• 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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    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Acts of the Apostles (1957 - Living Bible ) Episodes 7 and 8

    It's time for some more coverage of the Acts of the Apostles episodes of The Living Bible (1957). This will be the penultimate post about this ten part series, and I'll hopefully post the last one later this week before I go to see Roberto Rossellini's Atti Degli Apostoli on Sunday. Here is the scene guide for these episodes:
    Episode 7 - Salvation and Christian Fellowship
    Recap of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-36, 41)
    Judaisers arrive in Antioch (Acts 15:1-2)
    Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:3-12)
    Recap of Trip to Lystra (Acts 14:8-20)
    James’s Speech (Acts 15:13-21)

    Episode 8 - What Must I do to be Saved?
    Paul and Timothy - (Acts 16:1-5, 2 Tim 1:5-6)
    Troas and the Macedonian Man - (Acts 16:6-10)
    Philippi and Lydia - (Acts 16:11-15; 26:12-18)
    Paul and the Slave Girl - (Acts 16:16-19)
    Paul and Silas in Prison - (Acts 16:20-34, Ps. 27:1-2)
    Having gone off on a tangent in episode 6 we rejoin the main story in the run up to the Council of Jerusalem. As I noted in my post on portrayals of this council in film "the film appears to support aligning Gal 2:11-16 with events leading up to the council (Acts 15:1-2) rather than following it as the Galatian letter suggests". Initially, the council is a public affair, but halfway through proceedings move to a more private room enabling the script to also incorporate Gal 2:2.

    In fact the whole of episode 6 takes a very positive approach to the whole council. The final decision is described as that of the majority rather than that of James as Acts describes. The letter that is sent out is then described as a "happy solution" and "wonderfully friendly and frank". Whilst this certainly captures the way the letter is written in Acts it skims over other issues that suggest the letter didn't solve all that Luke's account would have us believe.

    Another interesting distinction is the way in which the commentary describes the Judaisers as rejecting salvation by faith. Being made in 1958 this series obviously pre-dates the new perspective on Paul, and whilst some people would still reject the work of Sanders et al. even they would have to concede that this idea is inferred rather than an inherent part of the text.

    The other significant thing about the dating of this series relates to the summary at the end of this episode which notes that "religious and racial barriers were dealt a crushing blow... some day perhaps all barriers between men would topple under the irresistible power of the gospel and God's love". Obviously this pre-dates and, therefore, anticipates the civil rights movement of the following decade.

    The eighth episode solely concerns Acts 16, beginning with Timothy joining Paul and Silas. It's noticeable that the scripts circumvents the dispute and separation of Paul from his previous travelling companion Barnabas that is found at the end of chapter 15. We are simply not told why Paul is now travelling with Silas rather than Barnabas. Timothy is introduced, and the narrator also mentions that it is often understood that Luke joined Paul at this point also - inferred from the narrator's switch from the third person to the first in the text. It's noticeable, however, that Luke is not shown on screen in this episode.

    Following on from the recruitment of Timothy we witness Paul's vision of the Macedonian man. This is shot by focussing on Paul and his reaction rather than on the vision itself. Whilst this was no doubt a budgetary consideration it does capture the most important point about this vision, namely that it's significance lay in Paul's reaction to it. That said, we do hear the voice of the Macedonian man who, rather unimaginatively, repeats the words from Acts 16:9, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" three times. Lest the audience forgets what the man's message was, Paul repeats it for us again in explainning his vision to Silas.

    The trope then move on to Philippi where they encounter Lydia and her friends, free the fortune telling girl, get thrown in prison, get freed by an earthquake and convert the jailer. But the story stops before it gets onto Paul citing his Roman citizenship to obtain a personal audience with the city's magistrates. These ares fairly dramatic episodes, but the producers wisely avoid letting the demonised girl ham it up. There is also a heavy emphasis on the strong performance of the jailer. His transformation from jaded captor to new convert is one of the series' finest pieces of acting, marred only by knowing the ending in advance and the script's lack of character development.

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