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Old Testament on Film

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Archive for the 'gospels' Category

Who’s Mark and What’s His Secret?

1st March 2011

A couple of my buddies over at York University who study the appendix to the Bible (I think it’s called the New Testament :-) ) also study some obscure stuff relating to the appendix (called the “Christian Apocrypha”). At any rate, they (I guess I can name them: Tony Burke and Phil Harland) are hosting a conference on the Secret Gospel of Mark at the end of April, 2011 at York University.

The conference, Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate, is the first of the York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium Series. More details may be found here.

If you are wondering what the “Secret Gospel of Mark” is, here is an excerpt from the conference website:

In 1958, American Biblical scholar Morton Smith made an astounding discovery in the Mar Saba monastery in Jerusalem. Copied into the back of a 17th century book was a lost letter by Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215 CE) containing excerpts from a longer version of the Gospel of Mark. This Secret Gospel of Mark, as it became known, is now one of the most debated texts of the Christian Apocrypha. More than fifty years after its discovery, there is still no consensus on the issues of its authenticity. Was the letter truly written by Clement of Alexandria? Or by a medieval or even modern forger? Was the forger Morton Smith himself? The debate has heated up in recent years with the publication of Stephen Carlson’s The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark (Waco, TX: Baylor, 2005) and several criticisms of Carlson’s work by other scholars. Unfortunately, there has been no effective venue for these scholars to share their views on the text and arrive closer to a resolution of the issue of its authenticity. It is hoped that some progress can be made by bringing these scholars together to present their latest work on the gospel to each other, to an audience of interested scholars, to a curious public, and ultimately to an even wider audience with the publication of the papers and summaries of the discussion that arises from their gathering.

(Stephen Carlson, author of The Gospel Hoax,  blogs over at hypotyposeis, often on Secret Mark)

I encourage you to check the conference out!


 

Posted in Announcements, Christian Apocrypha, Conferences, gospels | 2 Comments »

Jesus of Hollywood

23rd January 2007

reinhartz-jesushollywood.jpgI just received my copy of Adele Reinhartz’s new book, Jesus of Hollywood (Oxford University Press, 2007; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). I have always been a fan of Reinhartz’s scholarship on the Bible and film, and it looks like this book will not disappoint. (Her other book on the Bible and film, Scripture on the Silver Screen [WJK, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com] is also worthy of perusal.)

This book has five major sections. The first section, “The Genre: Jesus Movies as Biopics” includes an introduction where Reinhartz orients the reader to the nature of biographical films and Jesus films in particular, deals with some methodological issues, and offers a brief survey of Jesus movies. She distinguishes between traditional Jesus films that portray significant portions of the life of Jesus, peplum or “sword and sandal” movies in which Jesus appears briefly within the story line of another character, and “Passion play” films that cover events surrounding the production of and actual clips from a Passion play. Her survey is not exhaustive, though she covers the most significant films between the Passion Play at Oberammergau in 1889 and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004/2005; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). One Jesus film absent from her survey was Denis Potter’s Wednesday Play: Son of Man (UK 1969), though this may be due to the fact that it was produced for television. Understandably, recently released films such as The Nativity Story (Castle-Hughes, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Color of the Cross (La Marre, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) were also absent.

The first section ends with a chapter dealing with the thorny issue of the relationship of Jesus films — and the gospels they are ostensibly based on — to history. Here Reinhartz’s background as a biblical scholar comes to the fore. While many filmmakers have claimed to present the “reel” Jesus in their films, i.e., a Jesus who is faithful to both the Scriptures and history, Reinhartz questions these claims. She deals deftly with the complicated question of the relationship of the gospels to history and how screenwriters have negotiated between the divergent portrayals of Jesus in the four gospels., focusing on the iconoclastic films Jesus of Montreal (Arcand, 1989; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Her conclusion that more recent fare such as The Gospel of John (Savile, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Passion of the Christ mark a “return to the reverential norms of the biopic genre” (p. 40) in contrast to the more provocative films of the 1980s, is correct up to a point, though The Color of the Cross demonstrates that there is still much controversy to be raised by the Jesus film genre.

The rest of the volume looks at the film portrayal of the primary characters in Jesus films: Jesus of Nazareth, Mary, Joseph, God, Mary Magalene, Judas, Satan, the Pharisees, Caiaphas, and Pilate. Each of these characters are the focus of a chapter in which Reinhartz shifts between the presentation of various aspects of their characters in the gospels and their portrayal in the movies. It is in these chapters that Reinhartz offers some close analysis of the biblical text and a wide variety of Jesus films.

The book closes with an afterword where she sums up her study of “Jesus of Hollywood” with the honest assessment that “it is unlikely that the Evangelists would recognize their own particular Jesus in any of the films we have discussed” (p. 252). Furthermore, while there are many similarities between the Jesus of the silver screen and the Jesus of Scripture, “the biopic Jesus is fundamentally different from his historical and scriptural counterparts” (p. 253). The “reel” Jesus is, according to Reinhartz, the Jesus transformed by “two thousand years of art, theology and interpretation, into Jesus of Hollywood” (p. 254). This Jesus is ultimately the product of a combination of history, theology, contemporary concerns, and — let us not forget — the entertainment industry.

All in all, this is an excellent study of the Jesus of Hollywood. I highly recommend it.


Posted in Film, gospels, Jesus Films, Reviews & Notices | 1 Comment »

CSBS 2006 – Special Lecture on the Gospel of Judas by Dr. Bart Ehrman

8th June 2006

CSBSLogo.gifMonday evening (29 May 2006) there was a special joint lecture sponsored in part by the CSBS by Bart Ehrman entitled “The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas.�

Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one scholar who has been able to bridge the gap between the academy and the public. He is the only biblical scholar I know who has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in connection with his book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com) (click here to watch a video of his interview).

ehrman.jpgEhrman’s lecture focused on uncovering the significance of the “Gospel of Judas,” the recently uncovered second-century gnostic gospel that has been all the rage in recent months. In a nutshell, the significance of this gospel text, according to Ehrman, is not because it is somehow more authentic than the canonical gospels or because it somehow undermines the very foundations of Christianity. Rather, its real significance is because it is a serious document of real historical significance which gives us a glimpse into gnostic thinking in antiquity. According to Ehrman, the text’s closest ties are with various Sethian forms of Gnosticism, although it has clear alliances with other forms of early Christian thought (Valentinian, Thomasine, Marcionite). He even argued that there appears to be remnants of Jewish apocalyptic theology in the surviving text. He also noted how it has some unique characteristics compared to other gnostic texts, such as the sympathetic portrayal of Judas as the only disciple who really understood Jesus’ work and message (sounds like The Last Temptation of Christ). The lecture was well done, although considering his audience was mainly academics, he could have raised the level of the lecture a bit.

After the lecture I went to a local watering hole with Ehrman and a few others. It was great to meet Ehrman in person and have some more infomal time with him. Among other things, I was very pleased to learn that Ehrman is not a Carolina Hurricanes fan! (Of course, he’s not an Oilers fan either. In fact, he doesn’t get into hockey at all! What a loser :-) )

Here are some works on the Gospel of Judas, including some forthcoming ones by Ehrman and another by Tom Wright.

Here is a very select bibliography of some of Ehrman’s recent works:

Ehrman’s scholarship is typically of a high quality, though he does have an axe to grind with fundamentalist Christianity (growing up as one himself). He also tends to pander to the sensational, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as he is able to maintain his academic integrity in the process. All of this slants his scholarship somewhat, but his works are worth reading — albeit with a critical eye.


Posted in Academic Associations, CSBS, gnostic, gospel of judas, gospels | 2 Comments »