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For Kahlil Gibran, re-telling the story of Jesus had been the ambition of a life time. He had known it from childhood, when as a poor boy in the Middle-East, he'd been taught by a priest reading the bible with him. Now, in his maturity - and a successful writer in the USA - 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.'
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Kahlil Gibran was born in Northern Lebanon on January 6th 1883. He and his older half-brother and two younger sisters were brought up as Marmonite Christians. A local priest taught Kahlil Biblical lessons and in his own time Kahlil indulged in the arts and would sketch and draw the beautiful surroundings of the mountainous region the Gibrans lived in.
When Kahlil was eight years old his father was arrested for tax evasion after leading the family into poverty and Kamila decided that the family should relocate to the USA, following in the footsteps of Kahlil's uncle who had moved to America a few years earlier. His father was released from prison a year before the family left but he elected to stay in Lebanon.
The family settled in Boston and only two months after arriving Kahlil was already in school. Although he didn't speak English the teachers were quick to take notice of his talent as an artist and introduced him to local photographer/artist/publisher Fred Holland Day who helped Kahlil to further his artistic endeavours.
Through the Holland Day connection Kahlil became a well-known artist at a young age in Boston but his mother felt that it was all too much too soon and he returned to Lebanon for 4 years to complete his education.
When he returned to the USA he discovered that his sister had died from disease and his mother and half brother would follow soon after. Kahlil began to concentrate on his art and in 1904 had his first exhibition which was a critical success. At the exhibition he met Mary Haskell, a school teacher who would end up financing his burgeoning career. As well as drawing he was also developing his writing abilities and would spend much of his time translating his Arabic writing into English. Mary Haskell convinced him to write in English and also helped him with language, grammar, editing and various other important literary factors that contributed to his growth as a writer.
In 1918 his first book written in English, `The Madman', was published. In the book he discusses freedom, spirituality, God and justice taken from the viewpoint of a `madman'. The book was a critical success and although it only sold modestly his reputation began to grow and he began to move in new literary circles. Two years later his second book written in English, `The Forerunner', was published in which he continued to concentrate on the expansive themes he had explored in `The Madman'.
These two books set the stage for what was to become Kahlil's masterpiece, `The Prophet', which was published in 1923. In the book a prophet is making his journey home after living away for many years and on his way to board the ship he stops and discusses many moral and spiritual matters with a group of people. There are 26 essays in the poetry/prose style that was so effective in Gibran's hands and the book has gone on to sell millions of copies in over 20 different languages. It has never been out of print, being a particular favourite of the 1960s counter-culture scene.
Gibran followed `The Prophet' with `Sand And Foam' in 1926 which also caught the imagination of people in the Sixties, most notably John Lennon who borrowed a couplet of Kahlil's for the Beatles' song `Julia' which featured on their legendary `White Album'. One of the last books Kahlil wrote was `Jesus, The Son Of Man' which took various characters from the Bible and imagined what their personal viewpoint of Jesus would have been and this book also won rave reviews in critical circles.
By 1928, the year `Jesus, The Son Of Man' was published; Kahlil's physical and mental health had declined. A shoulder injury that he sustained whilst a child, became so painful that he turned to drink to dull the pain and subsequently became an alcoholic. He passed away in 1931 and, as was his wish, his body was returned to Lebanon to be buried.
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