• 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 01, 2023

    The Chosen (2019) s1e06

    My New Year's resolution to do more blogging has taken a big hit of the last couple of weeks, so it's about time I did another episode of The Chosen (see all posts), so let’s crack on. As ever these are scribbled notes rather than a more carefully considered and thoroughly checked piece.

    This week’s episode starts with a man with “leprosy” trying to pass himself off as someone about to become an Essene in order to sell his remaining, valuable assets. To its credit, later on this episode will touch on some of the different Jewish groups in first-century Judea quite a bit, both the Sadducees and varieties of Pharisaism will get a mention later on. Here, however it quickly becomes apparent he is seeking to raise a bit of money to provide what he can for himself (and perhaps his family) as his condition worsens.

    The main part of the episode starts with Matthew and his centurion colleague Gaius nervous about the tax money that has been raised from the miraculous catch of fish in episode 4. A friend with a child who has autism had mentioned to me that Matthew is portrayed here as autistic, and certainly this is the first episode where such traits became much more apparent to me. I think it’s potentially a great angle for the series to incorporate, though much of that will depend on how the character is handled in the remainder of the series.

    The first scene of episode features Jesus and his disciples packing up camp. Jesus tells Simon that he will be going ahead and also advises Simon to go directly to Nazareth ahead of the others in order to look after his family. When we next meet Jesus he and his disciples are on the road where they meet an Ethiopian woman, Tamar (pictured above), who grew up in Egypt. Jesus breaks into what (I presume) is Arabic and soon he and Tamar  are chatting along in the language of their childhoods, leaving everyone else wondering what’s happening.

    This is an interesting development because while there are various reasons to suppose Jesus could have spoken bits and pieces of more than one language, it strikes me that Arabic is perhaps unlikely to have been one of them. If he grew up in Egypt then it’s certainly possible that he picked up enough “Egyptian”, although whether he was in Egypt long enough to pick up other than that of his parents is open to question. Nevertheless, as well as speaking Aramaic he also spoke some Hebrew and possibly some Latin or Greek. So it’s interesting because while this seems not unlikely, it's rarely something that features in the films. I’d have to go back and check The Passion of the Christ to see whether he ever speaks Latin in that film; and it’s one of the few multilingual Jesus films. 

    It also becomes apparent that Herod’s slaughter of the innocents was known more widely as one of the disciples refers to it your friend on learning of Jesus’ childhood abroad. Jesus and Tamar's conversation is broken off, however, by the arrival of the man we met in their opening scene. Clearly some time has passed and in the intervening period his symptoms have got worse. The disciples are horrified. Jesus of course steps forward and heals him. As far as I can recall, this is the series’ first healing. The scene ends with Jesus asking one of his disciples for their spare tunics (evoking John the Baptists’ teaching in Luke 3:11), giving it to the man, then using the phrase “Not too shabby”. Generally, I like The Chosen’s use of modern language, but sometimes it lurches far and the anachronisms leave the series seeming like it’s trying too hard.

    Jesus and the disciples arrive in Capernaum. Simon is reunited with his wife and tends to his poorly mother-in-law. Jesus and the sons of thunder say hello to Zebedee and his wife, who here is called Salome. This is a harmonisation of Matt 27:56 and Mark 15:40 Their friendly chat quickly develops into something more. On the one hand, Jesus begins to work out some of the best stories and sayings that he is to become so well known for as his teacher. For example, he delivers the thrust of the "Parable of the 10 Virgins", only without the kind of vivid imagery we find in the final, codified version. I wasn't sure if this was the deliberate attempt to exclude these ten women – which could be for a variety of reasons, good and bad – or if the idea here was that thought of Jesus starting to work out his teaching and the kind of key messages that will be honed and brought to life through repetition and reworking as he and the disciples go out on the road.

    The other thing that starts to happen is that gradually a crowd starts to gather. It's just one or two people, at first, but soon the crowd has spread right across the street. This results in several different things happening. Firstly, it attracts the attention of the Pharisees. Earlier in the episode we have witnessed the conflict between Nicodemus and his former disciple Shmuel. John the Baptist has been seized, an act seemingly authorised by a Pharisee, and so an indignant Nicodemus, suspecting the reputed authorisation to be untrue, inquires as to who it was, only for Shmuel to admit it. Shmuel is worried about Jesus; Nicodemus is intrigued (famously so). On hearing this, an indignant Shmuel – who bears all the traits of having been radicalised, marches off to do something about it.

    Secondly it attracts Gaius and Matthew. As invented characters go, so far, Gaius is far more reasonable than Shmuel, but nevertheless, he goes along to ensure the peace is being kept. Matthew on the other hand is fascinated, not least because Gaius and Matthew’s boss Quintus, has tried to brush off the miraculous catch of fish as a con job. Matthew though, is convinced something more is going on and eventually he ends up on the roof with some of the children from episode 3 watching events unfurl.

    As things transpire it turns out to be an ideal spot, because of the third thing that happens as a result of this growing crowd. Tamar returns, with a bunch of her friends, including a man who was paralysed as a child. Of course, those familiar with the Gospels can immediately see where this is going. Soon there are foiled attempts by the man’s friends to get closer and then the idea emerges of going in via the roof. Conveniently, the roof already has a large hole in it. Some destruction is required, but nothing as troublesome as I usually imagine. And, sure enough, by the time he’s been fully lowered down, Shmuel has worked his way to the front in time to perform the role of the disdainful Pharisee. There’s an interesting moment when, just before the man stands up he wiggles his toes. It’s a brilliantly vivid visual flourish. Is it also meant to express a momentary (understandable) doubt on behalf of the man who is being healed?

    The shock of the event sees Shmuel summoning Gaius, Gaius bashing on the door, and Jesus escaping via a rear exit. Before he completely disappears though, he stops to catch Matthew’s eye.
    Whilst there are parts of this episode I was less keen on – the desire to show off the diligence of their research is starting to wear a little thin, as is the slightly heavy-footed way they shoehorn in explanations of the wider contest – I also found parts somewhat moving. I do find the human moments of this, particularly those triggered by miracles from above, emotional. I think it’s partly down to the pacing which is really good in this episode.

    This is a busy episode: two healings, a bit of backstory/dramatic licence, a chunk of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain, and a few new followers for good measure. At the start of the episode there’s every reason to think Jesus is an unknown: By the end he has made a major impact, and – in Capernaum at least – events have accelerated, rapidly. Life will never quite be the same again.



    Post a Comment

    << Home