Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God

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9780375400148: Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God

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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Review:

Bucking the trend of books about "the historical Jesus," Jack Miles offers a purely literary reading of the New Testament--rendering Jesus as a character whose history spans all of time, from the beginning to the end. Continuing the work begun in his Pulitzer prize-winning God: A Biography, Miles considers the New Testament the next chapter of an ongoing story. The central question of this chapter is, "Why does [God] become a man?" In Miles's reading, God "has something appalling to say that he can say only by humiliating himself." The world's inherent flaws, its pervasive injustice and cruelty, comprise "a great crime" for which someone must pay. "Mythologically read, the New Testament is the story of how someone, the right someone, does pay for it." As God, in the form of Christ, pays the price for His own mistakes, the crucifixion "saves us from the violence that we might otherwise feel justified in inflicting on one another." Ingeniously argued and masterfully paced, this book presents an original and unsettling portrait of Christ. Whatever readers think of Miles's premise--that God is heroic but not saintly--the book will certainly force them to reexamine Christ's relevance to moral life. --Michael Joseph Gross

From the Back Cover:

"Miles is a master, provocative and accessible, in presenting a God who is ambivalent, hesitant, moody, offhand, remote and opaque.... All in all, this is the most compelling page-turner of the year."
--Bill Bell, New York Daily News

"The brilliance of Jack Miles’s new book on Christ is that it manages to “make strange” the best-known story in history."
--Edward Skidelsky, The New Statesman

"...an erudite and provocative literary tour de force that would make a perfect Christmas or Hanukkah present for believers and nonbelievers alike. It is truly impossible to catalog all of the literary riches in this reinterpretation of the New Testament."
--Susan Jaccoby, Newsday

"
As a way of seeing, Miles’s book has great power and depth. Though he does not try to solve the problem of evil, his book gives us, with horrid clarity, the vision of a culpable, guilty, and finally atoning God..."
--James Wood, The New Yorker

"
The faithful may be disturbed by Miles’ reading of the Bible as a portrait of a God capable of changing his mind... But Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God is, like Miles’ previous book, a stimulating, challenging work.
--Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury

"...a daring critic who can provide his own translations of Hebrew and Greek. Regardless of our agreement or disagreement with him, he prods us to read these familiar stories afresh, with all their original suspense and drama, his analysis serving as an invitation for our own."
--Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor

"...a literary vision of Christ with more insight, warmth, and verve (not to mention chutzpah), that have been seen...for many a year."
--Peter Heinegg, America

"
This American ex-Jesuit...is a resuscitation artist. His style is exceptionally riveting. His theses are daring, his perspectives astonishing, his insights as daring as they are witty."
--Ludger LŸtkehaus, Die Zeit, Hamburg

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