• 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 21, 2007

    Living Bible - Episodes 7 & 8 (UK version)

    (This post is part of a continuing series on the UK release of The Living Bible - See all posts and citation method)
    Episode 7 - Woman at the Well
    John hands on to Jesus - (John 3:22-31)
    Pharisees hear about Jesus - (John 4:1-3)
    [extra-biblical episode]
    Woman at the Well - (John 4:4-42)

    Episode 8 - Jesus Before the High Priest
    Jesus is taken away - (John 18:12-15a)
    Trial before Annas - (John 18:19-24)
    Peter's first denial - (John 18:15-17)
    Testimonies against Jesus - (Mark 14:55-56)
    Peter's second denial - (John 18:18, 25)
    Trial before Caiaphas - (Mark 14:57-65)
    Peter's third denial - (John 18:26-27)
    Another Trial before Caiaphas - (Luke 22:66-23:1)
    Quote from Isaiah - (Is 53:3-5)
    Aside from some of the early silent films, the incident with the woman at the well is fairly rare for Jesus films. Obviously Saville's The Gospel of John had to include the incident, but otherwise the only major films to cover this incident are Rossellini's Il Messia and this series' contemporary . As with The Gospel of John the whole episode is included, although not quite word for word, hence not only is this incident included, but it's also given prominence.

    This version of that story though is very keen to stress the woman's sin in her five marriages. Whilst that corresponds to the 20h century understanding of the situation, the woman should almost certainly be seen as a victim. Marriage was rarely by choice for women, and a displeased husband could get a divorce with relative ease. The repeated divorce cycle suggests perhaps that she was unable to have children. The fact that she was drawing her water in the noonday sun, rather than in the cool of the morning suggests she had also been rejected by society.

    Episode 8 struggles to bring together the four gospel accounts of the trial before Caiaphas into a harmonious whole. The task is made harder by the degree of confusion in John as to who is High Priest. The title is given to both Annas and Caiaphas (I believe that the title was held for life, even after the person was no longer in office). Details are given of the hearing before Annas, but not before Caiaphas. The four accounts can be seen in parallel at Five Gospel Parallels.

    But the film further complicates the hearing in front of Caiaphas, by trying to mesh Luke's marginally more divergent account with those of Matthew and Mark. Whilst in Mark and Matthew it appears to occur at night, Luke stresses that it happens by day, and the film picks up on how a night trial would have been unlawful. Luke also includes a little less detail overall, but adds Jesus saying "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer".

    So the film decides to handle these as a main trial by night, and an official hearing in the morning to ratify the night council's decision. Whilst there are discrepancies between Luke and Matt/Mark, this seems a fairly poor way to solve them as both accounts contain enough common ground for it to be clear that these trials were one and the same.

    The episode ends on the famous verses from Isaiah 53:3-5. I've previously noted that whilst the passage is quoted 7 times in the New Testament, the parts that support substitutionary atonement are curiously absent.

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