Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to make a good Gospel-based film


Jewish date:  17 Ṭeveth 5770 (Parashath Shemoth).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Support Cleaner Air in NYC - The Petition Site”.

Topic 1:  It is another slow religious news day, so you all have to suffer me musing about my continuing project of watching Gospel-based movies.  Last night I watched The Miracle Maker, an animated Gospel film, on Hulu.  The parable and memory sequences, especially the temptation of Jesus by Satan, were visually appealing, but everything I complained about last week on “cardboard Jesus” applies, though Jesus seemed a bit more animated than in the non-musical live-action Gospel films.  This set me thinking:  what would a good film about Jesus be like?  Everything I complained that was interesting about Jesus but was left out of or underplayed in conventional Gospel films (arguing, cursing, personality, charisma, and the fig tree incident) needs to be put in.  Oh, let us not forget the casting out of demons and faith-healing, which could be a lot of fun on film.  But it is the arguing which really needs a lot of work because the Gospels really only give half of what would happen in a real argument.  For example, let us examine Luke 6:1-5:

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 
Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
The writer of Luke omits anything that the Pharisees might have said back to Jesus, such as:
“First, showbread is permissible to the ritually pure, not just priests.  You might have know this had you actually studied the Torah.  Secondly, even if it were not, it is irrelevant.  One group’s violation of the Law is not an excuse for anyone else’s transgression.  Thirdly, this ‘lord of the Sabbath’ business is meaningless.  Unless you have solid evidence that you have a prophetic mandate to let your followers do something that is otherwise prohibited, you simply are not making a case.”
More arguing may well have followed.  Having Jesus being forced to try to hold his own against people who knew what they were talking about would be not only a lot more interesting, but a lot more realistic.  Jews have been arguing with each other over Jewish law at least as far back as Mosheh (Moses), and it is inconceivable that no one ever had a reply to what Jesus was claiming.  Adding back in the missing half of the arguments would go a long way towards making these films more interesting and make more sense.  Do note, however, the likely results of such arguments are nothing a serious Christian would want.  Jesus as an exegete was forgotten in Jewish tradition and none of his opinions are recorded in contemporary Jewish literature.  His style of argument is unconvincing (see above example), and in his clashes with Jewish scholars he was almost certainly the loser.  This may have well shaped how Jesus’s unscholarly followers viewed the arguments and depicted them in the Gospels.

Topic 2:  For today’s religious humor:  “FINDING JESUS”.
funny pictures of cats with captions


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