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Darryl A. Armstrong

The Last Temptation of Christ

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: The demons also refer to him as the Son of God a few times in Mark

FWIW, the scholarly consensus on this seems to be that the term son of God in Jewish circles was always a term applied to a human or group of humans. God's anointed human(s) definitely, but nevertheless human.

:: I'm claiming that in leaving key sections and ideas from the source material out of the film,

:: it alters the range of meaning for the work.

: FWIW, I agree.

But I think any book can, and usually does, inform the film. Take Bresson's Balthazar for instance. It's only by our knowledge of the gospels (on which the film is loosely based) that it becomes about a Christ-figure.

I think if you had left the "range of" bit out I might have agreed, but you sentence seems to deny any possibility of the book informing the film, and I think this is a mistake, particularly as I think Scorsese intended to remain faithful to the book and perhaps didn't realise how his cropping of it might, (and I stress might as I still think this comes through from the film), not be present in the film.

MattPage wrote:

: And ultimately I do think he finds the courage he needs at all the right stages.

I regret to say I don't quite see this. His ultimate act of "courage" -- begging God to let him go back on the cross -- is something he does out of despair, when he's already on his deathbed and convinced that his life has been a waste; it is also done in response to a final burst of hectoring from Judas and the realization that the little girl has been lying to him all this time. It still feels like he's REACTING to a bunch of bad emotions at that point in the story, rather than summoning the will to do what's right no matter what the cost, etc.

I'm surprised by this, given how familiar I am with your thoughts on this film. Do you not consider the final sequence to be only a temptation then (as in do you think that Jesus actually comes off the cross and then goes back in time?) because otherwise I can't see the problem here. Jesus has already acted with courage in getting himself arrested, but is tempted to come off, but after seeing that through to it's logical conclusion realises he wants to remain where he is.

Matt

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: The demons also refer to him as the Son of God a few times in Mark

FWIW, the scholarly consensus on this seems to be that the term son of God in Jewish circles was always a term applied to a human or group of humans. God's anointed human(s) definitely, but nevertheless human.

True, the original force of "son of God," even in reference to Jesus during his lifetime, was probably more or less "son of David" or "Messiah." Theologically, that in itself is interesting from a Christian perspective, because it suggests that God's Triune nature, his eternal Fatherhood and Sonship, can be seen in his relationship with his chosen ones on earth, anticipating his plan for the eternal Son. In any case, in view of the total message of Mark's Gospel, I think it's reasonable to suppose that Mark's first readers would have understood "Son of God" in a more elevated sense.

But I think any book can, and usually does, inform the film. Take Bresson's Balthazar for instance. It's only by our knowledge of the gospels (on which the film is loosely based) that it becomes about a Christ-figure.

To the extent that Balthazar is based on the Gospels, it's not just an adaptation but a kind of commentary deliberately interacting with the Gospels, assumed as a known cultural landmark. An even more obvious example would be Life of Brian. Obviously all art assumes some kind of background cultural knowledge about something or other. But not all adaptations are intended as commentaries on their source material. I don't see any reason to think that Scorsese specifically means viewers to watch his Last Temptation in light of Kazantzakis's book. Certainly he expects many viewers to compare/contrast what he's done with what Kazantzakis did. But this is not essential to watching or critiquing Last Temptation in the way that the implicit comparison/contrast with the Gospels is essential to Life of Brian. Ryan is right that the film stands alone. It may be interesting to note that Kazantzakis has done something that Shrader and Scorsese haven't done. But which is more relevant, that Kazantzakis did it, or that Shrader and Scorsese left it out?

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: I would think the same could be said of the Gospel According to Mark. There is the title line in 1:1 and the vice spoken to him at baptism (which adoptionists are fond of), but after that how are we to know Jesus is divine?

FWIW, the first thing that came to mind on reading this question was the Transfiguration, which ALMOST got missed in the answers that other people have given to this question already.

We start with reference to Jesus as the "beloved Son" from the heavens (which is a standard way of locating the divine), followed by a spate of related thaumaturgy. Chapter 2 then moves into Jesus telling people that their sins are forgiven, and that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Sure, this is all a little more vague than the other gospels, but even just the first two chapters of Mark outline a case that Jesus was not your average miracle worker or prophet. Mark cycles through escalations of these indications of Jesus' unique authority until the confession in 8:27-30. Then the transfiguration seals the deal.

If you start Mark asking the question: "Is Jesus divine?" and then spend the first 4-5 chapters thinking: "Well, he is definitely a miracle worker. Okay, he is definitely a prophet..." then you have really caught on to the way Mark strategizes his depiction of Christ as Lord. He leads us through the same process his earliest disciples went through. John's gospel does the same thing.

: And yet Mark is probably aimed at a Gentile audience that wouldn't be all that familiar with Judaism.

I dunno. Tradition associates Mark's gospel with the church in Rome, and if you look at Paul's letter to the church in Rome (written before Paul had even visited the place), you can see that he addresses at least a few key Jewish figures there (not least of which are Aquila and Priscilla -- who, remember, had originally met Paul in Corinth because that's where they went after Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome; Paul wrote his epistle during the reign of Nero, who had apparently allowed the Jews to return to Rome, Aquila and Priscilla included).

