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Behold The Man

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  • Behold The Man

    I thought I'd raise this book here in view of the recent TV broadcast of Jerry Springer The Opera, since it deals in subject matter which is (or was) potentially blasphemous. It's been many years since I read the novel version, and although I haven't read the original short story I have the 30th Anniversary Mojo edition and have read the Author's Note.

    I've always thought Behold The Man was a good, seriously intentioned examination of the Christ story (unlike JSTO, which I thought pretty puerile for the most part) although it evidently didn't meet with much approval in parts of the States and even earned its author death threats among other things.

    My interest in the Bible is mainly a literary one, but there is much of a supernatural nature in scripture and Behold The Man doesn't deal with anything supernatural - the disappearance of Glogauer's body is relegated to the last paragraph and is given a purely natural explanation. Of course, the whole of Christianity hinges on the Resurrection as Paul himself admitted - without the Resurrection there can be no Christianity

    So I'm interested in reading views of Behold The Man (including Mr. M's of course ), of the Bible itself (and Christ in particular) and how it is reflected in the Behold The Man story.
    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

  • #2
    On one hand I can understand devout believers being shocked and angry at the portrayal of their figurehead as a congenital idiot (although these same people were probably indignant at Muslim outrage over Satanic verses), but the whole thing also reminds me of Python's Life of Brian and how that created a scandal despite the film clearly featuring the biblical Jesus.
    It follows the usual book-burning, CD-smashing syndrome where at least 95% of the offended public never actually examin first-hand the material they are condemning - they just do what someone in authority has ordained.

    BTM is a very stimulating piece of FICTION that examines the Jesus story in a novel way. Anyone able to read a dust-jacket should realise this before starting and if they feel the content may offend them, they should put the book back on the shelf...

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    • #3
      Was the Biblical Jesus like Glogauer though, a man who (consciously or unconsciously) found himself fulfilling all the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament? Or something else? This is for me the most intriguing aspect of the New Testament.

      As far as the Pythons go I think they knew what they were doing and how much offence it would cause, despite their protestations to the contrary. I also think it looks pretty dated now, although it certainly has its moments.
      'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

      Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

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      • #4
        Originally posted by DiGiMac
        BTM is a very stimulating piece of FICTION that examines the Jesus story in a novel way. Anyone able to read a dust-jacket should realise this before starting and if they feel the content may offend them, they should put the book back on the shelf...
        I haven't read BtM, though I did just win it in the auction and will be enjoying it soon enough. :D I did, however, recently read another fictional novel based on the life of Christ entitled Lamb and your comment reminded me of a comment the author, Chris Moore, made in the preface: "This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however, if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do."

        I loved that.

        Can't wait to read Behold the Man.
        "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
        --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

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        • #5
          Hmm. Mysteriously my last posting disappeared. In short I said I had a profound respect for Christianity and my own belief system is clearly a development of Christianity but I have an equally profound antagonism to the kind of debased, supersitious religiosity which passes for Christianity amongst the likes of George Bush and his followers. My belief is that that 'religion' continues to spread through the US because it is precisely NOT Christianity, as most of the world understands it. As far as my book goes, it has never given offence to Christians of any denomination because it deals with problems of faith and of following in the footsteps of Christ.

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          • #6
            I also said in my original post that the kind of people who suggested I should be killed for writing Behold the Man are about as far removed from Christianity as it's possible to get. If they were honest, they would call their religion something else, the way the Mormons do. Reactionary Judaism probably wouldn't really suit them as a title, but essentially that's the nearest I can get to a description of what they claim as Christianity. This is what they have in common with reactionaries of several other major faiths -- including Hinduism. The profound beliefs which Huxley called 'the perennial philosophy' also have much in common and are equally far removed from what the likes of George Bush practice. The irony is that these reactionary elements actually have more in common, whether Jews, Moslems or Christians, than anyone else. They use the same rhetoric and do equal damage to the rule of law and to the cause of common justice.

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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            • #7
              Been awhile, but I loved the book. It was the first non-Elric Moorcock title I tried out, and I was quite pleased to learn of his diversity as a writer. Personally, I think that Jesus was quite likely a good man who taught peace, and did find himself in the circumstances that the protagonist in the book did in many ways. A lot of the parts of Christianity that I take issue with can be attributed to the apostles, most notably John the Baptist, who I believe took their deceased leader's words and deeds and bent them to their own purposes.
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              • #8
                You know I think it depends on how sucsesfull a book is and also when the book was written. As far as I know Tom Robbins didn't get any death threats when he wrote Another Roadside Atraction because he wrote it before he was famous. Mike's book on the other hand won a nebula award so it may have got more attention. Stanley Kubrik got a lot of death threats when A Clockwork Orange came out because copycat gangs started to emerge after the film was a big sucsess but as far as I know Anthony Burgess didn't get any death threats when he wrote the book. Dan Browns Da Vinci Code dosn't have seemed to create a fuss amonge christians because we live in more enlightened times. At least I hope we do.

