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The Gospel of John (2003)


Peter T Chattaway
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A recent Canadian Press story, courtesy of the Toronto Star:

The three-hour film,
, will have its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was
today.

Directed by Philip Saville, the epic, which takes a contemporary approach to the biblical story, is among the films to be shown at the festival's Special Presentation feature. Christopher Plummer narrates and Henry Ian Cusick plays Jesus. The film features 75 principal actors from the Canadian and British stage, as well as more than 2,000 extras.

Wonder how it will compare to Mel Gibson's movie -- especially considering how "anti-Semitic" some passages in this gospel have seemed to some readers!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Technically, anti-Semitic should be anti-Judaic, since anti-Semitic is more of a racial base than a religious base, which is what John's opposition to "the Jews" is.

Interesting concept, because I would think John is the least adaptable to film with all the long esoteric speeches as so little action. (But then that may be my own bias coming through since I find John less interesting than the synoptics.)

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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There was a post about this on another list I frequent, and someone posted this press release that was sent to a newspaper he works for. I post it here in the hope that this doesn't violate any sort of rule. If nothing else, the endorsements are interesting.

Amidst the recent buzz about Jesus on the Silver Screen, along comes another major motion picture about the life of Christ. With this film however, critics will be hard-pressed to debate the text of the script - it was written some 2,000 years ago by one of Jesus' closest friends - his disciple John.

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: Interesting concept, because I would think John is the least adaptable to

: film with all the long esoteric speeches as so little action. (But then that

: may be my own bias coming through since I find John less interesting

: than the synoptics.)

John certainly isn't MY favorite gospel, but I'm glad it's in the canon.

It occurs to me that Mark may be the only gospel now that has never been given the word-for-word treatment. Matthew was filmed by the Visual Bible people in 1994 (and an abbreviated version of the gospel was filmed by Pasolini in 1964), and Luke was filmed by the Genesis Project back in the 1970s (an abbreviated version of which has since become known as the Campus Crusade Jesus film); the Visual Bible people even produced an adaptation of Acts a few years ago. So all that's left of the New Testament now are Mark (all but a few paragraphs of which can be found in the other gospels) and the epistles (and Revelation, which is sort of an epistle, at least in the early chapters).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Well, John happens to be my favorite of the Gospels. I cringe, though, at the "word for word" aspect of the description of the film. Sounds like there will be A LOT of narration. That's sad because among the windy speeches are some great set pieces that would work well as vignettes and stories if allowed to play out as drama, rather than as quotes of off screen material (The Wedding At Cana and The Woman At The Well are among my favorite story passages in scripture). The composition of the endorsements above give me pause as well. Nobody with a vested interest in anything other than slavish accuracy has been heard from. Slavish accuracy can often be the enemy of transposition to another narrative form.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: I cringe, though, at the "word for word" aspect of the description of the

: film.

You should -- especially if it turns out like the Visual Bible's Matthew. That's the one where the characters pause while speaking, so that the narrator can say "he said" or "she said".

: Slavish accuracy can often be the enemy of transposition to another

: narrative form.

Well, yeah, treating the Bible like a movie script, or even a play, which it most certainly is not, is a problem, yeah.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Is this the Visual Bible version? Cos we were discussing this a few months back weren't we? If not it seems that after 100+ years with no word for word version of John now we will have 2 in a year? btw has there been any new on the VB version of JOhn

The exclusion of Maark is interesting as its probably the most easy to adpt into a film I would have thought. Markl is quite vivd, brief and lively. I guess its less popular cos of the lack of birth stories, and the lack of resurrection appearance.

I agree btw with the comments about John. The VB version of Matthew was a yawn fest in places cos of the speeches in that. They're not a patch though on Jesus's monologue at the last supper. Besides which the claim that this is how it really happened is arguably even more dubious with John's gospel than with the others

But when all's said I hope it comes out over here & that I can get the video. The Visual bible, for all its faults, does work well as an alternative for reading the gospels in church meetings.

