sending him a dream where he is a soldier of King Herod, where he himself goes to Bethlehem to kill his son.
Later, when Jesus turns twelve, his father Joseph is crucified by being mistakenly mistaken for a rebellious Zealot by the Romans. Since his death, Jesus has had the same nightmare.
He knows from his mother of the killing, growing up on the margins of his family, with whom he no longer feels calm or living in peace.
He decides to leave his family and Nazareth, he goes to Jerusalem to appear at the temple and from there he goes to Bethlehem.
He begins to work as an apprentice to a shepherd, called El Pastor (who is actually the Devil and the mysterious angel who appears at conception).
This teaches you to want your own work and to be content with your few things. Then, he meets God in the desert, and this forces him to sacrifice his favorite sheep telling him that he has a great destiny for him. When he returned and told what had happened to the Pastor, the latter scolded him and ran him saying that he had learned nothing.
After this, he returns to Galilee by sea, where he learns that he has an incredible talent for catching fish in large quantities. Then he leaves for Magdala, where he meets Maria Magdalena and falls in love with her, then returns home to Nazareth.
Jesus’ family does not believe what he has lived, so he decides to leave once more and returns to Magdala, looking for Mary Magdalene to live as husband and wife, but without having had any kind of wedding or formal union. There he decides to go to the Sea of Galilee to find work with the fishermen there.
In one of the times he goes fishing alone, he is visited at the same time by God and the Devil. The first tells him of his mission to found Christianity, since he is upset that he was only the God of a race and that the other gods seem to get all the glory. At first Jesus is opposed, since he sees what God wants as a selfish and vain plan, since it will also make him endure great sufferings, however God makes him see that he has no other way out, that God is almighty.
Jesus ends up becoming a prophet of God, doing many miracles and spreading the preaching. However, he stops himself trying to destroy God’s plan with him, trying to destroy his own credibility, trying to die as a son of Joseph and not of God, saying: “I am the son of Man.” But the novel ends with Jesus crucified and realizing that nothing has really changed and that God’s plan has not been altered. After all, he had done God’s will when he wanted to, and he had also done it when he didn’t want to.
📒 Genre: Historical Fiction
The novel rewrites the life and work of Jesus Christ, using the most important episodes presented in the canonical gospels as the basis on which the fable of history is based. Although he more or less follows the chronology of his life, he emphasizes more in the formative years of Jesus than in the Canonical Gospels.
It changes things from the story stated in the Bible, such as that the conception of Jesus occurred in an oversight of Joseph. And this Jesus he presents is more human than divine, who struggles not to accept a destiny imposed by God, who, unlike the Holy Scriptures, presents himself here as insidious and egotistical, as opposed to a kind Satan, but too knowledgeable of human weaknesses.
He uses exquisite, simple prose, much less demanding than in the author’s previous novels, which make reading a very light one with an extremely fine sense of humor.
The Gospel according to Jesus Christ, by José Saramago, is a fictionalized work, and as such should be read, especially by those readers of traditional Catholic customs, because its author is of a far-left political tendency, a follower of Marxism , his conception of the world is framed within historical materialism, therefore for him the human being is creator of himself and his reality.
- God: shows himself, like man, as an omnipotent being, whose ultimate goal is to make all human beings adore him, showing himself then with an unlimited selfishness, capable of sacrificing his son and humanity to achieve the empire over the world.
- Mary: the mother of Jesus is stripped of her virginity, in a scene where she cohabits with Joseph, before the invisible presence of God, who in a negligence of Joseph implants and mixes his seed with that of him to procreate Jesus Christ, also in Him Gospel according to Jesus Christ, Mary is not the virginal mother of the Messiah, but the progenitor of nine children.
- Joseph: dies crucified at the age of 33, accused of rebellion against the Roman Empire and indirectly blamed for having caused the death of the holy innocent children under the age of three, on the eve of the birth of his firstborn Jesus.
- The devil: is shown as the negative part of God, and is absolved of the guilt and temptations that Christianity has traditionally foisted on him. Maria de Magdala, becomes the lover of Jesus, with what in The Gospel according to Jesus Christ, turns the Nazarene into a simple man, although without ceasing to perform miracles, in the name of God, he does not retain all the holiness that the holy scriptures they proclaim.
- Jesus: he questions before God and the fallen angel his divine origin, and he comes to plan how to get rid of the plan for which God has chosen him, since he knows the future consequences of bloodshed that in later times his sacrifice will bring to the world.
This novel is basically an attempt by the author to delve deep into the roots of the Christian faith, to make the reader wonder if what is related to him is completely true and tries to make him doubt his faith, and to question all the questions essential that we took for granted.
Putting God more as an antagonist, creating a single vision of a world whose laws are nourished through it, creates diatribes at the heart of faith and Catholic Christian certainty, which made this book a target of many attacks.
The Gospel according to Jesus Christ by José Saramago is a great mixture of things: it is tragic, problematic, controversial and it would be absurd to criticize him outside the laws of literature, since it was done for this purpose.
To create a version of the real event, through other literary, poetic, satirical and philosophical laws. It is not about denying the existence of divinity or religiosity, but rather it is about interrogating, questioning and accusing him to obtain a different answer.