I agree with you here. The idea that Mark is written to a predominately Greek audience is not a consensus view, and is somewhat linked to a generation of scholarship that had emphasized Greek features of early Christian theology over its essential Jewish nature. The way Mark's narrative strategy and passion narrative is indebted to key Jewish concepts and images is also indicative of its earliest readers.

Edited by M. Leary

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The TV-movie Jesus starring Jeremy Sisto definitely gives him an emotional life, internal and otherwise; it begins with Jesus having bad dreams of people committing atrocities in his name, and later on there's a scene where he begs God to raise his (step-? adoptive?) father, Joseph, from the dead. It's interesting, actually, how the Jeremy Sisto movie touches on a number of the same points that the Scorsese movie did (a sex scene between Mary Magdalene and one of her clients, a romantic interest for Jesus in one of Lazarus' sisters, etc.), yet it did so in a way that was just palatable enough to the evangelical mainstream that it could be promoted in their magazines, etc.

Interestingly this film does kinda imply that Jesus sinned. Prior to his baptism John tells him that he needs to be baptised and repent for his sins, and Jesus acts as if it's fair enough. Actually I'm kind of on the fence on that one too, but certainly I remember many people being outraged by the programme because of that scene.

True, the original force of "son of God," even in reference to Jesus during his lifetime, was probably more or less "son of David" or "Messiah." Theologically, that in itself is interesting from a Christian perspective, because it suggests that God's Triune nature, his eternal Fatherhood and Sonship, can be seen in his relationship with his chosen ones on earth, anticipating his plan for the eternal Son. In any case, in view of the total message of Mark's Gospel, I think it's reasonable to suppose that Mark's first readers would have understood "Son of God" in a more elevated sense.

Yeah I did an essay way back about how the usage seems to move fairly rapidly from "son of God" to "Son of God" to "God, the Son".

: More pertinent is that Christ deals with demons with an authority that is astonishing.

That's true, and it's certainly to a greater extent than the disciples do, but nevertheless, the disciples do also cast out demons.

Interestingly, the film does show Jesus doing this, and it's one of his more authoritative/divine moments.

: I don't see any reason to think that Scorsese specifically means viewers to

: watch his Last Temptation in light of Kazantzakis's book.

Well nor do I.

: Certainly he expects many viewers to compare/contrast what he's done with what Kazantzakis did.

: But this is not essential to watching or critiquing Last Temptation.

Well again I agree. But this is different to the case that you and Ryan are making which is that the book has no value in interpreting the film.

: Ryan is right that the film stands alone.

I don't think any work of art, at least in the late 20th or 21st century truly stands alone. (The difference between the cultural impacts of the source works for LoB and LT may vary, but not to the extent that knowledge of one is a vital interpretative tool, whereas knowledge of the other is completely invalid).

: It may be interesting to note that Kazantzakis has done something that Shrader and Scorsese haven't done.

: But which is more relevant, that Kazantzakis did it, or that Shrader and Scorsese left it out?

It depends. It's a long book. Even a long movie isn't going to be able to catch most of it. So S&S focus on the bits that most interest them. That's different from them omitting something because they disagree with it.

In this case I think the idea is trimmed down, but still present. So it's OK to look at that in the context of the more expanded work.

Put it the other way around. If S&S had omitted this aspect because they disagreed with it then why don't they do more to make that clear in the film? Why not add something that makes it very clear that they disagree with Kantzakis in this case?

Matt

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: I would think the same could be said of the Gospel According to Mark. There is the title line in 1:1 and the vice spoken to him at baptism (which adoptionists are fond of), but after that how are we to know Jesus is divine?

FWIW, the first thing that came to mind on reading this question was the Transfiguration, which ALMOST got missed in the answers that other people have given to this question already.

We start with reference to Jesus as the "beloved Son" from the heavens (which is a standard way of locating the divine), followed by a spate of related thaumaturgy. Chapter 2 then moves into Jesus telling people that their sins are forgiven, and that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Sure, this is all a little more vague than the other gospels, but even just the first two chapters of Mark outline a case that Jesus was not your average miracle worker or prophet. Mark cycles through escalations of these indications of Jesus' unique authority until the confession in 8:27-30. Then the transfiguration seals the deal.

If you start Mark asking the question: "Is Jesus divine?" and then spend the first 4-5 chapters thinking: "Well, he is definitely a miracle worker. Okay, he is definitely a prophet..." then you have really caught on to the way Mark strategizes his depiction of Christ as Lord. He leads us through the same process his earliest disciples went through. John's gospel does the same thing.

I read Mark a bit differently. The first half of the book certainly is, as you say, "Well, he is definitely a miracle worker. Okay, he is definitely a prophet..." culminating in Peter's confession that he is Messiah. (In Mark, there is no mention of God in that confession as both Luke and Matthew include in some way.) Jesus' response is that this shouldn't be told to anyone (possibly a denial) and the beginning of Passion predictions. His earliest disciples, Mark tells us, never really got it. Even Peter, in is confession - leap though it was - falls short (as shown by Peter's follow up to the first passion prediction.) Also, miracles become rare but not completely absent from this point. Instead we see more and more emphasis on the specter of the cross. I do think Mark views Jesus as divine, but I think his question is not if Jesus is divine, but rather how can one say an executed criminal is divine? His answer isn't to be found in miracles, but in the way he purposefully encountered the cross. The very thing that made other people question any claims Christians made of Jesus is what Mark points to as the prime proof.

