A.D. The Bible Continues — season one, episode one

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Note: Between now and mid-June, I will be writing short recaps of each episode of A.D. The Bible Continues for Christianity Today Movies. You can read the first recap here. Time permitting, I will also post extra thoughts at this blog, like so:

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Watch: Zealots help the apostles escape from Jerusalem, and more, in new clips from A.D. The Bible Continues

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The Nielsen ratings are in, and the news for A.D. The Bible Continues is… good, but could be better.

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Killing Jesus round-up: new photos, new interviews, and rumours of a swimsuit competition with the cast of A.D.

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Killing Jesus — the National Geographic Channel adaptation of the book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard — had its world premiere at the Sun Valley Film Festival in Idaho last Saturday. I’ll have more to say about that in the near future. In the meantime, here’s a quick roundup of some of the stories about this film that have appeared over the last few weeks on other blogs and websites.

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The naked Christ in film: birth, death and resurrection

“The Word became flesh,” according to John 1:14, but that flesh has been hidden, for the most part, in movie portrayals of Jesus. At certain key points in his life, history and even tradition would dictate that Jesus ought to be depicted nude — and there are good theological reasons for doing so. But films have tended to shy away from nudity in their own portrayals of those parts of the Jesus story.

There are some obvious reasons for this reticence, of course, starting with the fact that film, for much of its history, has been forced to skirt around images of nudity in general, and images of male nudity in particular. Plus, when a film does show someone’s nudity, it does not merely show us the character’s nudity; it shows us the actor’s nudity as well, and the knowledge that we are seeing an actor’s naked body can sometimes distract us from the character he is playing. This is especially true when the character is meant to be an embodiment of divinity like Jesus.

There have been at least three significant exceptions, though — three films that each depict the nudity of Jesus at a different key point in his story.

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History and tradition in movie depictions of the Cross.

Western Easter came and went last week, but the Eastern churches are currently only half-way through the Lenten season, so yesterday was, for us, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Precious Cross.

Thinking about this, I inevitably started thinking about Jesus movies, and I began to think about the fact that the recent mini-series The Bible has joined Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in taking a step back from recent “historically accurate” depictions of the Crucifixion towards a more traditional sort of iconography.

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Come and See: How Movies Encourage Us to Look at (and with) Jesus

In orthodox Christian belief, Jesus is both God and man, fully divine and fully human. And it is because God has revealed himself in the form of a particular person who lived in a particular time and a particular place that Christians down through the ages have generally felt free to portray Jesus in icons, passion plays, and other forms of religious art. But except for the most basic and theologically essential points, such works of art generally pass over the particularities of Jesus’s life. His humanity, expressed in the mere fact that he can be depicted at all, is often balanced with his divinity by a degree of artistic abstraction: Whether depicting Christ in static paintings or following the stations of the cross according to a set pattern, artists have tended to downplay realistic or naturalistic details to focus on the more eternal truths.

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