Kirkus Reviews QR Code
CHRIST by Jack Miles

CHRIST

A Crisis in the Life of God

By Jack Miles

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-40014-1
Publisher: Knopf

Pulitzer-winner Miles concentrates on the gospels (mostly John, supplemented by Luke and Matthew), with occasional reference to Acts and a closing look at Revelation.

Claiming to take the gospel account seriously as the story of God incarnate, the author examines Jesus’ story as a new and radical departure in the life of God—a brilliant strategy by which God escapes the consequences of his inability to keep his promises of redemption to Israel, a new paradigm of redemption itself. Claiming to offer forgiveness to his people for the evil he himself has done, God’s suffering in Jesus rather enables them to forgive him. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has successfully changed the subject, and in offering a new paradigm of redemption, he has redeemed himself. As might be expected, Miles is alive to the resonances of Old Testament themes in the New, and he has an acute ear for the ironies and allusions of the Johannine monologues and dialogues and the parables and sayings of the synoptic gospels. Less pleasing are a gratuitous examination of incarnation and sexuality and a puzzling, inconclusive discussion of Jesus’ death as the suicide of God. Here one thinks less of Miles’s critical mentor, the Shakespeare scholar A.C. Bradley, than of Ernest Jones’s hyper-Freudian Hamlet and Oedipus, which reduced Bradley’s method to absurdity. Two appendices present the theoretical underpinnings of Miles’s work, and these are in some ways more interesting than the text to which they are appended. Even those who share his conviction that the Bible is good reading for the secular-minded and that modern methods of critical study can obscure rather than illuminate its text may find his reading unconvincing—and his Jesus, in the end, too thin.

But no doubt the hordes of readers who devoured God: A Biography (1995) will be happy to get more of the same.