Passover incomplete without Shavuot?

Terry Mattingly has an interesting column up now on the question “Should Jews believe Judaism is true?” The column is based on David Klinghoffer’s new, and apparently controversial, book Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History. Mattingly’s column includes this interesting tidbit:

What Klinghoffer finds disturbing is that the doctrinal lessons of Passover are incomplete without those taught by Shavuot, a holiday that comes 50 days later. Shavuot recalls the revelation of the Jewish law — the Torah — to Moses at Mount Sinai.

Without Shavuot, he said, Passover is meaningless. Without the truth contained in the Torah, Jews have no identity.

Yet few Jews celebrate Shavuot and many hesitate to defend their own faith.

Because all things must remind me of movies in some way or other, this particular quote reminds me of how Cecil B. DeMille made a point of going beyond the Exodus, in both versions of The Ten Commandments (1923, 1956), to emphasize the giving of the Law and the punishment of the idolatrous Israelites. DeMille balanced the message of liberation with a message of righteousness — and this message of righteousness had already been made implicit throughout the first part of the film (long, long before Moses receives the Law) by the way Moses, as an Egyptian prince who does not yet know the Hebrew God, still demonstrates his virtues vs. the vices of his adopted half-brother Rameses.

By way of contrast, The Prince of Egypt (my review) merely gives us the message of liberation. The Israelites are set free — yay! The end. Sure, we see Moses walk out of the light with a couple of stone tablets, but the implications of this are never fleshed out. (Cf. the quote from Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman in this article on responses to the film that I wrote way back when.)

Incidentally, it occurs to me that, just as Shavuot comes 50 days after Passover, so too Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter — could one argue, then, that the doctrinal lessons of Holy Week are incomplete without Pentecost? What does it say about our culture that there are so many films about the crucifixion but so, so few about the coming of the Holy Spirit? Hmmm, I guess one could also ask why there are four Gospels and only one Book of Acts; then again, maybe the Epistles make up for that. I’m not going anywhere in particular with this, just thinking out loud, just taking an idea and running with it for a bit. I tend to do that.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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