Synopsis. The sons of Jacob prepare to go to Egypt. Jacob dictates a letter to the Egyptian governor, who unbeknownst to him is his son Joseph. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Akhenaten visits Joseph’s house and decrees that Zuleikha must marry Joseph. Joseph speaks to a crowd — many of whom have become technically enslaved to the Pharaoh in exchange for wheat — and declares that everyone in Egypt is free now, except for those who owned slaves and exploited the poor before the famine. Joseph’s brothers arrive and ask him to let Benjamin go back to Canaan. Joseph produces the bill of sale that they signed when they sold him into slavery, and reads it aloud.
Synopsis. The sons of Jacob embark on their journey to Egypt, leaving their wives, children, and their brother Benjamin behind with their father. They are also accompanied by some Canaanites. Joseph visits some of the land that has fallen into the Egyptian government’s possession and tells Malek they should divide it among farmers who don’t have any land. The brothers arrive in Egypt and try to buy grain. Joseph is alerted to their presence, and he has them ushered into the palace — much to the chagrin of Horemheb, who doesn’t like seeing these lowly shepherds there — but Joseph does not meet the brothers in person. Joseph tells his wife Asenath that his brothers deserve punishment but he forgave them long ago. Zuleikha, at home with her dilapidated idols, prays to Joseph’s God and asks if God will listen to her.
Today, for many Christians, is the Feast of the Meeting (or Presentation) of Our Lord in the Temple. It commemorates the time when Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple forty days after he was born, and there met Simeon and Anna, two old people who recognized the Christ child and made great predictions about his future.
“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 most 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.
Peter O’Toole announced his retirement from acting yesterday, and I must admit I’ve been dwelling on Bible movies enough these past few days that my first thought was, “Well, I guess that’s another part that the makers of Mary Mother of Christ will have to re-cast!” O’Toole had been attached to play Symeon, the old man who was informed by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah (as per Luke 2).
It wasn’t the first time O’Toole had agreed to play a small part in a Bible movie. In the early days of his movie stardom, he played the angels who bring condemnation to Sodom and Gomorrah in The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966), which I’ve always been inclined to see as sort of a meta-sequel in which O’Toole gets revenge for the rape his character endured in a similar Middle Eastern town in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). More recently, he played the prophet Samuel in the prologue to the Book of Esther adaptation One Night with the King (2006).
The Passion of The Christ was an independent movie, paid for entirely out of Mel Gibson’s pocket. The Prince of Egypt was an animated film that emphasized the common ground between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Last Temptation of Christ was a low-budget art-house flick based on a heretical novel.
You would have to go back at least as far as King David, the mid-1980s box-office flop starring Richard Gere, to find another live-action movie produced by a major Hollywood studio and based directly on the Bible. And you would have to go back even further — to the bathrobe epics of the 1960s, at least — to find a mainstream biblical movie that was as blatantly Christian as The Nativity Story.