Warning: There’s “Pushing and Shoving” in “The Nativity Story”

A prominent Christian media personality has disregarded the professional standard of waiting until opening day to publish a review of The Nativity Story, and he offers some rather, um, arresting observations:

Having spent some time in Israel researching other movies, I can attest to the authenticity of even the smallest details of life in Israel in the first century. The crucifixions, the agriculture, the ephods, everything is done exquisitely….

I can hardly wait. There’s nothing I love more than an exquisite crucifixion. Or an exquisite ephod.

… the movie doesn’t contain any language that would prevent young children from attending, there’s no sex and no nudity, and only a modest amount of violence, at the Temple sacrifice, people on crucifixes by the side of the road, sanitized depictions of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and pushing and shoving.

People dying on crucifixes is “modest violence”?

Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and pushing and shoving? Boy, I can handle the first, but the second… whoo, boy. That just might have a negative influence on me.

I’m holding out, hoping to see some more substantial reviews of this film. My friends Peter Chattaway, Steven Greydanus, and CT Movies’ editor Mark Moring saw the film in Beverly Hills yesterday. Can’t wait to read their reviews… which, in the professional manner, will be published on opening day.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • EV

    I caught a pre-screening and liked the film enough to want to see it again, this time with my husband when it’s released.

    Because there were instances of authentic Jewish religious observance and law incorporated in the action, I asked during Q&A for elaboration on the Scripture scholars and Judaism experts relied upon. The producer fumbled for a response, assuring the audience that, yes, this expertise was definitely enlisted; however, he couldn’t come up with names. I found this odd, given that the experts associated with The Passion and Gospel of John were much touted by their filmmakers.

    Here’s an example that either came about by nifty coincidence or points to informed Jewish expertise. The Nativity Story went with the traditional winter-time birth for Jesus. This would then place Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah in the autumn of the year before, right around September. The film depicts Gabriel coming to Zechariah as he is reciting Psalm 27. Indeed, Psalm 27 is recited twice a day for 50 days leading up to the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles, which generally falls in the month of October. In the Jewish liturgy, Psalm 27 is the psalm associated with late summer/autumn.

    There was another nice Jewish touch, this one coming from Oscar Isaac himself assuredly. (Isaac does a phenomenal job by the way as Joseph; this is his movie.) When he prays the blessing on the bread, not only does Sephardic Hebrew just roll off his tongue, he also makes the requisite substitutions for God’s name. Somewhere in Isaac’s background, there is Orthodox Jewish observance.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    As I am making an effort to criticize only the work itself, and not pick fights with particular critics, I’m going to keep this anonymous. But your friendly neighborhood search engine will easily resolve your questions should you desire to seek him out, and that’s out of my hands.

    Jeffrey

  • Joanna

    So, are we allowed to ask WHO this reviewer is?


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