Book Review: The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by 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.


Nobel Laureate José Saramago is a titan of literature. The quality, originality, and importance of his writings cannot be denied. yet this might be the most controversial of all his novels.

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is the kind of novel that will make a lot of people want to throw stones at him. Maybe.

Yes, Saramago is incredibly ironic all through this story, yes, he’s incredibly sarcastic when it comes to the rules passed down by some divine power. It is the human aspect of Jesus that he describes wonderfully.


Maybe. Who knows?

But, if we have a sense of humor, then perhaps the divine also has one.

I have always been fascinated by this idea: that maybe the divine is a lot more human than most people like to admit. Or even entertain such  a thought. We are the inferior version of a high power, but how inferior? How different? What is the human part of us, what is the divine?

Those of you who cannot stomach such a book, it’s best not to read it. Unless you want to have your beliefs challenged. The Jesus character of this novel is as human as they can be. He’s not the only child of Mary and Joseph. He does normal adult stuff.

Oh, and there’s the Devil part, which… well, it’s interesting because the dynamic of what the Devil does, what God does, all that is meant to provide an answer to a certain question that few can answer, and most choose to ignore: if God is all powerful, and good, then why is there pain and evil and chaos?

There’s but one of two answers:

  1. God is not all powerful.
  2. God is not good.

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, so it’s best to truly ponder if you want to read it or not, because you might end up being truly confused about what is what and what means what.

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