• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Visual Bible's Matthew:Ch.18-19

    (From a series of posts working through the Visual Bible's Matthew).
    When trying to think how to film Chapter 18 of Matthew's Gospel there's are a couple of problems. Firstly, many commentators consider the passage to be a composite of several shorter sayings, so how do you make them interact? Secondly it involves Jesus using some of his most violent imagery, in the presence of children. In spite of these difficulties it's presented fairly well. Jesus being grabbed by the children whilst saying "gouge it out" (or something) is a little jarring, but it does underline the hyperbolic nature of these sayings. This is followed by a cut to Jesus walking near some sheep as he delivers the parable of the lost sheep. My 2 year old spotted that one. Lastly there's another cut, this time to Jesus and the disciples by the side of a lake/pond, as Jesus discusses how to resolve disputes. When he comes to "treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector" (18:17) he pauses before speaking the last 3 words, turning around to look at Matthew and give him a friendly touch. This portrayal clearly favours the interpretation that puts these words in the contexts of Jesus' actions, as opposed to the prevailing view of his culture.

    These two chapters are littered with Jesus and his disciples having fun. In addition to wrestling with children earlier on, we see the disciples wrestling by the aforementioned pond, and then a wordless scene where Jesus bathes under a waterfall. Shortly he'll be grabbing a ride by jumping on the back of a cart. Before that though we come to the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. This is perhaps my favourite parable, and here Jesus and Simon Peter act it out. Jesus is much hammier than Marchiano. It does enliven the scene however and reminded me of Jesus' reputation for being a good story teller.

    The chapters end with the rich young man (pictured). In a way it's a fairly unremarkable portrayal, but it does bring out the disciples incredulity at what Jesus says. Rather than instantly agreeing there seems to be some confusion, and in fact now I notice that Matthew records that they were "astonished" by Jesus' statement. I've mulled this passage over many times, and yet I've never noticed what the disciples were probably meaning was "(if even the rich will find it hard), who then can be saved?". If the prevailing view of the time was that riches were a sign of God's blessing then this would be just what they might be thinking. I'm amazed that I've never seen this aspect before, but then I guess one of the main things I love about Bible films is the way they enable you to see new things in familiar texts. Here's its done very subtly which makes it all the more impressive.

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