For Kahlil Gibran, re-telling the story of Jesus had been the ambition of a lifetime. He had known the story from childhood, when as a poor boy in the Middle East he had been taught by a priest reading the Bible with him. Now in his maturity, and a successful writer in the United States, he wanted tell the story as no one had told it before. With Jesus the Son of Man, he did just that. Set alongside Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, here is ‘The Gospel according to Gibran’.
Gibran’s approach is to allow the reader to see Jesus through the eyes of a large and disparate group of people. Some of these characters will be familiar: we hear from Peter, Mary his mother, Luke, Pontius Pilate, Thomas and Mary Magdalene. But many other characters are new, created by Gibran, including a Jerusalem cobbler, an old Greek shepherd, and the mother of Judas. ‘My son was a good man and upright,” she tells us. “He was tender and kind to me, and he loved his kin and his countrymen.’
What connects these people is the fact that they all have an opinion about Jesus, though no two opinions are the same. ‘The Galilean was a conjuror, and a deceiver,’ says a young priest. But then a woman caught in adultery experienced him in a different way. ‘When Jesus didn’t judge me, I became a woman without a tainted memory, and I was free and my head was no longer bowed.’
With each fresh voice, a different aspect of Jesus’ character is explored, and a different reaction named. The Logician is clear in his distrust: ‘Behold a man disorderly, against all order; a mendicant opposed to all possessions.’ But for Gibran himself, whose Lebanese roots placed him close to the Galilean, Jesus is worth rather more, and is present still:
But Master, Sky-heart, knight of our fairer dream,You do still tread this way.No bows nor spears shall stray your steps;You walk through all our arrows.You smile down upon us,And though you are the youngest of us all,You father us all.Poet, Singer, Great Heart!May our God bless your name.