The Transfiguration is an interesting story - and again something that seems to be wasted on the disciples. But since neither Moses or Elijah are divine, it need not be read is a sign of divinity. For example, we often see the two dead (?) figures are representatives of Law and Prophets. Could we read Jesus as the concept of King? That could be strengthened by the voice from heaven quoting an enthronement psalm.

None of this is to say Jesus is not divine throughout Mark, only that the divinity can only be understood by looking back through the cross.

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Matt, I do appreciate the complexities you're raising. Rather than digging deeper into critical theory here, I'll just say that when it comes to source material that doesn't make it into the adaptation, whether the filmmakers agree or disagree with the source material, and why they omitted it (indifference, disagreement, length considerations, etc.) is a secondary issue; the primary point is that for whatever reason they didn't make it their own. The meaning of a work of art may be illuminated by all kinds of extra-textual considerations, but ultimately one has to go with what the work itself says or doesn't say.

FWIW, my approach to art and meaning (based in part on Catholic exegetical principles) might be articulated this way: The meaning of a work of art is the meaning that the artist reasonably intends his intended audience to reasonably understand from the work; or, conversely, the plausible meaning of a work (from the audience's perspective) is the meaning that can plausibly be understood to have been intended by the artist for his audience to understand.

This of course implies some sort of intersubjective context in which the artist can make reasonable inferences about how he will be understood, and the audience can make reasonable inferences about what the artist intends for them to understand. But the meaning is not whatever the artist happens to think or intend, however capriciously or discretely from the substance of the work. Or, if it is, then the work has an extremely narrow target audience consisting of the artist himself, or of those who are specifically informed of his intentions.

When filmmakers omit a detail from their source material, in the absence of other considerations we don't know whether it was omitted because they didn't care about it, because they had no space for it, because they actively disagreed with it, because they agreed with it in the context of the source matter but didn't think it worked for their adaptation, etc. Since we don't know, we can't apply the absent material as interpretive context to the film. We can note it from a developmental or redactional perspective, but this is redaction criticism, not film criticism (in the equivalent sense to literary criticism). The work means what it means based on what it is, not how it got that way.

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Hi guys,

I'm picking up from your posts that you're feeling, as I am, that this discussion has run it's course (apologies if I've got this wrong, but in any case...): this will be my last post on this part of the discussion (probably).

So mainly for clarification...

...you've been talking as though Kazantzakis' book is a key interpretive tool. Care to elaborate on your position? Is Kazantzakis' book essential to understanding THE LAST TEMPTATION or not? If you answer no, as you seem to elsewhere in your post, then you can't rely on in determining the meaning of Scorsese's film.

I would not say it's a "key interpretative tool". I would say it's a useful interpretative tool.

I don't think it's essential to understanding the film.

...but, I don't think the question of whether Jesus sinned or not is handled that competently in the film. I see various pieces of evidence on both sides of the question, but my feeling is that the film suggests Jesus is wrong to think he has sinned. And so I'm interested to see whether the book can clarify this point, and I believe it does.

You and Steven seem to see it far more black and white than I do in this respect, so it's perhaps not surprising that you see no reason to defer to the novel.

That's different from them omitting something because they disagree with it.

I'm not suggesting they cut it out because they disagree with it, but editing out a crucial section can change the meaning of a work regardless of their own intentions.

I do sort of agree, but I do think there's still some suggestion of this in the film.

FWIW, my approach to art and meaning (based in part on Catholic exegetical principles) might be articulated this way: The meaning of a work of art is the meaning that the artist reasonably intends his intended audience to reasonably understand from the work; or, conversely, the plausible meaning of a work (from the audience's perspective) is the meaning that can plausibly be understood to have been intended by the artist for his audience to understand.

This of course implies some sort of intersubjective context in which the artist can make reasonable inferences about how he will be understood,

And therein lies one of the problems, because I do think Scorsese agrees with Kanzantzakis, but, in part because he is so familiar with the novel, he doesn't manage to bring that (to some, relatively minor) perspective into clear enough focus.

That said, and at the risk of undermining most of what I've been saying, I'm not sure how much I agree with authorial intent as the hard and fast anchor for interpreting a film.

For some reason I can't help but think of the "Is Deckard a robot" debate from Blade Runner. Because, as I understand it, it was only years later that people began to realise that, and usually by being told it rather than watching the film. Though I guess that adds in the fact that film is a collaborative work with sometimes competing intentions (particularly on minor issues) but I digress.

Matt

Edited by MattPage

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None of this is to say Jesus is not divine throughout Mark, only that the divinity can only be understood by looking back through the cross.

I am not sure how far I want to push the Messianic Secret in Mark. By the way, how did the discussion here end up at Mark? I haven't found the link in past conversation. Just curious.

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None of this is to say Jesus is not divine throughout Mark, only that the divinity can only be understood by looking back through the cross.

