Could Moses have a cameo in the next Bible episode?

A thought suddenly occurred to me: If Jesus, a New Testament figure, can make two appearances, however obscured, in the Old Testament section of The Bible, is it possible that the cross-overs might go the other way? Could any Old Testament figures have a cameo or two in the New Testament section of the mini-series, which resumes this Sunday night?

It would be very easy to do this: All the mini-series would have to do is include the Transfiguration as part of its depiction of the life-story of Jesus. The Transfiguration, you may recall, is when three of Jesus’ closest apostles saw him talking to Moses and Elijah — and Moses has already played a significant role in this series.

Alas, the mini-series skipped over the Elijah section of the Old Testament entirely, so that limits the extent to which any sort of cross-over could occur, now. If there were a Transfiguration sequence in the next episode, someone watching it might recognize Moses but would be left wondering who the other guy is.

Still, it would be nice if the The Bible did include the Transfiguration, not only because it would fit with the mini-series’ efforts to bridge the Old and New Testaments, but also because very few films have ever depicted the Transfiguration.

Two — the Visual Bible’s Matthew (1993) and the Genesis Project’s Luke, the latter of which was condensed into the Jesus movie (1979) — were complete word-for-word adaptations of individual gospels and were thus obliged to show the Transfiguration.

This is how the Transfiguration appeared in the Jesus movie, with Moses and Elijah appearing as somewhat ghostly, etheral figures on either side of Jesus:

And this is how it appeared in Matthew — which, in keeping with the emotionalist tenor of that film, has Jesus physically leaning on Moses and Elijah for support:

Prior to that, you might have to go all the way back to the silent era to find other films that have depicted this episode from Jesus’ life. My friend Matt Page notes that one such film is The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1905).

Matt also mentions a silent Italian film called Christus (1916) — and what’s interesting about this Transfiguration scene is that there’s a bit of commotion taking place in the foreground while the three core disciples witness the Transfiguration in the background. Is the foreground activity a nod to the demon-possessed boy that Jesus’ other disciples failed to exorcise while Jesus was up on the mountain, perhaps?

Matt also notes that there is a Transfiguration scene in the 12-part series of films called The Living Christ (1951) — though whether these short films, produced as educational tools for Sunday schools and the like, belong in the same category as the films mentioned above is somewhat debatable.

In any case, that about exhausts the films I can think of. If I remember any other films that have shown the Transfiguration — or if The Bible actually incorporates it into its depiction of Christ’s ministry — then I will update this post accordingly.

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).

  • http://denythecat/blogspot.com Brian Sullivan

    If only “The Bible” mini-series wasn’t such absolute drek, I might be interested in what they do. Given that they’ve added and subtracted willy-nilly, perhaps the Transfiguration will feature Joshua and Elisha instead, or will take place in the Gethsemane.

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