Film and Faith

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Film, at its best, can convey a hint of the overwhelming impact of religious faith on those who believe.  For me, the best example of this is Jesus of Nazareth (1977), as amply demonstrated I think in the video clip above.  When we read about Jesus in the Gospels it requires a leap of imagination to conjure up the scenes depicted.  Some people are better at doing this than others.  A good film can provide us with the emotional impact of the Gospels without the necessity of our providing the imagination to bring the event alive for us.  The Church has long understood this.  Hymn singing can also accomplish this, as do Passion Plays, as does the Rosary.   God appeals to our souls, our hearts and our minds, and we make a mistake if we ever forget this.

The History Channel in March will have a miniseries that dramatizes portions of the Bible.  Below is a trailer.

I have no idea from the trailer whether this will be good, bad or indifferent, but I do know that with so many people being raised today without even the rudiments of religion, to some of the viewers it will all come as a revelation.  There is a hunger out there for God.  That is one reason for the overwhelming reaction to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.  Good quality videos, note the emphasis on good quality, can be a useful tool for evangelization.  Too much that is produced of a religious nature is well meaning and quite bad as a work of art.  God asks us to be innocent as doves and wily as serpents.  Judging from much that I have sat through of religious themed films, we often have the innocence of doves down pat but the wiliness of serpents, as to the quality of what is produced, is often sadly lacking.  We can do much better.

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  1. I watched “Jesus of Nazareth” shortly after I first came to belief. You hit the nail on the head. Nothing can be compared to this movie, although “The Passion of the Christ” certainly did, some 30 years later. Beautifully filmed, excellent acting, orthodox Christianity.

    I’m a fan of the older biblical movies but “Jesus of Nazareth” is certainly unlike all of them. What’s astonishing to me is that I can still watch it today and there’s barely a hint of ‘datedness’ to it like many movies from decades ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this since my first time ~ always during Lent every year.

    Thanks for the clip!

  2. It’s ordained. You will reflect His light in dark places. Believe.
    God is with us.
    Your movie is in production.
    Make it count.
    Souls are depending on your faith, your virtues and your love.

  3. The History channel has been known to take liberty with religious truth on occasion. We shall see. I support the Douay-Rheims Bible.

  4. The Douay-Rheims is a translation of a translation. And that translation is the Latin Vulgate which has itself been revised and updated under Pope JP II as the Nova Vulgata:

    Late last year I ordered my hardcopy from Paxbooks (it was my Christmas gift to me – selfish, I suppose). But of course the most accurate is the original Koine Greek New Testament and the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament. I can’t do the right to left script of Semitic languages, and can manage Greek only fitfully with lots of internet help and Strong’s Concordance. Personally, for English Editions, I prefer in the following order:

    Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
    New American Bible Revised Edition
    English Standard Version with Apocrypha
    King James Version with Apocrypha

    But I do have a hardcopy of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate / Clementine Douay-Rheims side by side, and I do use Father George Haydock’s Douay-Rheims Catholic Study Bible of the 19th century in my apologetics classes.

    I guess we all have preferences. For prayer devotional I like the Nova Vulgata and for study the RSV CE, and I don’t so much like the Douay-Rheims because of its inaccuracies.

  5. For New Testament study, I like the Catholic Comparative New Testament, which provides, in a side-by-side format, the text of the Douay-Rheims, RSV-CE, New American Bible, NRSV Catholic Bible, Jerusalem Bible, Good News Translation, New Jerusalem Bible, and Christian Community Bible.

  6. The Douay is solid, but I’ll quibble with Paul’s “translation of a translation”: in the most commonly available format, it’s a translation of a translation of a translation.

    The brilliant Bishop Richard Challoner revised the Douay in the 1700s, and he was not afraid to borrow from the King James Version.

    I think every Catholic family with English as a native tongue ought to have a Douay to hand as a reminder of what English-speaking Catholics once went through.

  7. Thanks for providing the link to the Catholic Comparative New Testament, Paul. I should have done so in my comment. I think it should become clear to anyone who uses it that the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition ought to be the preferred modern translation for Catholics.

  8. @Jay: That’s a matter of taste, don’t you think? Personally, I don’t care for the RSV. It’s certainly a far cry better than the New American for instance, but I find it bland. Comparing various passages, the KJV’s beautiful language far surpasses the RSV, let alone that in some random passages I’ve checked, the meaning seems to be quite different. Off the top of my head, here’s a good example:

    KJV: (Genesis 11:1) “And the whole earth was of one language, and
    of ONE SPEECH.”

    RSV: (Genesis 11:1) “… one language and few words.”

    That seems striking, doesn’t it? There’s more examples I could give but this is an example.

  9. Elizabeth,

    Please go here for Genesis 11:1:

    Verse 1 actually says: “and the same words same language earth now the whole used.”

    Sounds weird, right? We moderns certainly don’t speak that way. Even Latin that came 2000 years afterwards has odd word order and no articles. Traslating the Vulgate like this would sound equally weird. However, to get precise word for word meaning regardless of how jarring it is, go to an interlinear OT / NT:

    For approximate word-for-word meaning, the RSV CE is great and so is the ESV with Apocrypha. So are the Protestant NASB and NKJV, but they lack the Deuterocanonicals. For sense of meaning, go to the NIV (which again lacks the Deuterocanonicals) or NAB RE. Every single translation has problems. None are perfect. Only the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek are “inspired.” But the Church does authorize translations because God gave the Church such authority, a lesson Wycliffe failed to understand, much to his doom. 🙁 That said, the Protestants have done wonderful translations as well.

  10. My thoughts on Jesus of Nazareth mirror yours. Did you ever get a chance to read my book Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners which looks at the treament of Christians in about 200 films from 1905 to 2008? It sold out its hardback at $49.95 and is now in paperback at $24.95. I know you are a film aficianado. If you haven’t seen it, I’d be happy to send you a payback for your many intersting posts. Just let me know where to send it.

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