• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Just Started Reading "Last Temptation"

    I've been meaning to read Nikos Kazantzakis' "Last Temptation" for a long time now. I found Martin Scorsese's film adaptation very challenging and somewhat pivotal in my understanding of film and faith, and so reading the source work has always been something I wanted to do. The release of Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on prompted me to up my efforts and someone bought me it for Christmas, and I finally found time to start it the other day.

    I was struck by reading the introduction that like Scorsese this is very much a genuine exploration of the Christian faith. So in the prologue Kazantzakis states
    This book is not a biography, it is the confession of every man who struggles...I am certain that every free man who reads this book so filled as it is with love, will more than ever before, better than ever before, love Christ.
    . That quote reminded me of a quote from "Scorsese on Scorsese" where he explains that the reason he made the film was "to get to know Jesus better".

    So much of the controversy around the book and the film seems to be people claiming that the works are trying to desecrate Christianity or some similar charge. The above quotes should surely lay such charges to waste. These works are not exploiting Jesus for laughs (as in say South Park - although there are arguments for the redemptive value even of that), or trying to discredit him (like The Da Vinci Code). They may not share my conclusion about Jesus, and may, for many, have strayed to far from orthodox Christianity, but at the same time they have a certain validity because they are part of their creators' journeys of faith.

    I've said before that Christians often think they are the only ones who are interested in Jesus. This is simply not the case - we don't have a monopoly on taking Jesus seriously. And sometimes the insights that others bring can shed light in new areas that those of us in the church can fail to notice. That doesn't mean swallowing the faults in the works as well as the good, but simply that such pieces give us the opportunity to learn something.

    As for the orthodoxy of the works, thus far I can only speak of the film. However, it strikes me that the films are far more orthodox theologically than many seminaries. Yes, Jesus is considered sinful before his ministry (a view held by many for what it's worth), but he is also unquestionably the Son of God. The temptation he faces is not so much to engage in an illicit affair, but to settle for a normal life with a wife and children. It affirms that Jesus died for humanity's sins, and implies that he was resurrected. So the theology of this film is far less scandalous than some other Jesus films, such as Jesus of Montreal.

    Part of the reason I've posted these comments here is because I want to discuss the film at sometime in the near future and I don't want to get bogged down in the controversy. In the meantime I look forward to comparing the book to the film, and loving Christ "more than ever before".




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