Jesus of Hollywood

Jesus of Hollywood

Jesus of Hollywood

Jesus of Hollywood

Synopsis

Since the advent of the cinema, Jesus has frequently appeared in our movie houses and on our television screens. Indeed, it may well be that more people worldwide know about Jesus and his life story from the movies than from any other medium. Indeed, Jesus' story has been adapted dozens of times throughout the history of commercial cinema, from the 1912 silentFrom the Manger to the Crossto Mel Gibson's 2004The Passion of the Christ. No doubt there are more to come.
Drawing on a broad range of movies, biblical scholar Adele Reinhartz traces the way in which Jesus of Nazareth has become Jesus of Hollywood. She argues that Jesus films both reflect and influence cultural perceptions of Jesus and the other figures in his story. She focuses on the cinematic interpretation of Jesus' relationships with the key people in his life: his family, his friends, and his foes. She examines how these films address theological issues, such as Jesus' identity as both human and divine, political issues, such as the role of the individual in society and the possibility of freedom under political oppression, social issues, such as gender roles and hierarchies, and personal issues, such as the nature of friendship and human sexuality.
Reinhartz's study of Jesus' celluloid incarnations shows how Jesus movies reshape the past in the image of the present. Despite society's profound interest in Jesus as a religious and historical figure, Jesus movies are fascinating not as history but as mirrors of the concerns, anxieties, and values of our own era. As the story of Jesus continues to capture the imagination of filmmakers and moviegoers, he remains as significant a cultural figure today as he was 2000 years ago.

Excerpt

One does not have to be a biblical scholar to write a book about the Jesus movies. Indeed, there are many other sorts of academics who potentially have an interest in this subject and would be able to pro- vide insights that may be lost on a biblical scholar. A film historian could situate these films in the context of the movie industry in North America and Europe or consider how the advances in technology have either added to or detracted from the power of these films. An art historian could look at how the Jesus movies utilize the masterpieces of Christian art in the appearance of Jesus and those who surround him, support him and oppose him, and in framing particular scenes such as the Flight to Egypt or the Last Supper. A specialist in popu- lar culture could look at the films’ use of “Hallmark” crèche images and other clichés and stereotypes. A music historian could analyze the presence, or absence, of Handel’s Messiah, gospel music, or contemporary Middle Eastern cadences in the movies’ soundtracks, as well as the mood created by the instrumentation and other musical elements. A theologian could study the faith claims implicit in these movies in the context of various theological streams in contempo- rary Christian society in North America and Western Europe.

As it happens, however, I am a scholar of the Christian scrip- tures, and my academic interests and education have shaped my approach to these movies. As will no doubt be clear to my readers, I have been fascinated in particular by the complicated relationship between these films and their sources, particularly the Gospels of . . .

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