The Last Temptation of Christ is a fictionalized account of the life and death of Jesus. In it, Nikos Kazantzakis concentrates on the human aspects of Christ, tracing his adult career from his departure from home in Nazareth, through his famous temptation in the desert and his public ministry in the company of his disciples, to his final passion and death. Jesus’ life is seen as a perpetual conflict between temptations of the flesh or the intellect and the desires of the hero to fulfill his destiny as Savior.
The novel opens in Nazareth, where young Jesus the carpenter is being pursued by a demon whose identity is unclear: Is this tempter the Devil, or is it God? Wracked by uncertainty, Jesus continues his work—building crosses for the Romans to use to crucify Zealots who are trying to overthrow the invaders from the west.
Finally, uncertain how to reconcile the conflicting passions he feels within himself, Jesus leaves home. His wanderings take him to Magdala, where he confronts his cousin Mary, the village prostitute and daughter of the rabbi to whom Jesus often turns for advice. Their meeting is a crisis for Jesus, as Mary accuses him of spurning her and of avoiding his responsibilities to his mother and family. Dejected and confused, he travels into the desert, settling with a band of ascetic monks who want him to succeed their dying abbot as the leader of their commune. Realizing that to do so would be to abandon the world, Jesus leaves the monastery and wanders alone into the desert. There, the Tempter appears to him in various forms (a lion, a woman) and offers Jesus ease from his confusion,...
(The entire section is 670 words.)