The Publican and the Pharisee: four filmed interpretations

Today, in Orthodox churches, was the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. It’s the day when we read the parable that Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the Temple to pray; while the Pharisee spent his prayer bragging that he was a great and righteous man, the tax collector begged for God’s forgiveness — and it was the tax collector, rather than the Pharisee, who “went home justified before God.” And so the parable reminds us that we need to pray in humility, and that it is not our place to judge our fellow human beings.

We read this parable on this day to remind ourselves that Lent is only a few weeks away, and that we should approach the season of fasting and prayer humbly, and without judging our fellow churchgoers (or, indeed, anyone else). And, naturally, as I pondered this parable, my mind turned to a few film versions of it.

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Son of God: why is Jesus holding that stone in his hand?

The YouTube channel for Son of God has been releasing new videos almost daily, all of them consisting of various Christian leaders who have lined up to promote the film by commenting on a clip from the film.

Despite the fact that there are a dozen different “exclusive interviews” on the YouTube channel now, they all revolve around just three basic clips: ‘Peter Goes Fishing’, ‘Walking on the Water’ and ‘The Last Supper’. And today’s clip, featuring Cardinal Donald Wuerl, offers an interpretation of the ‘Peter Goes Fishing’ scene that hadn’t occurred to me before.

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Jesus walks on water in new Son of God clip

The story of Jesus walking on the water appears in three of the canonical gospels — not, as you might think, the three Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) but, rather, the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John. I have no idea why Luke’s gospel leaves this story out, but it’s not too hard to see why life-of-Jesus movies have skipped this episode for the most part.*

For one thing, it’s more brazenly supernatural than some of the other miracles, which could be a turn-off to some of the more skeptical or liberally-minded audience members. Also, it’s kind of hard to visualize what it would have looked like, exactly, for someone to walk on water — especially when there was a storm raging all around him and stirring up the waves. Until the rise of CGI, it might have been too difficult to film a version of this scene that would have looked half-way plausible.

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The Bible sequel A.D. gets the green light for spring 2015

I was just finishing my last post, which partly concerned Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s recent decision to produce a mini-series about the siege of Masada for CBS, when word came over the internet that NBC had greenlit one of their other projects: a 12-hour sequel to The Bible that was once called A.D.: Beyond the Bible but now simply goes by the name A.D.

I included a brief link to that press release in my previous post, but I think it merits a blog post all its own, since it includes a few new details about the mini-series.

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Newsbites: The first-century Jewish zealot edition!

Bit of a delayed reaction here, as I was under the weather when these two news items surfaced last week.

First, The Bible producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are producing an adaptation of The Dovekeepers, an Alice Hoffman novel that takes place during the siege of Masada, which marked the end of the First Jewish-Roman War in AD 73.

Burnett and Downey are already working on a sequel to The Bible that will mix the history of the early church with secular accounts of the Jewish rebellion against the Romans, etc. But it sounds like The Dovekeepers — which follows the stories of four women who end up at Masada during the siege — will focus more narrowly on the Jewish rebellion.

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How well have movies depicted Jesus the exorcist?

The History Channel had a huge hit this year with The Bible, but the makers of that mini-series are taking the sequel to another network, so it’s not too surprising that the History Channel turned to someone else to make a follow-up of their own. What is surprising is that their next Jesus-themed series will be made by a bunch of horror-movie veterans, including Eli Roth, director of Hostel (2005-2007), Eric Newman, producer of the Dawn of the Dead remake (2004) and the prequel to The Thing (2011), and Scott Kosar, a writer whose credits include the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Amityville Horror (2005). Roth and Newman also co-produced The Last Exorcism (2010-2013).

Deadline says the series is currently called The Lost Years and will look at what Jesus was up to between the ages of 13 and 30. The series will also reportedly fit into the horror genre as it explores “a theory about Jesus’ origins as an exorcist.”

Given the pedigree of everyone involved, this could easily be very schlocky (“Jesus The Teenage Demon Slayer,” as Matthew Archbold puts it). And yet I can’t help thinking that performing exorcisms was a major part of Jesus’ ministry, and it’s possible the Jesus-movie genre hasn’t paid as much attention to that side of him as it could.

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