Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Magdala. Home of Mary Magdalene, the prostitute whom Jesus saves from stoning, located about ten miles northeast of Nazareth. Nikos Kazantzakis describes her home in suggestive detail. In the courtyard grow three trees, a pomegranate laden with fruit and two cypresses, one a male with a phallic trunk and the other a female, its branches spread wide. Seen through Jesus’ eyes, as he wrestles with temptation, the trees suggest Jesus’ all-too-human desire for love, sex, and progeny. Four merchants, each awaiting his turn with Mary Magdalene inside the house, suggest sin and corruption. Inside, Jesus finds Mary naked after her day’s “work”—a powerful temptation. However, he also finds a night’s peace as he sleeps there alone by the fire. At dawn he rises, and finds Mary, who is feigning sleep in her own bed, an even greater temptation, as he imagines not sex but marriage, a new life in a distant village, where Mary’s past is not known. For Kazantzakis’s Jesus, home and hearth, the joys of an ordinary life, are the greatest of earthly temptations. In Jesus’ delirium on the cross, he returns to Mary Magdalene.

Lazarus’s house

Lazarus’s house. Home of Lazarus, located in Bethany, a village between Jerusalem and the northern tip of the Dead Sea. Lazarus shares his home with his beautiful unmarried sisters, Mary and Martha. There, Jesus rests and refreshes himself after his most famous...

(The entire section is 597 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Virtually every fictional account of Christ's life has met with controversy among readers; hence, Kazantzakis's choice of a hero for his...

(The entire section is 352 words.)

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Kazantzakis combines scenes of graphic realism with descriptions of surrealistic dreams and psychodrama to create this portrait of Christ as...

(The entire section is 234 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Almost all of Kazantzakis's works deal in some way with questions of religion, but several share close affinities with The Last Temptation...

(The entire section is 100 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Last Temptation of Christ was made into a very controversial motion picture in 1988. Director Martin Scorsese overdoes the sexual...

(The entire section is 133 words.)


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Bien, Peter. Nikos Kazantzakis. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972. An excellent starting point. Contains limited commentary on The Last Temptation of Christ.

Bien, Peter. Nikos Kazantzakis, Novelist. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1989. An excellent introduction to Kazantzakis. Includes an appraisal of Kazantzakis’ importance as a novelist and his worldview, plus an analysis of The Last Temptation of Christ and other major novels.

Chilson, Richard W. “The Christ of Nikos Kazantzakis,” in Thought: A Review of Culture and Ideas. XLVII (1972), pp. 69-89.

Friar, Kimon. The Spiritual Odyssey of Nikos Kazantzakis: A Talk. Edited with an introduction by Theofanis G. Stavrou. St. Paul, Minn.: North Central Publishing, 1979. Explains Kazantzakis’ return to Catholicism, an essential point in understanding The Last Temptation of Christ.

Kazantzakis, Helen. Nikos Kazantzakis: A Biography Based on His Letters. Translated by Amy Mims. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968. A loving portrait of the author by his second wife. Provides insights into Kazantzakis’ often turbulent mind during the writing of his greatest works.

Hoffman, Frederick J. The Imagination’s New Beginning: Theology and Modern Literature, 1967.

Levitt, Morton P. The Cretan Glance: The World and Art of Nikos Kazantzakis. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1980. Beginning with Freedom or Death, one of Kazantzakis’ few novels set on his home island of Crete, Levitt discusses the development of Crete as metaphor in the major novels, including The Last Temptation of Christ and the great epic poem, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel.