• 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


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    Friday, January 19, 2007

    Living Bible - Episodes 1 & 2 (UK version)

    Back in October, I mentioned the release of The Living Bible on DVD in the UK. I mentioned this series when I first started this blog. What is interesting that the US version and the UK version of these films are definitely different. The US version I have is 12 half hour episodes, whereas the UK version is twelve 15 minute episodes. Not only does this mean that each episodes handles it's bookends differently, but also some of that held between them is different. I'll post more on that as I go through the series, but for now I'm going to look at episodes 1 and 2 of the UK version. (This corresponds roughly to episode 1 of the US version).
    Episode 1
    [extra-biblical episodes - Intro]
    Prophecy about Jesus - (Is 9:6)
    Annunciation - (Luke 1-26-38)
    Elizabeth and Mary - (Luke 1:24,39-44)
    Magnificat - (Luke 1:46-49)
    Joseph's Dream - (Matt 1:18-24)
    Census - (Luke 2:1-5)
    Birth of Jesus - (Luke 2:6-7)
    Shepherds and the Angels - (Luke 2:8-16)
    Prophecy about Jesus - (Is 9:6)

    Episode 2
    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 2:16-18)
    Return to Nazareth - (Matt 2:19-23)
    [extra-biblical episodes - Life in Nazareth]
    The Boy Jesus - (Luke 2:41-52)
    Firstly, a comparison with what I wrote about the US version of these episodes is interesting. Episode 1 of the UK version ends by repeating the initial prophecy of Isaiah from Is 9:6. Episode 2 then starts with a new intro. But there are other changes as well. There is (from memory / record) a shorter version of the scene with Zechariah and Elizabeth, although I'd have to double check to be sure. Similarly it doesn't appear that the US version includes the scenes from Nazareth of Jesus growing up, (but again it might just be that I didn't note them when I watched the US version). Later on in the series, though, I believe the differences are more significant.

    Having watched a number of nativity films / scenes since I first commented on this series, I can't help but be impressed by it's economy and ability to contain nearly all of the biblical material. The conception and birth of John are absent, but otherwise pretty much all of the nativity data from Matthew and Luke is present. The scenes lack the dramatic impact of some of the other films, and the characterisations are much shallower, but nevertheless I appreciate the approach for what it is.

    It really stood out for me watching this film this time how awkwardly Matthew explains Jesus's return from Egypt (Matt 2:19-23). Matthew does occasionally explain something in a way that is fairly confusing, usually when he's trying to be too clever and communicate too many ideas at once (c.f. Matt 27:51-53). Here is both trying to explain Joseph's legitimate fear, but continue to portray him as a man lead by God, and gaining inspiration (like his biblical namesake) from his dreams. So Joseph gets two dreams in 5 verses - one telling him to return to Israel, and then another telling him to go to Galilee. But that second movement is also linked to Joseph's fear of Herod Archelaus. Perhaps I'm making something out of nothing, but I've a host of questions about these few verses.

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    • At 7:08 pm, January 20, 2007, Blogger WitlessD said…

      Hi Matt. but from what you've written I think I can see what's involved in these two versions.

      The original 1952 The Living Christ was a series of 26 episodes, all around 15 to 20 minutes long - almost 7 hours in all, though as these were released as separate 16mm films, a series might not always have the full 26 episodes, and the exact order is quesionable:

      1. Birth of John the Baptist
      2. Birth of the Savior
      3. Childhood of Jesus
      4. Ministry of John the Baptist
      5. First Disciples
      6. Woman at the Well
      7. Jesus at Nazareth and Capernaum
      8. Jesus and the Fisherman
      9. Thy Sins are Forgiven
      10. Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath
      11. Transfiguration
      12. Jesus Teaches Forgiveness
      13. Before Abraham was, I Am
      14. Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind
      15. Jesus and the Lepers
      16. I Am the Resurrection
      17. Last Journey to Jerusalem
      18. Thirty Pieces of Silver
      19. The Upper Room
      20. Betrayal in Gethsemane
      21. Jesus Before the High Priest
      22. Trial Before Pilate
      23. The Crucifixion
      24. Nicodemus
      25. The Lord is Risen!
      26. The Lord's Ascension

      The US DVD version that you have (I have it too) is not the original version but a 1981 re-edit (as can be seen from the copyright date at the start of each episode) retitled Jesus the Christ, which reshapes the material into 12 episodes and loses about 55 minutes. Compare the original title cards here: http://www.buyoutfootage.com/pages/titles/pd_rel_010.html with the 1981 US version.

      From your description the two UK DVD episodes you have watched correspond exactly to episodes 2 & 3 of the original 1952 version, and I'd be interested to see what other episodes make up the twelve.



    • At 9:42 am, December 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Dear Witless,

      On the page www.eztakes.com you can find version of Living Bible Jesus on DVD which
      has 13 episodes. It has episodes 2, 3, 5, 6, 7,
      15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25 and 26. Is there
      some site that can offer me images, screenplay
      or some information about all 26 episodes ?


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