The Last Temptation of Christ

The Last Temptation of Christ
First UK trans. edition cover - titled "The Last Temptation"
First UK edition
AuthorNikos Kazantzakis
Original titleO Teleutaios Peirasmos
TranslatorPeter A. Bien (US)
GenreHistorical novel
PublisherSimon & Schuster (USA) & Bruno Cassirer (UK)
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & paperback)
Pages506 (first edition, hardback)

The Last Temptation of Christ or The Last Temptation (Greek: Ο Τελευταίος Πειρασμός, O Teleftéos Pirasmós) is a historical novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis, first published in 1955.[1] It was first published in English in 1960.[2] The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church in Athens wanted this book banned in Greece stating:

This novel, which is derived from the inspiration of the theories of Freud and historical materialism, perverts and hurts the Gospel discernment and the God-man figure of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way coarse, vulgar, and blasphemous.

I. A. Richards claims that Kazantzakis, in his The Last Temptation novel, tried to reclaim the values of early Christianity, such as love, brotherhood, humility, and self-renunciation.[3] According to P. Bien, the psychology in The Last Temptation is based on the idea that every person, Jesus included, is evil by nature as well as good: violent and hateful as well as loving. A psychologically sound individual does not ignore or bury the evil within him. Instead, he channels it into the service of good.[4]

The central thesis of the book is that Jesus, while free from sin, was still subject to fear, doubt, depression, reluctance, and lust. Kazantzakis argues in the novel's preface that by facing and conquering all of man's weaknesses, Jesus struggled to do God's Will without ever giving in to the temptations of the flesh. The novel advances the argument that, had Jesus succumbed to any such temptation, especially the opportunity to save himself from the cross, his life would have held no more significance than that of any other philosopher.

Film version

In 1988, an equally controversial film adaptation by Martin Scorsese was released, which starred Willem Dafoe as Jesus and Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot.[5]

In popular culture

It is discussed in The Da Vinci Code when in a flashback Sophie remembers her grandfather defending the film version.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Athenai: Diphros, 1955.
  2. ^ New York: Simon Schuster Inc., 1960.
  3. ^ Lewis A. Richards, "Christianity in the Novels of Kazantzakis," Western Humanities Review 21, p. 52
  4. ^ Peter Bien, "Tempted by Happiness: Kazantzakis' Post-Christian Christ", Pendle Hill Publications, Wallingford, PA p. 12
  5. ^ Deans, Jason (17 December 2003). "Scorsese movie tops TV complaints list". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  6. ^ Miesel, Sandra (31 August 2003). "Dismantling the Da Vinci Code". Crisis Magazine. Retrieved 8 August 2013.

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