This was controversial when it came out, but I remember reading it as a teenager (could it be that old?!?) and not finding it particularly shocking.
I really enjoyed reading this. For quite awhile it's hard to tell where the author is going with the story. I had seen the movie years ago, but the book is different & much more detailed & interesting. The story covers the life of Jesus from a very young man until the Crucifixtion. The movie (if I remember correctly) focuses more on what occurs while he's hanging on the cross.
This is probably not for everyone. If you are a fundamentalist Christian you may not allow yourself to enjoy it. Actually, I think that it could be read from many different perspectives. If you are willing to look beyond the literal & are willing to consider that at least some of the Bible is symbolic, then there isn't too much here to scare you off. There is a lot of great info about what was going on in Israel during the time period & how Jews & Romans interacted.
Kazantzakis was from Greece & I have read that the peasants were based on Greek peasants that he grew up with. He followed many different paths during his life, starting out as a Christian, following Buddha for awhile, the Russian revolutionaries, different philosophers & finally coming full circle back to Christianity with new eyes, so to speak. I loved this book & would recommend it to anyone to wants to read it with the above reservations. I've tried to avoid giving too much away about the story because that can ruin a new book for people.