• 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


    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    Living Bible Collection - Jesus the Christ - Episode 1

    I've been meaning to start the Jesus series of the Living Bible Collection, also known as Jesus the Christ ever since I got the whole collection at Christmas. Sadly, I've been put off by having to wade through the nativity scenes which generally, in films such as this, I find rather dull. However, the other day I realised that whereas the Living Christ Series takes about 75 minutes to cover the events of Jesus's childhood, and Jesus of Nazareth takes the first hour and a half, this series crams it all into the first half hour episode. That I could handle and so finally managed to crack into this series, which I guess will make up a good percentage of the posts around here for a while. Anyway - below is the scene guide, with citations as normal.
    [extra-biblical episodes]
    Prophecy about Jesus - (Is 9:6)
    Annunciation - (Luke 1-26-38)
    Elizabeth and Zechariah - (Luke 1:11-25)
    Mary visits Elizabeth - (Luke 1:39-44)
    Magnificat - (Luke 1:46-49)
    Joseph's Dream - (Matt 1:18-24)
    Birth of Jesus - (Luke 2:1-7)
    Shepherds and the Angels - (Luke 2:8-16)
    Prophecy about Jesus - (Is 9:6)
    Circumcision of Jesus - (Luke 2:21-24)
    Simeon and Anna - (Luke 2:25-40)
    Wise Men and Herod - (Matt 2:1-8)
    Wise Men and Jesus - (Matt 2:9-12)
    Escape to Egypt - (Matt 2:13-15)
    Slaughter of the Infants - (Matt 2:16)
    Return to Nazareth - (Matt 2:19-23)
    The Boy Jesus - (Luke 2:41-52)
    A Few Notes
    As with the Old Testament stories filmed in this series, the adaptations are very unimaginative, which is partly why the film is able to cover so much ground in such a short space of time. There's no attempt to get behind the characters that come onto the screen. Mary finds out she is with child and simply says "behold the hand-maiden of the Lord", and that's that.

    The film shows 5 supernatural dreams or appearances in these sequences - the only two which the gospels mention which are not shown is that to Zechariah, and that to the wise men. In other words all of the appearances / dreams that Jesus's parents receive are shown as well as the heavenly host that greet the shepherds. These supernatural scenes are all shown in a similar manner, with the angels shown off screen, and the camera focussing solely on the recipient of the vision - although several times they were given extra lighting. Whilst this is no doubt partly due to budgetary constraints, and to avoid difficult decisions over what an angel would look like anyway, later, higher-budget films also adopted this approach, which emphasises the response of the recipient. This is actually where scripture's concern is. The approach also leaves open the possibility that such revelations were all in the head of the person in question. These scenes also made me realise the link between the Old Testament Joseph - who received and interpreted many dreams - more so than anyone else, and the Joseph of the New Testament, who has 3 prophetic dreams in Matthew's gospel alone.

    Some of these scenes in this film are really terrible. The opening scene where the narrator is letting us know just how bad the Romans were is accompanied by a shot of two soldiers pushing an old man off his stool for no apparent reason, causing others to shake their fists. Hilariously terrible.

    In addition to the Living Christ's treatment of the Wise Men scene, which I prematurely dubbed the only film to show the Magi arriving at a house rather than the stable, this film, made at a similar time, also shows this.

    Watching the scene where Jesus's parents lose him at the temple when he is twelve provided a couple of new insights. No doubt this is due to my impending fatherhood, but I was struck by what a human touch this is, how often parents lose their children, and how terrifying this must have been - particularly as it lasted over 3 whole days. Not surprising that it is the only event from Jesus's childhood to make it into the bible.

    Secondly I was struck by how this scene pre-figures Jesus' death and resurrection. Then too Jesus's mother will think he is lost for three days before finding him alive and well and about his father's business.

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    • At 1:38 pm, July 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Jesus the Christ Series features 12 films from the 24 or 26 Living Bible series films staring great character actor Nelson Leigh. In the Jesus the Christ series, all of the actors original voices are dubbed over with newer voices. If you look at the opening title screen of each episode it said that the films were made in 1982, when actually they were made about 1952.

    • At 5:03 pm, July 07, 2006, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks Anonymous


    • At 5:05 pm, July 07, 2006, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Hi Man in Motion.

      Thanks for the extra info on these films. May I ask where you got it from? I've found precious little literature on the films, but would love to find out more. I had noted the 1982 date, but thought it was most likely relating to it being aired on Televison or something.

      I'll be covering the other episodes in the series over the next few months.

      Thanks again for the info.


    • At 10:58 am, December 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I downloaded I beheld his glory from
      Veoh and I noticed that this film was
      made in 1952 but in many web-sites
      (including IMDB) is signed as 1953.


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