The Jesus Movie

By Wayne Jackson

Everyone understands that whenever Hollywood does a movie about some historical character, a good measure of literary license is taken. Whether it be Alexander the Great or George Washington, to a significant degree, the personality of the character is molded into the director’s perspective.

In treating subjects of this nature, I suppose, it doesn’t matter a great deal that there is the employment of the modern imagination. But when it comes to dealing with the Jesus Christ of history, it is a different matter entirely.

What one believes about Jesus is of supreme importance. Any erroneous characterization of the Son of God, explicitly stated or subtly implied, is an egregious injustice.

Consider, then, the CBS miniseries, Jesus, which airs next week (May 14, 2000). It is promoted as “The Greatest Story, Retold.” Place the emphasis on that “Retold”—it should be mis-told. An article by Michael Logan in last week’s TV Guide reveals enough of the flavor of the series for the discerning person to know that this is a terribly distorted account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

The drama is depicted as a “new take on the old story.” We don’t need a “new take” on the old story; we just need to “take” the “old story,” i.e., the Gospel records, because of the solid historical narratives that they are. They far transcend in quality any comparable document of antiquity.

The series professes to be a “reexamination of scripture.” It is not a reexamination; it is a re-write of Scripture. There is a vast difference between the two.

This concoction is aimed at turning “long-held Christian tenets upside down.” It portrays Jesus as a prankster (he starts a water fight with the disciples) who “loves to laugh, eat, drink, and dance in the streets with wild abandon.”

While it is true that there are touches of humor in some of his lessons, generally, the Lord was burdened exceedingly, as he contemplated the spiritual agony associated with paying the price for humanity’s sins. There is nothing in the biblical text to even remotely suggest that the Savior danced in the streets with “wild abandon.” What depravity—to make a buffoon of the world’s Redeemer!

The film is revisionism in that it attempts to alter the historical facts, making Pilate the chief villain in the death of Christ, rather than the Jews. According to Logan, the “blame for the Crucifixion has been laid on the Jews, and has caused much guilt and persecution.”

The fact is, the Jews do sustain a guilt—as well as the Gentiles. All of us, by our sins, put the Lord on the cross! Be that as it may, historically the Jews did have the leading role in Jesus’ immediate death. That is undeniable—though no genuine Christian sanctions the persecution of Jews.

Logan contends, however, that the Jewish involvement in Christ’s crucifixion is “a misinterpretation of gospel” [sic] and “goes against the writings of Josephus.” The movie intends to set the record straight.

The fact is, nothing could be clearer than the leading participation of the Jews in the death of their Messiah. The Hebrew treachery in this regard was foretold by their own prophets (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 53:1ff), and repeatedly is emphasized in the Gospel accounts, as well as in the preaching of the Hebrew-born apostles of Christ in their subsequent ministries (see Acts 2:23; 3:14-15).

Any person who reads the biblical record with a modicum degree of integrity, and then concludes that the Jews had no complicity in the death of Christ, is casting serious doubts upon his own intellectual acumen.

And the testimony of Josephus confirms, rather than contradicts, the records of Scripture. The Jewish historian says, “And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross . . .” (Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3). This is powerful testimony from one whose literary aim was to enhance the Jews in the estimation of Rome!

While there are those of the “Christian” community who may find this production entertaining (because they, in fact, have but a cursory knowledge of the Bible), those who revere Jesus as the promised Messiah—indeed, as very deity in the flesh—will be appalled by this presentation of the Lord as a “Messiah-surfer-dude,” to use Logan’s disgusting jargon.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.