To avoid being misunderstood as a work of heresy or of deliberate provocation, The Last Temptation of Christ must be seen as a devout and serious attempt by Kazantzakis both to synthesize and to transcend within the framework of the life of Christ the figures who had shaped his own life and philosophical pilgrimage: Henri Bergson, Friedrich Nietzsche, the historical Buddha, Vladimir Lenin, and Homer’s Odysseus.
Kazantzakis saw in Christ the culmination and refinement of all that was true and admirable in these giants of thought and action. Specifically he saw in Jesus’ human nature a vulnerability in which modern humanity could recognize itself and its struggles, a vulnerability often obscured by traditionally pious meditations on Christ’s life yet fully in keeping with Hebrews 4:15: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Even the novel’s implied antifeminism, specifically that women and their inherent sexual allure are an impediment to the salvation of men, has scriptural antecedent, both in Christ’s celibacy and in Saint Paul’s injunction that “all men remain as [himself],” that is, unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:9). Further countering feminist criticism are the importance that Kazantzakis places on the roles of the key women in Christ’s life, roles that closely mirror the roles the women played in the Synoptic Gospels.