And what of the resurrection?

In Mark? What of the resurrection? The women came. The tomb was empty. They told no one. ...

In Mark, the resurrection isn't much more than a coda. OK, that is a severe overstatement, but it barely makes it to the Gospel that Mark put together. And I am of the school that the empty tomb is a Markan invention to portray a resurrection without having any resurrection appearances. (I'm also of the school that thinks the book really does end at 16:8.) Just as TLTOC has no need for a resurrection account - it is all about the cross.

Brief aside: I get to spend the next day and a half with Marcus Borg at Chapman University. Should be a nice prep for the coming weeks.

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1 on 1?

Matt

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None of this is to say Jesus is not divine throughout Mark, only that the divinity can only be understood by looking back through the cross.

I am not sure how far I want to push the Messianic Secret in Mark. By the way, how did the discussion here end up at Mark? I haven't found the link in past conversation. Just curious.

Probably from this post. My fault.

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Thanks, Matt. Allow me to take a step possibly converging in your direction: While I agree with Ryan that we have to go with what the work says or doesn't say, and what we can reasonably construe from that, I will agree that familiarity or lack thereof with the source material can color one's judgment about what can reasonably be construed from the work itself, and I make no judgment here about which coloring is more or less helpful.

Also, while I agree that simple authorial intent isn't a helpful criterion (which is why I qualified it the way I did), I also agree that even in my qualified form it leads to further complexities, especially as regards collaborative works like film -- and to an extent certain biblical works! Perhaps I might say, then, that whatever complexities it may entail, the pursuit of authorial intent is both a necessary starting point and a necessary end (goal) for the exegetical process.

As regards biblical works, I think I would say that whatever authorial process has led to the work we have, in general every biblical composition has a fundamental literary unity reflecting the intent of a human author responsible for its fundamental shape -- and that this overriding authorial intent is the key to the meaning of the work.

In principle, this precludes neither substantial influence from earlier writers whose compositions the author may have used (whether to make their meaning his own or to subordinate it to his vision), nor editorial touches by later redactors. However, I would resist the attempt to see any biblical composition, as a composition, as a mere mishmash or cut-and-paste job uninformed by any coherent authorial intent.

With movies, of course, it gets trickier. Sometimes it may be possible to speak of a dominant authorial point of view, or of a genuinely collaborative effort to express fundamentally the same point of view. Other times the "meaning" of a film may turn out to be a sort of dialogue between different, even conflicting points of view. And some movies may genuinely be a mishmash uninformed by any coherent authorial intent, in which case they have no proper "meaning" as I understand it, however interesting they may be.

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And I am of the school that the empty tomb is a Markan invention to portray a resurrection without having any resurrection appearances.

Have you read Crossan's The Dark Interval? I recall there being some excellent comments on the end of Mark in that little volume that strike me as insights you would appreciate. It is a wonderful little book.

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1 on 1?

Matt

Wouldn't that be nice! No, lecture series in relationship to church relations event. But I get CEU credit.

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And I am of the school that the empty tomb is a Markan invention to portray a resurrection without having any resurrection appearances.

Define "invention."

Let's defer this discussion to here.

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MattPage wrote:

: : I regret to say I don't quite see this. His ultimate act of "courage" -- begging God to let him go back on the cross -- is something he does out of despair, when he's already on his deathbed and convinced that his life has been a waste; it is also done in response to a final burst of hectoring from Judas and the realization that the little girl has been lying to him all this time. It still feels like he's REACTING to a bunch of bad emotions at that point in the story, rather than summoning the will to do what's right no matter what the cost, etc.

:

: I'm surprised by this, given how familiar I am with your thoughts on this film. Do you not consider the final sequence to be only a temptation then (as in do you think that Jesus actually comes off the cross and then goes back in time?) . . .

Whether it's a dream or an alternate timeline, I do think that Jesus, at that point in the story, reacts as though he has actually EXPERIENCED the events that transpire as part of that final temptation. Judas comes along and says, "That girl is actually the devil!" He does not come along and say, "Everything here is just an illusion! Yes, including me! (And why the devil would include as part of the illusion a guy like me who SPOILS the illusion, I don't know! But he did, so here I am!)" So Jesus does not react as though the previous 40 years didn't happen; he reacts as though they were a mistake and he wants to undo them (kind of like how Superman begs his father to undo his de-Kryptonization in Superman II).

But it's been a few years since I last watched the film, and I might be misremembering the gist of that scene somewhat.

: Jesus has already acted with courage in getting himself arrested . . .

Yeah, I may be giving short shrift to earlier acts of courage within the movie. But I do think the note on which a movie ends is significant, and often more significant than any of the notes that comes before (though not necessarily more significant than the cumulative effect of all the notes that came before).

SDG wrote:

: Ryan is right that the film stands alone. It may be interesting to note that Kazantzakis has done something that Shrader and Scorsese haven't done. But which is more relevant, that Kazantzakis did it, or that Shrader and Scorsese left it out?

Depends on the nature of the discussion, I'd say.

