• 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, May 23, 2007

    Acts of the Apostles (1957 - Living Bible ) Episodes 5 and 6

    Way back in November, I started reviewing the Acts of the Apostles episodes of The Living Bible (1957). It's a ten part series, but I'd only got as far as episode four. Now I'm gearing up to see Roberto Rossellini's Atti Degli Apostoli, so I'm trying to watch / re-watch some of Rossellini's films and finishing looking at this series, so here are some comments on episodes 5 and 6.
    Episode 5 – God’s Care of His Own
    The Church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-21)
    Apostles send Barnabas to Anitoch (Acts 11:22-24)
    Barnabas brings Paul from Tarsus (Acts 11:25-26)
    Agabus prophecies famine (Acts 11:27-28)
    Collection for Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30)
    Death of James (Acts 12:1-2)
    Peter’s Escape from Prison (Acts 12:3-17)
    Herod punishes the guards (Acts 12:18-19)
    Herod dies (Acts 12:19-23)
    (Romans 8:35, 37-39)

    Episode 6 - Every Christian a Missionary
    Pentecost (Acts 2:22-36, 41)
    Crippled Beggar Healed (Acts 3:1-26)
    Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-22)
    Trial of Stephen (Acts 7:1-57)
    Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40)
    Ananias and Saul (Acts 9:10-16)
    Paul preaches in Damascus (Acts 9:20-22)
    Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48)
    Barnabas collects Paul from Tarsus (Acts 11:25-26)
    Church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-30)
    Paul and Barnabas sent out (Acts 13:1-3)
    Great Commission (Acts 1:8)
    These two episodes contrast quite strongly. The first continues the general trajectory of the first four episodes - dramatising the book of Acts in roughly the order it appears. Episode 6, however, is something of an excursus: it focuses on the issue of mission as presented in the book of Acts as a means towards convincing it's audience that they too should be missionary minded. Hence this episode is a whistle stop tour of the various episodes in which the apostles evangelise boldly. It's actually surprising how much of the book of Acts is covered in this one 15 minute episode.

    Episode 6 ends with the words of Jesus accompanied by a close up of his face. Interestingly, the actor playing Jesus is Nelson Leigh, who played Jesus in the earlier Life of Jesus episodes of The Living Bible. Leigh must have been available as well. He stars in this series as St. Paul, which is strangely distracting. No wonder Paul says that our bodies will be transformed to "be like his glorious body" (Phil 3:21). Perhaps the 5-6 year gap between the "Acts" and "Jesus" series finally rendered him too old to play Jesus: he would have been 52 at the time. That said HB Warner was the exact same age (52) when he played Jesus in The King of Kings.

    Episode 5 ends with Paul and Barnabas going off to Jerusalem to deliver the gift from the church in Antioch, but despite the story relocating to Jerusalem, we never actually see Paul and Barnabas arrive. This lack of clarity reflects that of the biblical text whereby Paul and Barnabas are sent to deliver the gift to Jerusalem at the end of Acts 11, but are not heard of until the start of Acts 13 when they re-appear in Antioch. There are two major options. Either Saul and Barnabas's trip was a relatively short and low key affair, or that statement gives a brief advance headline which explains that which follows in more detail over the next few chapters.

    It's a minor point, but Acts describes Herod's death as being in a public context, whereas the film shows this occurring in a private context. The death of Herod, which is described in fairly grisly terms, describes the event as being instantaneous, whereas the film merely narrates that Herod dies.

    There are some additional points about these episodes in my post on Galatians vs Acts in Film.

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