The young Jesus bringing birds to life: three films that have depicted this tale from one of the apocryphal gospels

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The Infancy Gospel of Thomas — an apocryphal gospel that probably dates to the 2nd century AD — tells a story in which Jesus, at the age of five, makes twelve sparrows out of clay and then claps his hands and tells them to fly away. Although this story appears nowhere in the New Testament, some variation on it has appeared in at least three different films about Jesus, one of which is coming out later this week.

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Visiting the cast and crew of Killing Jesus in Morocco

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It’s a hot Tuesday morning in late October on the outskirts of Ouarzazate, a city in the heart of Morocco, and Jesus is having trouble getting birds to fly.

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Jesus movies and, um, rude bodily noises

Warning: This post includes a few irreverent images from irreverent films.

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Years ago, I used to say that if I ever made a movie about Jesus, I would include a scene in which he excuses himself to use the facilities (whatever they might have been in the first century), just to show that his humanity extended even to his “lower” bodily functions. I was reminded of that the other day when Bilge Ebiri, one of the critics who caught the Last Days in the Desert premiere at Sundance this week, wondered on Twitter if this was the first Jesus movie to have a “fart joke”.

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Making Superman, Jesus and other iconic figures “relatable”

It’s something of a clichĂ© for religion-minded pop-culture writers to talk about the parallels between Superman and Jesus, especially when there’s a new Superman movie in the works, but Zack Snyder, director of the upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel, said something in one of the film’s newer promotional featurettes that got me thinking about the parallel from a slightly different angle than usual.

Specifically, Snyder described how the approach taken by producer Chris Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer would make Superman relevant to a 21st-century audience: “What Chris and David did was, ‘Let’s let the audience participate in the experience of being Superman, without breaking the things that make him Superman.’ They were able to sort of make him relatable, ground him and make him feel real.”

Two things came to mind on hearing this statement.

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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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Top Ten Jesus Movies

They’ve been making films about the Son of God for over a century. Here’s one man’s list of those that ascend to the top of the cinematic pack.

Of the making of movies about Jesus, there is no end. In the first three months of this year alone: Son of Man, which casts a black man as Christ and sets his life in modern South Africa, got positive reviews at Sundance; the makers of Color of the Cross, which also casts a black man as Christ, established a website with trailers for their work-in-progress; and New Line Cinema announced that Oscar nominees Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) will star as the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth in a new movie about the Nativity, to be released in time for Christmas.

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