Image of Jesus in Literature

Oscar wilde de profundis

The New York Times article, “Is Fiction Losing it’s Faith,” reminded me of a class I took in college: “The Image of Jesus in Literature.” The only book that I recall reading in the class is Paradise Lost and that was an extremely painful experience at the time.

Since I took that class, I have read Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ, which I thought was an extraordinary spiritual novel that created controversy by displaying Jesus as human. For example, the carpenter Jesus, built crucifix’s for the Romans to use for crucifixions. The point of this was that the human Jesus must pay for his sins by being crucified himself.

In Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, which was written from prison, he breaks down and finds Christ and makes this point—the Gospels should be read in the original Greek and only at special times to gain the true meaning and resonance.

J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey is one of my favorites because the image of Christ is so surprising and unexpected.

Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited brings to light the negative, guilt-ridden and redemptive impact of Catholicism on a dysfunctional and wealthy English family.

Jose Saramago’s The Gospel according to Jesus Christ brings Christ down to earth, and it is a tour de force, but unlike Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ, there is not an ounce of spirituality in Saramago’s The Gospel according to Jesus Christ. I’m surprised at the excellent reviews because it’s a trudge to get through.

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Joseph Raffetto

Joseph Raffetto earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature from San Diego State University. He can be found online @noovella on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Goodreads. His books are available on all online booksellers.