Jose Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is just what it says, a gospel, a reworking of traditions to reflect the author’s faith.
This particular “gospel” tells the story of an all-too-human Son of God.
Fundamentalist Christians will almost certainly find the book blasphemous. When Jesus asks God why he has to die, God replies that Jesus’ death is a PR scheme.
God doesn’t use those words, but what God says is that Jesus’ death will extend belief in God beyond the Jews. This will involve pain and death, not just Jesus’ death but the deaths of many people over all of history. The martyrs will die. Those killed in the Crusades will die. Those killed in later Christian-related violence will die. Violence is one of the methods by which the gospel spreads.
Some would object to the book because of Jesus’ continuing sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene. To me that was old hat. Some non-canonical gospels hinted that Mary was Jesus’ wife, and several wildly popular recent novels (i.e. The Da Vinci Code) exploited the idea to sell books.
Saramago does what gospel writers from the four canonical gospels to the non-canonical gospels did. He reworks the traditions to express his faith and (in this case, especially) his skepticism.
My summary of the major point only hints at the wide range of things many will dislike.
One thing struck me. This is a miracle-based story. Saramago devoted only a few pages of the more than 370-page book to what Jesus taught.
What the human Jesus taught is what interests me most. One thing I admire about Pope Francis is his emphasis on the love, peace, and justice Jesus taught.
This book deals with the nature of evil, what it means (or doesn’t mean) to be the Son of God, and how Satan is necessary if there is to be a God.
A friend loaned me this book. I’m glad he did.