I think it is significant, for example, that Scorsese (and his writers, including but not limited to Schrader) practically reduce the nature of Christ's "battle with the flesh" to questions of sexuality (and domesticity, yes, but still with sexuality at the core of Jesus' domestic life). Kazantzakis' book is saturated with sexuality too (to the point where he describes a rainfall by saying that "the male waters poured out of the skies with a roar and the earth opened its thighs and giggled"), but he also makes a point of including food and wine in his list of hedonistic pleasures. The film, on the other hand, is basically just about the sex.

I am also reminded of the debates over Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and the alleged anti-Semitism therein. One of the most important points that anybody made, I think, was in an essay by Mark Goodacre, who noted that the visions of Sr. Anne Catherine Emmerich, on which much of the film is based, depict Simon of Cyrene as a "pagan" who protests against the abuse of Jesus at the hands of the Jews, whereas Gibson clearly identifies Simon of Cyrene as a Jew who is briefly exposed to the anti-Semitism of the pagan Romans. You don't need to know Emmerich's visions in order to appreciate the way Gibson depicts the anti-Semitic Romans, but I think our appreciation of this depiction is deepened when we see how Gibson actually turns his source material's anti-Semitism on its head. It becomes less easy to depict Gibson himself as a raging anti-Semite, an unfortunate drunken rant notwithstanding.

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It is both heresy and blasphemy by admission of the makers in the commentaries. I guess that makes it "absolute." But it's a work of art, too, one which causes you to think and compare, and be on guard, and thank God for the way he made the events themselves come and save you.

My major stance hasn't really changed. I had an open mind -- I thought my stance was going to change, but it hasn't, not for the most part. There were parts that were hard to watch. That can sometimes be a mark of a good film. Here I think it is.

Heresy suggests a distortion of some key, foundational theological precept, something that needs to be in place or else everything else falls apart.

Outside of the quote SDG offered (EDIT: which now that I look back is actually about blasphemy and I'm getting the two confused), which is somewhat the same as on the commentary, I still can't find heresy by this definition. The Roman crosses Jesus is building in the beginning put him the closest to actual sin. But they don't necessarily put him there. He was a wood worker, it was a job. A dirty job, yes -- kind of like a Jew collecting taxes. Later he says that he is a liar and believes he has sinned, but again, this is more about reading between the lines than it is something that's really taken place. When did he lie? Can't find it. Did he struggle? Yes. In his mind and in his thought life concerning thinking he was God? Yes. Could that actually have made him feel like he was having delusions of grandeur, lying to himself? Yes.

He struggles to find God's calling, he gets baptized, he finds God's calling and defeats temptation in the desert, he decides that he is not insane, that he really is the Messiah, and sets about trying to find the right path the Messiah should take. He interrupts the religious events, turns the water into wine, performs miracles, raises Lazarus from the dead... He is caught, he is silent before Pilate, he is beaten, whipped, crucified, he wears a crown of thorns, he carries his own cross, he bleeds for all mankind and dies.

So is it only the language that is heresy (or the dream/alternate reality/last temptation, but I'll get to that in a second), the things that were said or not said, that they weren't word for word lined up with what you find in the Gospel? Because I don't think that's an accurate way to read this film. In reading TLTOC, I think you compare the spoken word to the words in the Bible and read between the lines. That's not heresy. That is a character study. And when your character claims to be fully human and fully God -- and is right about that claim -- the lines are going to be messy. They'll blur. The film blurs many of the known Gospel moments in a wonderful way, begging you to psychologically read between the lines, but all the major parts are still there.

I'm not saying, "Show it to the kids! It's the greatest Jesus film." No, I still think The Miracle Maker is the best Jesus film I've seen. But I am saying that from an artist to one who is willing to read into the psychological nature of the story, I still don't see what all the fuss is about.

These are boxes that need to be opened. Even in the Gospels it talks about Jesus not being able to be contained in all the library books in the world. This is simply an alternative way to look at how awesome his crucifixion really was.

The film, and the commentaries and all the dialogue here at the boards, really makes me want to read the Kanzantzakis novel. But I can barely keep up with the thread, probably much less a 506 page book.

I still disagree with this idea that a fictional work, a work that explicitly says "This is not historical or even a representation of our truth" can be heretical. Heresy itself seems to me like an outdated concept where Biblical proof is proven by interpretation, but heresy in fiction is just plain ridiculous.

but Scorsese isn't at all Christian.

I don't think this is for us to say. He's certainly respectful of the story in his comments on the commentary. And I know that the commentary was made quite a few years ago, but he admits his Roman Catholic background there.

Whew, I've finally caught up on this thread.

MattPage wrote:

: And ultimately I do think he finds the courage he needs at all the right stages.

I regret to say I don't quite see this. His ultimate act of "courage" -- begging God to let him go back on the cross -- is something he does out of despair, when he's already on his deathbed and convinced that his life has been a waste; it is also done in response to a final burst of hectoring from Judas and the realization that the little girl has been lying to him all this time. It still feels like he's REACTING to a bunch of bad emotions at that point in the story, rather than summoning the will to do what's right no matter what the cost, etc.

