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" Friendship is a sheltering tree "

Coleridge

Jesus through Pagan Eyes

June 19th, 2012

Mark Townsend’s latest book Jesus through Pagan Eyes is out in the USA and will be out soon in the UK. When he asked me to contribute to it I was hesitant – it’s the sort of project that risks interesting no-one, or upsetting everyone! Christians surely don’t care about what Pagans think, and Pagans won’t want to know about Jesus, so what’s the point? But after discussion with Mark, I saw the subject from a different perspective. Views about Christianity and Christ have had such an impact on the world – both positive and negative – that they certainly merit exploration,  and so I decided to explore what I really felt about this figure who evokes such ambivalent feelings for many of us, and accepted Mark’s invitation to contribute to the book. Along with many other contributors and Mark’s excellent introduction I believe you will find this book challenging and profound.

Here is what one reviewer thinks of it:

There certain words that just do not seem to go together. “Jesus” and “Pagan” most definitely fall into this category. Mark Townsend’s new book, “Jesus through Pagan Eyes”, addresses this discontinuity in a startling and inspirational way.

In the Western world we are in the midst of a profound spiritual search, involving many people. For a large number, nature has become a wonderful doorway through which to connect with the sacred. The way of the Druid, of Wicca and the Heathen, are becoming ever-more popular. Yet as Mark Townsend reports in his introduction, the figure of Jesus still fascinates a large number of people who would now call themselves pagan. This surprised him, just as it will so many of us. There is a rejection of the Church, but not its founder. As a Christian priest and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, Mark is well placed to explore this unexpected phenomenon. He does so in three ways.

In the first part of the book, he revisits the historical figure of Jesus in the light of modern, progressive scholarship and proposes a new and radical way of understanding this awesome being. It is an understanding with which so many in our modern world could relate, who are otherwise disenchanted with traditional interpretations. It is also an understanding that echoes many pagan themes. The second and third sections of the book are especially interesting as they comprise stories and essays by, and interviews with, a selection of eminent pagans around this question. Altogether the book is a most valuable contribution to understanding an important area of the contemporary spiritual quest. It is a “must read” for anyone seeking insight into the modern encounter between these two ancient traditions.

Simon Small, Anglican Priest and Author