• 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


    Monday, January 17, 2011

    A.D. (Anno Domini) - Episode 2

    In terms of the events depicted episode 2 of A.D. is probably the most momentous. In Roman terms there is the death of Tiberius (at the hand of Caligula according to AD as with Tacitus), and Caligula's sucession. In Biblical terms we have the conversion of Saul, doubtless the most significant event in Christian terms since the resurrection.

    Before all that however we start with Peter and John and all the other apostles up in front of the Sanhedrin as a result of what they said after healing the man at the temple. Most of the Sanhedrin are livid and wanting to persecute but Gamaliel (who is usually the tolerant, if Christo-sceptical, member of the council) making his famous argument that they should be left alone. Gamaliel also adds (here and elsewhere) that he is impressed with their deeds such as helping the poor.

    Others however are less impressed. The Hellenistic Jews are shown complaining that they are being neglected by the disciples in favour of the Jerusalem Jews. This leads Stephen and Philip to go to Peter suggesting something be done. Peter names Stephen and Philip as two of the seven deacons and leaves Philip to choose the rest. He does rather more than that however, also talking about a mission to the Greeks. Peter is seemingly against this. Whilst he tries to laugh this off with a joke about having already spent too much time on boats, the film does a good job of highlighting both the rift between the Hellenistic Jews and those from Jerusalem and the shortfall in Peter's thinking.

    Stephen takes his commissioning as carte blanche to preach as he likes, and even Saul has to admit he is incredibly good at it. In fact he's so good that many are following him and he is beginning to be seen as a real threat to mainline Judaism. Saul, despite earlier having been Stephen's friend, reports him to the Sanhedrin. Stephen is pulled up in front of them, and much of his sermon from Acts 8 is reproduced here. It doesn't go down well and Stephen is imprisoned and later stoned (without giving a sermon). The filmmakers add some fake tension into this scene by showing Gamaliel rushing to the execution to try and spare Stephen's life - this is not an official execution, the mob has broken into Stephen prison and dragged him off - but to no avail.

    This incident and Saul's sudden turn to zealotry is a bit of a worry for the Sanhedrin. Concerned with stirring up trouble in Jerusalem they commission him to go to Damascus where it's thought his mission will cause less problems with the Romans. Saul is on his horse with only one other companion. There are some rather poor special effects here (copied in the Bible Collection film on this story) and we hear no voice. Paul is led to Damascus, is restored by a seemingly unafraid Ananias and tells his companion that his mission is over he has become a Nazarene.

    Meanwhile Caligula gets straight on with being insane, and also seems to be having some kind of homosexual relationship with Herod Agrippa, whilst the budding Roman - Jewish relationship has moved onto Rome.

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