October 30, 2001, Knopf, 288 pages.
New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 2002.
Five years after his everywhere–acclaimed, brilliantly successful, Pulitzer Prize–winning book about God as portrayed in the Old Testament—God: A Biography—Jack Miles gives us his striking consideration of Christ.
He presents Christ as a hero of literature based only in part on the historical Jesus, asking us to take the idea of Christ as God Incarnate not as a dogma of religion but as the premise of a work of art, the New Testament.
As this story begins, God has not kept his promise to end the five-hundred-year-long oppression of the Children of Israel and return them to greatness.
Under Rome, their latest oppressor, the Jews face a holocaust. This is God’s supreme crisis.
Astonishingly, God resolves the dilemma by becoming a Jew himself, Christ, inflicting upon himself in advance the very agony his people will suffer, revising in the process the meaning of victory and defeat.
By dying and rising as Christ, God not only swallows up the historical defeat of the Jews but also offers the promise of a cosmic victory that will “wipe away every tear” for all mankind.
In telling this remarkable tale, Miles offers the shock of the familiar reframed and reimagined:
--When Christ undergoes a baptism of repentance at the Jordan, it is God who is repenting.
--Since no one can kill God, the Crucifixion is actually a sacred suicide.
--When after preaching “turn the other cheek” Christ refuses to defend himself against his own enemies, what he means to say is that God will never again come militarily to any nation’s rescue.
The story ends in joy. Having assigned himself the role of Passover lamb, Christ, God Incarnate, expands God’s covenant with Israel—the covenant of the original Passover—to include all the children of Adam and Eve. In the final scene of the New Testament, this covenant becomes a marriage in heaven.
A writer of exceptional eloquence and imagination, profound literary sensibility, Jack Miles has captured once again the lost, fierce, ecstatic power of the greatest work in our literature.
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