Disagree. His life hasn't been a waste. He's got two women and a beautiful family that he obviously loves dearly. The reason he goes back to the cross is that he finally comes to terms with his destiny. He knows that the world needs a savior, and at this point they're going to get one whether it is real or not (Paul's strange words seem to suggest this). Yeah, he's tricked and he knows it, but he's not in despair at all. He can still choose to die like a man. But I think he does, at this point, choose to do "what's right no matter what the cost," to even more severe degree on him than before. Having the knowledge of a fully lived life, he becomes the Prodigal Son and takes the cost of the cross on him. The knowledge of the life fully lived makes his choice all the more greater.

It does occur to me that if Satan would have kept his mouth shut, even after Judas showed who he was, that it would have been easier for Jesus to die a normal man's death.

(And why the devil would include as part of the illusion a guy like me who SPOILS the illusion, I don't know!)

This thought occurred to me quite a few times during the dream/alternate timeline/last temptation (the latter term of which I prefer). My thought is that it is indeed a temptation, and as in all temptations from the dark side, there is also the Godly nature that interferes with it, the nature that wants you to fight off the temptation. In this particular case, the death of Magdalene, the appearance of Saul/Paul, and later the appearance of the disciples and Judas, and Judas's speech and the unveiling of the curtain as to who the little girl really is, are like the fight in the cosmos between God and the Devil, both sides tearing different points into the story to guide Jesus in the direction they want. Or something like that.

I think it is significant, for example, that Scorsese (and his writers, including but not limited to Schrader) practically reduce the nature of Christ's "battle with the flesh" to questions of sexuality (and domesticity, yes, but still with sexuality at the core of Jesus' domestic life). Kazantzakis' book is saturated with sexuality too (to the point where he describes a rainfall by saying that "the male waters poured out of the skies with a roar and the earth opened its thighs and giggled"), but he also makes a point of including food and wine in his list of hedonistic pleasures. The film, on the other hand, is basically just about the sex.

Disagree. The sexual and domestic temptations of Jesus were certainly prevalent, but so was Christ's struggle in the concept of his divinity and how that is played out, whether out of love vs. the axe, freedom of the Jews from Roman occupation, the dismantling of Rome and his admission to Pilate that his unseen Kingdom is greater than Imperial force, how to deal with Law, the religious keepers of the Law in the Temple, Roman idols and money changers there, etc. All of this showed his struggle in the flesh as to how to handle this role as the Messiah.

...but, I don't think the question of whether Jesus sinned or not is handled that competently in the film. I see various pieces of evidence on both sides of the question, but my feeling is that the film suggests Jesus is wrong to think he has sinned...

That is pretty much how I saw it this time.

Edited by Persona

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No, I still think The Miracle Maker is the best Jesus film I've seen.

Questions of orthodoxy/heresy aside, I vastly prefer THE LAST TEMPTATION to THE MIRACLE MAKER. THE MIRACLE MAKER is remarkable in how much of the cultural context of the gospels it is able to work into a film, but as a work of cinematic art, I find it thoroughly unremarkable.

But if a grumpy old art fart like me watches it with my kids and nearly cries, and the kids learn and love Jesus in the process, it is somewhat self-explanatory why it is indeed so remarkable.

Don't forget -- I hate cartoons.

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Persona wrote:

: But it's a work of art, too, one which causes you to think and compare, and be on guard, and thank God for the way he made the events themselves come and save you.

A work of art, yes. Makes me thankful for the way the events saved me, no. There is nothing in the film that leads me to think that Jesus has "saved" anyone. Especially if the film is suggesting that the so-called battle between flesh and spirit in Jesus' life is just an analogue for the same battle in all our lives.

Oh, sure, people like Judas SAY Jesus has to die in order to fulfill some sort of purpose along those lines, but that's just dialogue. The film never makes me FEEL that Jesus has saved anyone. I mean, what would he have saved us TO? In his own life, he exhibits no particular kind of holiness. And in his death, there is no resurrection.

So what, exactly, is the "salvation" on offer here?

: He was a wood worker, it was a job.

Well, yeah, but you do get to choose your clients. (See that conversation about the workers killed on the Death Star in Kevin Smith's Clerks.)

: So is it only the language that is heresy . . . the things that were said or not said, that they weren't word for word lined up with what you find in the Gospel?

I don't think anyone is claiming that a movie is "heresy" simply because the dialogue doesn't "line up word for word" with what is in the gospels.

: Even in the Gospels it talks about Jesus not being able to be contained in all the library books in the world.

Well, technically, John's gospel "supposes" that the world isn't big enough for all the books it would take to report what Jesus DID, which is almost certainly conscious hyperbole on John's part. But anyhoo.

: The film, and the commentaries and all the dialogue here at the boards, really makes me want to read the Kanzantzakis novel.

It's an interesting read, for sure, and it's got a lot of stuff that isn't in the film.

For example, it incorporates some of the earliest church traditions about Mary and Joseph, so that it is not merely Jesus who endures a battle between the flesh and the spirit, but Mary, too. (If memory serves, the Mary of the book mourns the fact that she never got to have sex with her husband.) This is a far cry from the film, where Mary seems as bewildered as anyone else as to why Jesus is acting so strange.