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PS Peter, did you remember that Christopher Plummer was also in Jesus of Nazareth as well?

PPS Do you think this has benn rushed out so it gets the publicity of The Passion, without being overshadowed by it?

PPPS - Hey no IMDB entry.

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: The exclusion of Maark is interesting as its probably the most easy to

: adpt into a film I would have thought. Markl is quite vivd, brief and lively.

: I guess its less popular cos of the lack of birth stories, and the lack of

: resurrection appearance.

That, plus the freaky naked guy in the Garden of Gethsemane. smile.gif

: PS Peter, did you remember that Christopher Plummer was also in Jesus

: of Nazareth as well?

But of course! He also narrates the documentary on the making of Ben Hur on that DVD.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Ah missed that link on account on not having a DVD player. I was watching JofNaz the other day in the light of my first viewing of The Sound of Music and its quite hard to get the latter out of your mind.

Given that its usually maintainned that the freaky naked guy was Mark, do you think part of the reticence might also be that Mark's gospel, perhaps more than the others, is kind of tied to its writer. I suppose the way the VB did Matthew volunteered themselves for this approach, but Mark might need to be even more from Mark's PoV.

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: Given that its usually maintainned that the freaky naked guy was Mark,

: do you think part of the reticence might also be that Mark's gospel,

: perhaps more than the others, is kind of tied to its writer.

Hmmm, I don't know whether I buy that theory or not, myself.

One of my favorite little lines in all of the gospels is that bit from Mark's description of Simon of Cyrene, which is not kept by Matthew or Luke -- "the father of Alexander and Rufus". It's one of those odd little details that doesn't add anything to the story, but you gotta figure the author of Mark was writing to people who were at least somewhat familiar with these characters -- and it would seem the readers for whom Matthew and Luke were written would NOT have been so familiar with those characters (which is especially interesting in Luke's case, since Luke's travelling companion Paul might very well have known Rufus, at least). It's one of those little marks of authenticity that gives credibility to the text as a whole.

Given that personal touch, it seems a bit odd that Mark would write about himself without dipping into the first person. But for all I know, it could have been an acceptable convention at the time to remain somewhat detached from your own activities. (But what, then, of the "we" passages in Acts?)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Given that personal touch, it seems a bit odd that Mark would write about himself without dipping into the first person. But for all I know, it could have been an acceptable convention at the time to remain somewhat detached from your own activities. (But what, then, of the "we" passages in Acts?)

Well, John's waffling on the subject of first person narrative comes immediately to mind. Just can't seem to avoid the self reference, so as tradition has it, refers to himself either rather gaudily, or as an obscure point made as to just why Jesus was there and the stories told in the first place... OTOH, with Acts, the cynic in me wants to say that through the ages, doctors will be doctors; but Luke was addressing folks who clearly knew him or of him and Luke itself is free of such references as being second hand. I could see how being with Jesus for such an extended period of time could prompt one to attempt to recede into the background. You are way more learned than I on these things. I'd be curious as to your thoughts about these three, or whoever you might suspect would be the writer(s).

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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I guess I like to think of the Mark thing as a kind of subtle nod. Mark was probably too young to have been involved in what Jesus was doing, and wasn't really there but, so the theory goes, the last supper might have been at his mother's house and so Mark might have slipped along and followed in tow. It feels a bit like the hint in the start of Acts that this Saul character is going to do more than just his seemingly irrelevant action of holding the coats and approving of Stephen's murder.

I guess, being English, I also appreciate the self-deprication of MArk saying "Yeh I know I'm now this great gospel writer, but the only thing I did back then was leg it with my kit off at the first signof trouble.

But perhaps this is cos Mark's gospel is the one I feel most comfortable in being written by someone who was there, at least for part of it, and may have actually have met Jesus.

