Kazantzakis’ bold and imaginative retelling of Christ’s life – and death – gives a new take on some of the Biblical characters you may have thought you knew through Sunday schools or other religious (Christian) instruction. In his version, Mary is bewildered by the son she has borne, and just wants him to be a ‘normal’ boy who gets married and gives her grandchildren.

It is her brother-in-law, Jesus’ uncle and the rabbi of Nazareth, who tries to help her unravel the mystery. Simeon is known for his skill in freeing people of demons, and Mary asks him why he can’t do the same for his nephew.  His answers and their exchange are both funny and striking. See also another such exchange between the fretful mother and the wise rabbi.

 

“Mary, your boy isn’t being tormented by a devil; it’s not a devil, it’s God – so what can I do?”

“Is there no cure?” the wretched mother asked.

“It’s God, I tell you.  No, there is no cure.”

“Why does he torment him?”

The old exorcist sighed, but did not answer.

“Why does he torment him?” the mother asked again.

“Because he loves him,” the old rabbi finally replied.

 

Source: Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation, trans. P.A. Bien (London: Faber and Faber, 1983), pp.  35-36

Photo credit: Aaron Burden at unsplash.com

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