The Apostle Paul: From A Polite Bribe to The Final Verdict

Last November at SBL in Boston, I had the privilege of sitting down with filmmaker Rob Orlando twice. One of those meetings was planned, and saw me in front of a green screen wearing makeup (more about that later and on future occasions). The other was serendipitous but provided a chance to chat less formally over breakfast, since it turned out that we were both staying at the same hotel – the hotel in which he was also filming interviews with scholars about the apostle Paul for his next movie, Apostle Paul: The Final Verdict. That will be a sequel to his earlier movie Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe, which I have blogged about more than once, as it first introduced me to Rob, and actually brought him to Indianapolis for a screening of his movie at Butler University, followed by a Q&A with him as filmmaker. Rob also kindly made a guest appearance in my class about Paul and the early church on that occasion as well.

While the announcement that Mel Gibson is planning a sequel to Passion of the Christ was met with understandable jokes (where do you go from where the original ended?), it makes perfect sense for there to be a sequel to a movie focused on Paul’s last journey to Jerusalem to make a “gift” from the Gentile Christians to the Jewish Christian mother church in that city. Of course, this very exploration leads naturally to questions about where one might appropriately end the story of Paul’s activity, why Luke stops telling the story where he does, what fate Paul eventually met, and why he met it whenever you think he did. As I have said before, historians and scholars tend to be very good at analysis of the individual pieces of evidence, but we have much to gain from creative interactions with a filmmaker who is willing to take our work and ask what it looks like if turned back into a narrative. Obviously the public benefits from a cinematic rendition that incorporates scholars’ insights. But we the academic experts also benefit, I believe, not just because our work can potentially reach a wider audience, but because the act of turning anakysis into story challenges us to think about the evidence we study in new ways.

For more about Rob’s first apostle Paul movie, and his longstanding fascination with the apostle Paul, check out this interview (which I also mentioned here back in November):

There is more about Rob and his work on this subject on the movie website.

Rob is currently working on completing the Apostle Paul sequel. In the meantime, you might be interested to check out his latest movie, due out in theaters in April, about another individual that Rob views as “a prophet without honor in his own home,” namely General Patton:

You can also find the trailer on Vimeo…

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  • John MacDonald

    It was probably very important for Paul to make peace with the Jerusalem bunch because he probably believed they needed a unified front to move forward and convert as many people as possible – and Paul’s model for doing this was much better than the Jewish Christianity of James.

    • Gary

      To heck with Paul. I’d like to know where this George Patton stuff came from? Conspiracy that he was killed because he knew FDR (and Eisenhower) were secretly conspiring with Russian spies in the administration to advance Communism? That’s a new one to me. Or maybe just presented as fantasy fiction? Certainly not historical (at least I hope not). Is this an example of a “noble lie”, to advance an agenda? BTW, saw your web site. Interesting stuff.

      • John MacDonald

        Thanks for checking out my blog! Basically, I think there are two reasonable secular explanations for the claims made in the Pre Pauline Corinthian creed/poetry. The creed says:

        That Christ died for our sins
        in accordance with the scriptures.
        and that he was buried;
        That he was raised on the third day
        in accordance with the scriptures,
        and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

        One secular explanation is that the apostles were hallucinating. The other explanation is that they were lying about seeing the risen Jesus.

        • Gary

          “One secular explanation is that the apostles were hallucinating. The other explanation is that they were lying about seeing the risen Jesus.”

          There may be a third secular option. A combination of the two. Considering the close knit nature of the group hanging with Jesus, it may have only taken a couple (or even just one) of apostles hallucinating. Then, those not witnessing an apparition, say they saw it, simply because they didn’t want to admit they weren’t worthy enough to be “chosen” to see such a thing. In other words, even one hallucination, then exaggeration. Remember how competitive the disciples were when dealing with Jesus’ attention.

          Tried to put this comment on your blog, but you don’t allow guest posts. I don’t do google.

          Currently reading Friedman’s “The Exodus”. An example of exaggeration of numbers in the Exodus. So another example. One to many. Few to many. Gets the ball rolling, then it snowballs. Let’s call it the “snowball” effect.

          • Gary

            Let me correct myself. After thinking about it, the “Snowball Effect”, has already been seen before. Should be called “The Emperor’s New Clothes” Effect.

          • John MacDonald

            Hi Gary.

            Gary said:

            Tried to put this comment on your blog, but you don’t allow guest posts. I don’t do google.

            Sorry about that. I’ll definitely try to fix that.

          • John MacDonald

            Hi Gary.

            Gary Said:

            There may be a third secular option. A combination of the two. Considering the close knit nature of the group hanging with Jesus, it may have only taken a couple (or even just one) of apostles hallucinating. Then, those not witnessing an apparition, say they saw it, simply because they didn’t want to admit they weren’t worthy enough to be “chosen” to see such a thing. In other words, even one hallucination, then exaggeration. Remember how competitive the disciples were when dealing with Jesus’ attention.

            As to your point, yes: From a secular point of view, the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed can be explained as hallucinations, lies, or a combination of both. We also need to consider the faith option that Cephas and the Twelve actually encountered the risen Jesus. That’s possible too. That’s why I say in the blog post that it is impossible to pull back the veil to see what really lies behind the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed. This is one of the great mysteries in human history.

            I’m still trying to fix the comment section of my blog. I’ll figure it out eventually, lol.

          • Gary

            No hurry. Blogs should never be a priority over real life activities.