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Rich,

A friend of mine has pointed out how John is possibly the biggest show off of all the biblical writers. If he is the disciple Jesus loved then check out this for a boast:

John 20v3-4

"So Peter and the other Disciple started running for the tomb. Both were running but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first"

Nur-nur-n'nur-nur. Simon Peter is slow, peter is slow, I am the fastest tongue.gif I am the fastest d-duh-duh-d-duh-dur.

biggrin.gif/

That said I don't think John did write the gospel that bears his name. I've heard all kinds of bizarre theories as to who did - A disciple based only in Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, John Mark (?), or one of John's disciples or a member of his school (which is the theory I go for)

Matt

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: I'd be curious as to your thoughts about these three, or whoever you

: might suspect would be the writer(s).

Don't really know, actually. I do think the arguments in favour of Mark and Luke being the authors of the gospels that bear their names have one major thing going for them, which is that both of these characters are so obscure in the New Testament that it would be more than a little odd for someone to attach THEIR names to these documents if Mark and Luke had not actually written them. (There are all sorts of apocryphal gospels named after Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, even Mary Magdalene, but these are all fairly major players in the story of Jesus' life -- or they are at least members of his inner circle, the Twelve -- so you pretty much EXPECT forgeries to bear the names of those people.)

Beyond that, I like the way John's gospel ends with a statement from its editors: "This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true." As the apocryphal gospels have shown us, this sort of declaration isn't always correct, but I see no reason to doubt that John's gospel goes back, in some way, to the disciple John himself, even if it has been worked on by other people.

I guess Matthew's the one I find iffiest. Seems odd that the apostle of that name would borrow so much material from other sources, and make such strange changes to them, if he had witnessed everything first-hand.

MattPage wrote:

: A friend of mine has pointed out how John is possibly the biggest show

: off of all the biblical writers.

Heh. smile.gif

: That said I don't think John did write the gospel that bears his name. I've

: heard all kinds of bizarre theories as to who did - A disciple based only in

: Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, John Mark (?), or one of John's

: disciples or a member of his school (which is the theory I go for)

I think, at a minimum, we have to go with John's "school", as you put it -- the gospel has too much in common with at least the first epistle of that name, don't you think?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Don't really know, actually. I do think the arguments in favour of Mark and Luke being the authors of the gospels that bear their names have one major thing going for them, which is that both of these characters are so obscure in the New Testament that it would be more than a little odd for someone to attach THEIR names to these documents if Mark and Luke had not actually written them.
[nod]
I guess Matthew's the one I find iffiest. Seems odd that the apostle of that name would borrow so much material from other sources, and make such strange changes to them, if he had witnessed everything first-hand.
yeh on the days I accept the Q theory I generally reckon that this is the writings that Matthew wrote in Aramaic that Eusebius (IIRC) refers to. OTOH I'm re-thinking the whole Q thing anyway, and in which case I guess I'd go for someone from the Matthean "school"
I think, at a minimum, we have to go with John's "school", as you put it -- the gospel has too much in common with at least the first epistle of that name, don't you think?
Could you expand on that last bit? I go with the "school" idea, but I do have an ear for the other theories.

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: yeh on the days I accept the Q theory I generally reckon that this is the

: writings that Matthew wrote in Aramaic that Eusebius (IIRC) refers to.

Certainly plausible, though I think the Aramaic source would have to be even one step further back than Q, which I have always thought would have had to be in Greek.

: OTOH I'm re-thinking the whole Q thing anyway, and in which case I

: guess I'd go for someone from the Matthean "school"

Hmmm, why are you rethinking the Q theory?

: : I think, at a minimum, we have to go with John's "school", as you put it

: : -- the gospel has too much in common with at least the first epistle of

: : that name, don't you think?

:

: Could you expand on that last bit? I go with the "school" idea, but I do

: have an ear for the other theories.

It's just an impression I remember having the last time I read the two books close together. FWIW, my Oxford Study Bible says in its intro to I John that its "styles and themes also recall those of the Fourth Gospel: centrality of the incarnation, the mission of the only Son, the Word (1.1)", however, "no mention is made of the Holy Spirit as personal . . . or of 'glory,' or of 'judging,' all important in the Gospel."

