Developed By: iNFOTYKE
Jesus in literary sphere
Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from Heaven afar,
Heavenly Hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!
December 25 is the day when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and God who, for an estimated 33 years, walked the world in human flesh.
In addition to inspiring an entire religion celebrating Christmas, Jesus also inspired many works of fiction. Some are loyal to the account of Jesus’s life told in the Synoptic Gospels, and some take poetic, dramatic and speculative licence.
The Jesus novel is a small and largely unrecognised genre of literature that often gives Christians new insight into the story of their saviour and provides non-believers with artistic means of accessing a tale containing all of the most effective tools of drama—pity, terror, sadness, heroism, tragedy and redemption.
The biography of Christ is considered “the greatest story ever told.” That superlative phrase is taken from the title of Fulton Oursler’s novel. Published in 1949 to widespread acclaim from the Christian community and secular press, it continues to earn new readers each year.
Oursler was a Christian who made his trade as a journalist, and although his book is one of the most famous of the Jesus novels, another Fulton — Fulton J. Sheen, an archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church — outdid and outwrote Oursler with his 1977 novel, Life Of Christ.
Sheen was a televangelist with a doctorate in philosophy. His gift for communication combined with his philosophical depth enabled him to infuse Life of Christ with rare profundity and power.
Sheen was a better writer than Oursler, and he was also a better thinker. His novel effortlessly weaves theology, history, and biblical exegesis into a compelling and challenging work of surprising singularity.
Anne Rice planned to pull off the same feat with a trilogy of books. Following a return to Catholicism of her upbringing, Rice wrote Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt, and promised two more in a trilogy. The first book tells the story of Jesus at seven, and gives, in painstaking detail, an account of the religious, political and social turmoil that surrounded Christ’s childhood in Nazareth.
Rice wisely tells the gripping historical drama in the voice of the young Jesus—a voice that empowers her to playfully but seriously counter Christ’s precocious wisdom with his typically boyish naiveté.
Christ The Lord: Road To Cana tells the story of Christ’s adult life, which is known from the Gospels, from his first miracle (transforming water into wine at a wedding) to his wrestling with Satan’s temptation in the wilderness.
Rice is a gifted stylist and master storyteller. Her then newfound devotion to Catholicism summoned her talents for a sincere reminder of the soul-stirring capacity of the Gospel. Her membership in the Catholic Church was short lived, and although she claims to still be a follower of Jesus, her exit from the church seems to have extinguished her fire.
Nikos Kazantzakis had no problems writing a moving novel of beauty, profundity, and luminosity. The Last Temptation of Christ is one of the most famous Jesus novels. It also generated high voltage controversy for the ways in which it deals with Jesus as a man and not as a god. Kazantzakis bravely and boldly presented Christ in the flesh, and marked that flesh with the human stain — this Jesus is consumed by rage, envy and lust. But Kazantzakis tempers his human portrait by celebrating Jesus’ decision to accept his fate and act as the Messiah.
Kazantzakis’s novel struggles with how one is to interpret Jesus, just as his Jesus struggles. The Greek writer and philosopher also wrote a novel on St. Francis.
The best novel about Jesus also came after a life of struggle with the meaning of Christ. Norman Mailer was raised a Jew and devoted to a unique set of beliefs in an interventionist God that he explains in the interview collection On God. He wrote the short The Gospel According to The Son, where his artistic courage is on full display. Jesus narrates the book in the first person, and it possesses a mystery that eludes other messianic efforts.
Mailer’s sense as a dramatist, and perpetual struggle with Christianity, allowed him to cast a spell. The dark magic reintroduces them to the radicalism of Christ. Mailer’s Jesus opposed two systems of power—the Roman Empire and the Jewish Pharisees—and was a beautiful but frightening political dissident and apocalyptic preacher.
Mailer claimed that after rereading the Gospels in the early 1990s, he realised that it was indeed the “greatest story ever told.” But it wasn’t told in the greatest way. He thought it needed a novelist’s delicate touch. Although many others have tried, he turned out to be the man for the job.
In The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman reimagined Jesus as two separate persons, brothers called Jesus and Christ, who have contrasting personalities and differing views on things like murder and world domination. Jesus is a moral man, intent on converting people to a life of God. His brother, however, sees religion as a way to gain power.
Many critics have characterised Lord of the Flies by William Golding as echoing certain Christian images and themes. The island itself and Simon’s glade in the forest recalls the Garden of Eden in its status as an originally pristine place that is corrupted by the introduction of evil.
Many critics have also drawn strong parallels between Simon and Jesus.
Among the boys, Simon is the one who arrives at the moral truth of the novel, and the other boys kill him sacrificially as a consequence of having discovered this truth. Simon’s conversation with the Lord of the Flies also parallels the confrontation between Jesus and the devil during Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness.
Janice Pariat, novelist, commenting on Christ in literature, says, “I read Pullman’s novel which is a retelling. Jesus is the messiah and Christ is the one who puts in place organised religion. It is a good commentary.”
Ananya S Guha, poet and IGNOU Shillong Director, commenting on Christ in literature says, “GM Hopkins had a plethora of Christian elements in his poetry when he became a Jesuit priest. As did John Donne in his early sonnets where he grappled with themes of the spirit and the flesh.”
“What is revealed about these poets’ philosophies is that they had a profound spiritual consciousness,” he adds.
Academician and writer Streamlet Dkhar says there are many books in Khasi language which deal with the subject of Jesus Christ and his life. “But one book that comes to my mind is Ka Jingthaw U Jisu Khrist,” she adds.
Literature is like free play where the writer can fictionalise and expand over already existing contexts. And with this comes the birth of new stories which parallel the original as a means of explaining themes. Fictional retellings can be in any form and the writer uses them to put forth his views.
Christmas is a time for remembering and celebrating the birth of Christ. These books can serve as a reading suggestion for those who are curious. It can lead to new revelations and illuminations in comprehending Christ.