For another, when Jesus resurrects Lazarus, it turns out that Lazarus' body is still just as decomposed as it was BEFORE he was resurrected -- so when Paul kills Lazarus, he does not merely stab him (as he does in the movie); instead, if memory serves, Lazarus' body is twisted and turned like a wet rag or something. It's pretty weird.

For another, it is Paul who kills Mary Magdalene, not God. And Paul Schrader is on record to the effect that this is how his screenplay killed Mary Magdalene, too -- but apparently Scorsese felt it wouldn't be right to show a pregnant woman getting stabbed, so he re-wrote that bit.

If memory serves, of course; I haven't had time to double-check my books etc.

: Heresy itself seems to me like an outdated concept . . .

Eh? So the Christian faith can mean anything to anyone and it's all good? Nothing is ever beyond the pale?

: . . . where Biblical proof is proven by interpretation, but heresy in fiction is just plain ridiculous.

Um, but fiction, especially of this sort, IS interpretation. You want blurry lines? This is one of them.

: Disagree. His life hasn't been a waste. He's got two women and a beautiful family that he obviously loves dearly.

Well, sure. But compared to the destiny that Judas is slapping him in the face with ...

: The knowledge of the life fully lived makes his choice all the more greater.

Well, that may depend on whether you think he is denying himself the live fully lived or whether you think that he gets to have it both ways, both living the life fully lived AND dying on the cross.

: My thought is that it is indeed a temptation, and as in all temptations from the dark side, there is also the Godly nature that interferes with it, the nature that wants you to fight off the temptation.

Yes, this possibility had occurred to me too. It's rather Gnostic, in a way, this idea that someone can spend most of his life within an alternate reality, only to have God worming his way into the alternate reality to subvert it from within.

: In this particular case . . . the appearance of Saul/Paul . . . are like the fight in the cosmos between God and the Devil, both sides tearing different points into the story to guide Jesus in the direction they want. Or something like that.

Whoa. You really see the appearance of Paul in that light? You think GOD is speaking through Paul in that scene?

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Persona wrote:

: But it's a work of art, too, one which causes you to think and compare, and be on guard, and thank God for the way he made the events themselves come and save you.

A work of art, yes. Makes me thankful for the way the events saved me, no. There is nothing in the film that leads me to think that Jesus has "saved" anyone.

Let me just change my quote a bit for you to understand better:

"But it's a work of art, too, one which caused me to think and compare, and be on guard, and thank God for the way he made the events themselves come and save me."

In thinking and comparing reality as I understand it to the fictional representation in the film itself, it really did make me thankful for reality.

: He was a wood worker, it was a job.

Well, yeah, but you do get to choose your clients. (See that conversation about the workers killed on the Death Star in Kevin Smith's Clerks.)

Under occupation we can't know that he had this choice.

It's an interesting read, for sure, and it's got a lot of stuff that isn't in the film... The Mary of the book mourns the fact that she never got to have sex with her husband.)

This, I do not believe anyway.

: Heresy itself seems to me like an outdated concept . . .

Eh? So the Christian faith can mean anything to anyone and it's all good? Nothing is ever beyond the pale?

This one I'll have to think through. My basic understanding of contemporary heresy is a lot of scholars sitting around writing books and pointing fingers. It seems a sort of heresy in itself when you consider the message of Christ, caring for the world, etc. Adventures in missing the point. But of course I can't say, "nothing is every beyond the pale." I'm not a Christian relativist as mush as one who admires a narrative theology. Bullet points and lists of the fundamentals of the faith no longer hold ground in my book.

: The knowledge of the life fully lived makes his choice all the more greater.

Well, that may depend on whether you think he is denying himself the live fully lived or whether you think that he gets to have it both ways, both living the life fully lived AND dying on the cross.

It is a temptation. The "last temptation".

: In this particular case . . . the appearance of Saul/Paul . . . are like the fight in the cosmos between God and the Devil, both sides tearing different points into the story to guide Jesus in the direction they want. Or something like that.

Whoa. You really see the appearance of Paul in that light? You think GOD is speaking through Paul in that scene?

Only based on the idea that it is a temptation and there are good and evil in battle in the so-called "mind" of this fully human/fully God Jesus. Yeah, I think at that point God is showing him, as he did with Jonah or Abraham or David or countless others before him, that his will is going to be accomplished. It's not triune thinking but we're already in over our heads in dealing with God helping the man side of Jesus through temptation. It's a bit too circular to connect every dot, but in the end, temptation itself being what we are watching is what makes the most sense to me.

Edited by Persona

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The House Next Door's latest dialogue between Ed Howard and Jason Bellamy is all about Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. Two excerpts:

EH: . . . When he does return to the cross at the finale, he has really
earned
the beatific, enraptured smile on his face as he triumphantly exclaims, "It is accomplished!" Gibson has stated that he wanted The Passion to remind people of how great Jesus' sacrifice was, but it's the final moments of Last Temptation that make me feel that most powerfully. All Gibson can offer as evidence of Jesus' sacrifice is the physical torment he endured; Scorsese and Kazantzakis make Jesus' sacrifice far more profound than mere corporeal suffering. They also make it more joyful, which is appropriate. If Jesus died to save the world, to cleanse the sins of humans, then why is Gibson's film so dour, so completely lacking in the holy joy that washes across Dafoe's face when he finally accepts his fate?

