Whenever I think about the Bible, I am always fascinated by the double nature of the book. You have sinners in the hand of an angry god along with gentle men who call children to their side. You have the Old Testament and the New Testament, the sometimes conflicting Gospels, the rules that outline simple faith.
In The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
, Philip Pullman has taken that duality and made it entirely physical. Rather than Jesus reflecting the sometimes conflicting nature of our own selves, Jesus is literally split into two men: Jesus and Christ. The resulting story retells the life of Jesus with a combination of the stories from the Bible and almost fairytale-like twists. It works whether you have read the Bible or not; as someone whose sole exposure to the book growing up was my slightly twisted Precious Moments Bible, I was able to enjoy it, while others who are more rigorous religious scholars may find themselves enjoying the subtle spins Pullman puts on the text just as much.
What I really liked about this was that it demystifies some of the Bible. By ripping Jesus into two, his actions become more accessible. By subtly providing plausible explanations for his miracles, the reader is left with more information than the Bible provides, and is given a more well-rounded view of the events as a whole. The language, too, is beautiful: a combination of Biblical style and fairytale storytelling, with wonderful imagery. So many of the familiar elements like doubting Thomas, Peter's denials, and Jesus' healing are present but not necessarily spelled out.
One that I will absolutely be coming back to.