BTW, speaking of the epistles, you have to wonder what the Visual Bible people are going to do when they get around to them. Are they really going to make an entire separate film for, say, II John? Even if they combined all three epistles into one film, it still wouldn't last more than a couple dozen minutes, I think. Maybe they should include 'em on the Gospel of John DVD as extras! smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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: Certainly plausible, though I think the Aramaic source would have to be

: even one step further back than Q, which I have always thought would

: have had to be in Greek.

Why have you always thought that? Just cos Luke is a non-Jew?

Not thought of that to be honest, but could certainly fit with my thinking. Matthew wrote a collection of Jesus's sayings in Aramaic these were translated and passed round, someone wrote MAtt & someone else wrote Luke using this.

Or Matt wrote aramaic Q, and a disciple of his merged this with Mark to make the gospel, Luke used a greek translation of Q, Mark & other sources to write his theory

: Hmmm, why are you rethinking the Q theory?

Mainly cos some scholars such as Mark Goodacre are rethinking the whole Q thing. I've read a few of the articles and it at leasts seems to be worth bearing in mind. (although I'm always a bit wary of minority theories as such)

: John & 1 John:

I've not studied the authorship thing for a while, but I seem to remember not being sure the two were both from the same author. IIRC JOhn & revelation are almost definitely by different authors, as are 1 John & 2/3 John. I think I may have concluded that John & 1 John were both by members of the good old Johannine school, hence the similarities, but the differences (I think there is a diference in the Greek quality as well as the stylistic ones, but its all very hazy)

: BTW, speaking of the epistles, you have to wonder what the Visual Bible people are going to do when they get around to them.

lol. and how would they do 2 Peter and Jude? Its probably a bit too subversive for the VB to even consider John's letters having different Audiences. But that said the one I'mcurious about it Revelation...

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: : Certainly plausible, though I think the Aramaic source would have to be

: : even one step further back than Q, which I have always thought would

: : have had to be in Greek.

:

: Why have you always thought that? Just cos Luke is a non-Jew?

No, because Matthew and Luke seem to be borrowing from the same Greek source. Presumably, if each author was translating an Aramaic source into Greek in his own distinctive fashion, there would not be as much of a strong overlap between them as there is.

: IIRC JOhn & revelation are almost definitely by different authors . . .

My understanding is that this is church tradition as well, hence St. John the Divine, i.e. the author of Revelation, is distinct from the other saints of that name. But I could be wrong about that.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Well I think someone first said it in 250 AD, but then the fact that it got cannonised after that date suggest that there was no universal acknowledgement of that (or they all just swept it under the carpet to get it in like thay also appear to do with Hebrews).

Surprsingly some today would still asign it to the same author as the gospel writer.

Matt

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  • 2 weeks later...

Peter T Chattaway wrote:

: It occurs to me that Mark may be the only gospel now that has never

: been given the word-for-word treatment.

Whoa! Never mind -- I was just fact-checking some stuff when I came across this blurb at the bottom of the press release announcing that shooting had begun on The Gospel of John:

Visual Bible International intends to produce a new film version of one of the 66 books of the Bible every nine months. The next in the series,
The Gospel of Mark
, is currently in development.

So it seems they're going straight from one gospel to another. I can appreciate the need to fill this gap in the genre, but really, a THIRD Jesus movie (or FOURTH if you count his appearances in Acts)? Aren't there any OTHER unfilmed Bible books just crying out for their attention?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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 Aren't there any OTHER unfilmed Bible books just crying out for their attention?
What have they done other than narrative books? A film of Paul writing a letter doesn't sound like much fun. :crazy3: Of course, some (e.g., the Corinthian letters) could be dramatized with VO, but others (e.g., Romans) wouldn't be very well adapted to visual. I would be interested in discovering who Pseudo-Paul and the Pastor are, though.

The one I think could be interesting is Psalms. Maybe have some of the best animators come up with expressions of some, dancers doing others, nature photography. Of course, someone would have to write music to go with it. Perhaps for Psalm 119, just the corresponding hebrew letter on the screen to demonstrate it's accrostic nature.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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