JB: . . . Because, truly, what is his sacrifice worth if he is without earthly desires? The more Jesus wants something that he could only have as man (and rarely does one hear about spirits knocking boots in the afterlife), the more honorable his sacrifice becomes. The traditional way to dramatize Jesus' temptation is to suggest that he's turning down material wealth and/or some kind of leadership role in Satan's army. But is that really more attractive than ascending to Heaven to judge the living and the dead while seated at the right hand of the Father? Kind of a lateral move, if you ask me. Scorsese's film ignores temptations of power and tries to consider what human life could offer that heavenly life couldn't. Sexual and romantic intimacy—those very human and sometimes sinful urges—would seem to be high up on that list, would they not? So, yes, what Jesus accomplishes in Gibson's film is little more than the Timex test: he takes a licking and keeps on ticking. In Scorsese's film, however, when Jesus says "It is accomplished," he has really considered his options, allowed himself to contemplate the life he could have had. Thus, he's really been tempted. His sacrifice is of more than just his body.

Persona wrote:

: Under occupation we can't know that he had this choice.

Actually, occupation or no, we don't know that Jesus was a "wood worker" of any sort, really. The historical Jesus, I mean; obviously the fictitious Jesus is a "wood worker" within the context of this film, and I don't think the film ever suggests that he didn't have a CHOICE when it came to working with the Romans. But historically, all we can say -- based on a single verse in Mark's gospel -- is that Jesus was a tekton, which may have signified his profession but also quite possibly signified where Jesus was on the social ladder of his day (i.e. near the bottom; it indicates that he was a non-farmer, a landless peasant, lower than other peasants, etc.).

So it's not quite as simple as saying "it was his job." The word "job" may, indeed, be somewhat misleading here.

: : The Mary of the book mourns the fact that she never got to have sex with her husband.

:

: This, I do not believe anyway.

But it's still a part of the novel, which the movie may or may not be ignoring. So if we're talking about the fiction and not about history, then it still has some relevance to the discussion even if you don't believe that this particular thing is an historical fact.

: My basic understanding of contemporary heresy is a lot of scholars sitting around writing books and pointing fingers.

Heh. Suffice it to say that my understanding is a little more ancient: orthodox bishops punching people (as St. Nicholas is said to have done to Arius) and heretics dying of sudden, seemingly miraculous afflictions (as Arius is said to have done shortly before Constantine would have forced the orthodox bishops to reinstate Arius). Nothing terribly musty there. :)

: I'm not a Christian relativist as mush as one who admires a narrative theology. Bullet points and lists of the fundamentals of the faith no longer hold ground in my book.

Not even when it comes to choosing a narrative? Is there no table of contents in your Bible? :)

: : Well, that may depend on whether you think he is denying himself the live fully lived or whether you think that he gets to have it both ways, both living the life fully lived AND dying on the cross.

:

: It is a temptation. The "last temptation".

That phrase might have meaning in the bigger scheme of things, but is that how Jesus EXPERIENCES the final half-hour of the movie?

: Yeah, I think at that point God is showing him, as he did with Jonah or Abraham or David or countless others before him, that his will is going to be accomplished.

Wow. And you think God is showing him that by saying it ultimately won't matter whether it really happened or not, only that people will THINK it happened?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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:

: It is a temptation. The "last temptation".

That phrase might have meaning in the bigger scheme of things, but is that how Jesus EXPERIENCES the final half-hour of the movie?

So, Jesus's last temptation is a house in the suburbs... I think this tells us a lot more about Kazantzakis and perhaps even Scorsese than it does Jesus...

I just returned from walking the way of the cross. Interestingly enough, it didn't draw on TLTOC or TPOTC but on the Gospel of Luke, poetry of Charles Peguy and Paul Claudel, reflections by Luigi Giussani, and traditional songs. It was a very human meditation which took a Marian perspective. I could hardly imagine a station where Jesus dreams of a bourgeoisie existence. I'm all for the dynamic of desire but Jesus was no teenager who could imagine nothing beyond "two cats in the yard" etc. Even the Biblical temptations at the beginning of Jesus's ministry were grander than this one. It occurs to me that the Old English Dream of the Rood has a certain value as a last temptation of a disciple - the disciple who kills everybody and saves Jesus... Now, THAT I would pay to see in the theater, or maybe a graphic novel!

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: : The Mary of the book mourns the fact that she never got to have sex with her husband.

:

: This, I do not believe anyway.

I don't believe she mourned it either.

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But historically, all we can say -- based on a single verse in Mark's gospel -- is that Jesus was a tekton, which may have signified his profession but also quite possibly signified where Jesus was on the social ladder of his day (i.e. near the bottom; it indicates that he was a non-farmer, a landless peasant, lower than other peasants, etc.).

My boss was a Jewish carpenter. Actually, he was a Mennonite. But, I digress.

The carpenter tradition is thick enough to be a keeper. "tekton" is generic enough to encompass a number of professions. But the Lord Jesus Christ spent most of his time on earth behind an awl and chisel running lap joints. References could ensue.

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