Review: ‘The Gospel According to Monty Python’ by Julian Doyle




27th August 2014

First Edition Design Publishing


  • ISBN9781622876198
  • Price $15.95
  • Other Format



Who was the real Brian? Who was the real Jesus? Did the Romans build the Jerusalem Aqueduct? Were the Magi really wise? And were the Peoples Front of Judea, splitters? All the crucial issues this book dares to confront.

‘Life of Brian’ editor Julian Doyle, not only reveals some telling information about the filming process but also compares each and every hysterical scene of the film with the actual Biblical events and comes to some extraordinary conclusions, including the well held belief that ‘Life of Brian’ is the most accurate Biblical film ever made. A must not only for Python fans but film students wishing to understand the process of comedy editing.

Author JULIAN DOYLE is one of the world’s most versatile Film Makers. He has Written, Directed, Photographed, Edited and Created Special Fx in feature films all to the highest standards. He is most famous for editing the Monty Python films such as ‘Life of Brian’ and shooting the Fx for Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ and ‘Timebandits, which he also edited. He has also won awards for directing pop videos such as Kate Bush’s ‘Cloudbusting’ featuring Donald Sutherland and Iron Maiden’s ‘Play with Madness’ featuring Graham Chapman. His most recent film is ‘Twilight of the Gods’ an in depth exploration of the relationship between Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche. He can be seen in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ playing the Policeman who puts his hand over the lens bringing the film to an end.





I love ‘Life of Brian’, it makes me giggle uncontrollably, so the chance to read about the process of filming it was not one to miss. Julian Doyle weaves technical information in to his personal exploration of the Bible. I found the book fascinating, if somewhat speculative regarding the historical Jesus, Israel in antiquity and the extent to which the New Testament has been changed. My first instinct was to say ‘show me your sources’. I have subsequently got hold of copies of Josephus, the Bible, Torah and Quran, and am looking for translations of the Nag Hammadi scrolls and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I’m going to have to read them all, just to work out if his speculations are even remotely valid.

But back to the book.

The writing style is very informal, and conversational. The use of film stills and other images is useful in illustrating Julian Doyle’s points; I think a few more might have been beneficial. Citation and the bibliography is poor though; I found that disappointing considering the nature of his comments.

Overall, I found this book thought-provoking and informative. I recommend it to Python fans.





The next part of this post is not related to the review, but is the result of some of the thoughts it provoked. Here are a few things I feel the need to say:

  • My sister Helen is more interested in the history of Christianity than I am, and consequently has a better understanding of the subject. I sent her a photo of the Bibliography; she disapproves, especially of the conspiracy theorists. She’s reviewed a couple of the books on her blog. DSC_0210[2]
  • Reading this book, specifically the chapters where Julian Doyle discusses the Samaritans, the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the origin of the word ‘Jew’ and the relationship between the present states of Israel and Palestine, reminded me of something my possibly (no one ever knew for sure and my great auntie isn’t telling) part Jewish (through his mother) Gramps, many years ago. While I was in sixth form my older sister and I used to go for dinner at our grandparents on a Friday, because we had a free period before or after the dinner break at school, and used to talk about a lot of different subjects. Gramps was in the RAF in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. He was deployed all over the world and had some very definite views about Israel, among other things. We used to politely disagree, because I generally find the idea of invading someone else’s country and illegally taking land to be terribly bad manners. Gramps tried to justify the behaviour of the Israelis with the following argument: Imagine a large family of twelve has an argument and one of the twelve leave the family property. Several generations later the descendants of the one who left comes back to their estranged family. Surely they’re entitled to a share in the family property?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    At the time I was too cowed to argue back, but reading this book brought the memory back, and now, after fifteen years I could answer him (My granddad has been dead for two and a half years): One, if the Israelis and Palestinians are indeed descendants of the same ‘family’  then they should treat each other as family i.e. they shouldn’t be killing each other. Two, to continue my Gramps’s metaphor, as only one of the twelve branches, they are only entitled to 1/12th of the family property, not 11/12th. It’s just bad manners to demand more than you’re entitled to. Plus the eleven siblings who stayed home to look after the family property are the reason it’s still there for the estranged branch of the family to come back to.
  • My first response to Julian Doyle’s ‘Jesus was not the Christ, that was someone else’ argument (I’m paraphrasing, his argument is made well and he tries to provide evidence for his position) was to be faintly irritated. I am not a Christian, and haven’t been for about sixteen years, and yet my first response to a questioning of my childhood beliefs was to argue. Our childhood indoctrination in the form of school, Methodist Sunday School and later Confirmation classes at our local Church of England church in my early teens, means that despite repudiating my childhood religion I still get twinges of discomfort, and an urge to defend the faith when it is criticised. Which is ridiculous, because I criticise the Abrahamic religions regularly. I can only assume that the ingrained habits of childhood reappear at unexpected times because what we learnt as children is the basis for our world views. In order to get past these we have to consciously question our assumptions and dig for the reasons. Knowing that the reason I felt uneasy with the criticism of Christianity is because of childhood indoctrination. By acknowledging this I can move on.
  • I’ve started reading the Old Testament in an effort to understand Julian Doyle’s arguments; this Jahovah fellow’s a genocidal maniac, isn’t he? Why on Earth would anyone worship him?

Okay, I’ll stop rambling down, I’ve got short stories to edit.





5 thoughts on “Review: ‘The Gospel According to Monty Python’ by Julian Doyle

  1. Nice to see you’re taking a proper scholarly interest sister dear instead of universally dismissing the texts as an historical source. Biblical scholars certainly don’t. Also the deity is also known as Yahweh and it means Lord. Or in a much, much older version Baal. As I understand it Judaism does not acknowledge this as the same deity bit there is archaeological evidence to show that it was.

    1. You do realise I only take the ‘dismiss as historical source’ stance because it gets on your wick, don’t you?
      I happen to find the archeology more trustworthy than the edited, biased, political tool that is the texts, as a guide to events in antiquity; Tacitus and Josephus are as questionable as Genesis and Mark. My real problem is with people who insist they are all perfectly accurate, even when the evidence of archaeology shows otherwise.
      I understand that the god known as Yahweh was originally part of a pantheon, and was called El; I’m not sure whether that’s another name for Baal or a conflation of two different gods.

      1. It’s believed to be another name for baal. They’re all just versions of “the Lord” anyway. All textsbare biased and tools of something even the ones you write yourself, even the ones I write. Still texts are used in history and just because it’s a tool doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from it.

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