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                • #9
                  My apologies to Mike, Tom and Anthony for mentioning them in the same post as Dan Brown.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TheAdlerian
                    One of my favorite thoughts about Jesus is that he may be taken from a Jewish mushroom cult. Mushrooms were thought to be magical phallic symbols. As such, they were called the son and supposedly a cult sprang up around them. I have read speculation that documents referring to the son of god were actually referring to mushrooms.

                    Anyway, that was a good and shocking book that was well worth reading.
                    I remember reading that book and totaling freaking out some christians at work by telling them that Jesus and Moses were high on magic mushrooms. Personally I think that book may be on the same level as Chariots of the Gods. An interesting read but not something to take too seriously.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TheAdlerian
                      One of my favorite thoughts about Jesus is that he may be taken from a Jewish mushroom cult. Mushrooms were thought to be magical phallic symbols. As such, they were called the son and supposedly a cult sprang up around them. I have read speculation that documents referring to the son of god were actually referring to mushrooms.

                      Anyway, that was a good and shocking book that was well worth reading.
                      I remember reading that book and totaling freaking out some christians at work by telling them that Jesus and Moses were high on magic mushrooms. Personally I think that book may be on the same level as Chariots of the Gods. An interesting read but not something to take too seriously.

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                      • #12
                        Sorry about the double post but the first post was taking so long I pressed submit twice. Maybe you need a farster server or somthing, after all we are a legion, :)

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dead-Air
                          Personally, I think that Jesus was quite likely a good man who taught peace, and did find himself in the circumstances that the protagonist in the book did in many ways. A lot of the parts of Christianity that I take issue with can be attributed to the apostles, most notably John the Baptist, who I believe took their deceased leader's words and deeds and bent them to their own purposes.
                          You might be interested by the books of the late Hyam Maccoby, in particular: "Revolution In Judea: Jesus And The Jewish Resistance", and "The Mythmaker: Paul And The Invention Of Christianity". Some of the conclusions are a bit shakey, but the ideas are interesting.
                          Arma virumque cano.

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                          • #14
                            Everything comes back to the empty tomb, though, and the implications of that. The New Testament is full of enigmas like the conversion of Saul. Sometimes it feels like we're getting only part of the picture, whether intentionally or not.
                            'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

                            Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

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                            • #15
                              Okay, well, I just finished reading Behold the Man so I have some thoughts on the matter fresh in my mind.

                              First off, Mike, PHENOMINAL story! I expected a great read and I got far more than I expected.

                              "Did you make mankind after we made you?"
                              --from the song Dear God, by XTC

                              Karl's insistence that the idea of Christ preceded the actuality of Christ is key. His strong belief in the importance of the idea -- the necessity of the myth -- frames his actions and we see what that belief ultimately leads to.

                              At first, he might have found himself in certain situations which seemed like he was fulfilling prophecy (his fluke baptism by JtB and subsequent time in the desert springs to mind), but by the end it's obvious he's trying to perpetuate the myth he's come to hold so dear. It gets to the point where he's taking steps to ensure he's arrested by the Romans and not the Jews, for example, so that he'll be crucified and not stoned or hacked to death. He actually feels obligated to take on the role of the messiah.

                              "But it was not his own life he would be leading now. He was bringing a myth to life... Since he had never been able to bear to think that Jesus had been nothing more than a myth, it became a duty to himself to make Jesus a physical reality rather than the creation of a process of mythogenesis."
                              --Behold the Man, 1st ed., p.120

                              I think this is a very important point of the book: the importance residing in the idea behind the religion, as opposed to the religion that grows (mutates?) from the idea.

                              Originally posted by Aral Vilsn
                              Was the Biblical Jesus like Glogauer though, a man who (consciously or unconsciously) found himself fulfilling all the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament? Or something else?
                              I think Jesus knew what he was doing. However, I wouldn't agree with Monica that he was merely a "Jewish troublemaker organising a revolt against the Romans." He was, in my opinion, an enlightened man, much like the Buddha, who had a specific message and delivered it to the best of his ability. I think he believed it, too; I don't think he deliberately manipulated things to fulfill prophecy (as Glogauer did). Unfortunately, the time and place were not optimal and his own people ended up having him killed for his efforts.

                              Originally posted by Aral Vilsn
                              Behold The Man doesn't deal with anything supernatural - the disappearance of Glogauer's body is relegated to the last paragraph and is given a purely natural explanation.
                              I found Mike's natural explanations for things to be an interesting aspect of the story. We are shown Jesus the Christian Messiah as a myth which is ultimately lived out by someone in love with that myth. If the supernatural were to occur even once, Glogauer would be raised to a level above mortal man, and that just wouldn't do. :P

                              Although, there was the healing of that one blind woman that isn't really explained away...
                              "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                              --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

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