At the heart of Christian theology lies a paradox unintelligible to other religions and to secular humanism: that in the person of Jesus, God became man, and suffered on the cross to effect humanity's salvation. In his dual nature as mortal and divinity, and unlike the impassable God of other monotheisms, Christ thus became accessible to artistic representation. Hence the figure of Jesus has haunted and compelled the imagination of artists and writers for 2,000 years. This was never more so than in the 20th Century, in a supposedly secular age, when the Jesus of popular fiction and film became perhaps more familiar than the Christ of the New Testament.
In Re-Writing Jesus: Christ in 20th Century Fiction and Film Graham Holderness explores how writers and film-makers have sought to recreate Christ in work as diverse as Anthony Burgess's Man of Nazareth and Jim Crace's Quarantine, to Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. These works are set within a longer and broader history of 'Jesus novels' and 'Jesus films', a lineage traced back to Ernest Renan and George Moore, and explored both for their reflections of contemporary Christological debates, and their positive contributions to Christian theology. In its final chapter, the book draws on the insights of this tradition of Christological representation to creatively construct a new life of Christ, an original work of theological fiction that both subsumes the history of the form, and offers a startlingly new perspective on the biography of Christ.