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The Last Temptation of Christ


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#121 SDG

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 12:35 PM

I'm glad you understood what I was driving at. It kind of confirms my hunch that there isn't really much a film can do to portray Christ's divinity. There's a lot a film can do wrong to detract from Christ's divinity, but when people say film X does a good job of portraying Jesus' divinity they probably mean it doesn't mess it up.

"Not messing it up" is obviously crucial, but it's more than that.

On the one hand, I would agree with you, and perhaps even take it a step further, and say that Christ's "divinity" cannot be directly portrayed at all, except by symbolism. Even in direct experience of Jesus himself as he actually lived on earth, only his humanity would be available for inspection (including privileged moments like the Transfiguration, where we glimpse humanity glorified or divinized, not divinity itself).

Nevertheless, Jesus' humanity reveals his divinity. Above all, in his unique filial familiarity and intimacy with the Father. Also in his unique authority and its effect on people; in his presuming to forgive sins; in the (real if not unarguable) complete absence of anything like sin or error on his part. A film that depicts Jesus in this light may well succeed in depicting, not Jesus' divinity itself, but how his humanity reveals his divinity, which is as much as human art can aspire to do.

#122 M. Leary

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 01:37 PM

Actually, the whole issue of blasphemy is interesting, because technically, the film is blasphemous, but not in the way people think. The film uses Jesus Christ as a metaphor for spirituality. And, under a technical definition of blasphemy, if Jesus is regarded as something other than holy God incarnate, you're being blasphemous. And so the film takes the character of Jesus and uses Him as a metaphor for our spiritual feelings and says, "What if this happened, what if He yielded to temptation?"

I never understand this quotation.


I don't think that is your fault. The reasoning behind the quote is flawed for a number of reasons.

People often confuse blasphemy and heresy. Blasphemy is an event that happens at the level of language which intends to subvert faith in a given theological tradition or religious artifact (jargonized: Blasphemy is always a speech-act). Something like Piss Christ, for example, can be considered blasphemous because it subverts a religious symbol by reproducing it in a profane context (urine). It causes a breakdown in the actual meaning of the symbol by removing it from its theological network and delegitimizing its role as a means of religious identity formation.

Heresy is something different. The technical definition of heresy, which takes its cue from the second century, has to do with the way we narrate Jesus traditions. Irenaeus, for example, describes the process of producing a non-canonical gospel as taking a fine statue, dismantling it, and recreating it in the image of a dog or something ugly. We tend to think of orthodoxy as correct information, but that isn't quite right. In the second century, orthodoxy was considered correct information about Jesus in a correct format. Heresy was as much an aesthetic issue as it was a data issue. The canonical gospels weren't accepted because they agreed with each other, but because they collectively adhered to a kerygmatic pattern. Heresy inherently devalues the divinity and the humanity of Christ by rearranging gospel traditions (oral or written) by means of alternative narrative forms.

So next natural question: Is there any state of affairs in which it is theologically legitimate to temporarily rearrange the gospels in such a way that we produce a hypothetical Jesus? (E.g., he slept with Mary, he was confused about his divinity, he sinned, etc...). If we say no, then we make the mistake of conflating Jesus Christ with the canonical text that describes Jesus as Christ. But if we say yes, then we run the risk of undermining the fact that Christian theology is ultimately bound to texts that have a distinct historical relationship to Jesus himself. This is such a conundrum because the second century definition of heresy forces us to grapple with the scandal of the canon, which itself is linked to the scandal of the incarnation.

All this is to say that there is a difference between proposing that we hypothetically consider a world in which Jesus sinned, and actually proposing that Jesus sinned. But the kind of heresy we see in Last Temptation occurs when the distinction between these two ways of speaking is either glossed over or ignored. There are no indications in Last Temptation that what we are seeing is a hypothetical Jesus or that historical or existential propositions about Jesus made in the film are to be taken only as temporary reconfigurations of the canonical pattern. It is corrupt information embedded in a corrupt narrative form. It ultimately reconstitutes Jesus without providing any means to reverse the process. Heresy is a one way street.

Last Temptation isn't a blasphemous film. It isn't angry or mercenary. It doesn’t seek to delegitimize any core Christian symbols or rituals. But it is heretical, because it rearranges the gospel traditions in such a way that devalues Jesus' divinity in its use of his existential crisis as a metaphor for all spiritual struggle.

The tougher question though is: Can heresy ever have a constructive purpose? Many Christians consider things like Piss Christ, or March Chagall’s crucifixions as intellectually stimulating even though they are technically blasphemous. Does the technical definition of heresy permit us the same heuristic latitude?

#123 M. Leary

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 01:44 PM

On the one hand, I would agree with you, and perhaps even take it a step further, and say that Christ's "divinity" cannot be directly portrayed at all, except by symbolism.


This is precisely why I love talking about something like Au hasard Balthazar as a Jesus film. Balthazar becomes an excellent metaphor for Christ's divinity in that he moves through the film as a mute witness that can't connect ontologically to anything else in the film. He is the reason for the film. As the titular character in the film, he permeates every frame. But he is ultimately rejected by everything in the film itself. This is all real Johannine stuff.

I think there are far less actual Christ figures in cinema than we think, because they really only exist in these odd and inconvenient places.

#124 Anders

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 08:16 PM

On the one hand, I would agree with you, and perhaps even take it a step further, and say that Christ's "divinity" cannot be directly portrayed at all, except by symbolism.


This is precisely why I love talking about something like Au hasard Balthazar as a Jesus film. Balthazar becomes an excellent metaphor for Christ's divinity in that he moves through the film as a mute witness that can't connect ontologically to anything else in the film. He is the reason for the film. As the titular character in the film, he permeates every frame. But he is ultimately rejected by everything in the film itself. This is all real Johannine stuff.

I think there are far less actual Christ figures in cinema than we think, because they really only exist in these odd and inconvenient places.


You mean like the guy behind Winkies in MULHOLLAND DRIVE? ;)

Joking.

Seriously, this is really fascinating stuff from everyone.

#125 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 02:00 AM

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.

: Y'see what puzzles me whenever I have this debate is that, to me, Jesus of Montreal is a far more heretical film. . . . I never really understand why Christian critics praise this so much and yet criticise the more orthodox Last Temptation.

Well, for one thing, apart from being a foreign-language film, there is also the fact that it is about a modern person who reconstructs the life of Jesus, rather than an actual reconstruction of the life of Jesus itself. The line is admittedly blurred a bit because of the prominence of the play-within-the-film, but the movie admits its own tenuousness in a way that The Last Temptation doesn't.

Ryan H. wrote:
: Portraying his sinlessness, his knowledge of the future, his confidence in his access to the mind of the Father, I think, would all be good places to start.

FWIW, like Matt, I don't think "knowledge of the future" would necessarily convey Jesus' divinity. It would mark him as a prophet, sure, just like his healings do. But not necessarily much more than that.

: We can portray him as troubled (I've already remarked that I appreciate that THE LAST TEMPTATION is one of the few Jesus movies--if not the only one --that gives Jesus any kind of internal emotional life of his own) . . .

Not quite the only one. 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.

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. Admittedly, when SDG brought it up, he said it gives us a glimpse of "humanity glorified or divinized, not divinity itself", but I can't think of any other Jewish prophet who ever had a moment quite like that. Moses, of course, spent so much time with God that his face began to shine; and Elijah, of course, rode up to heaven in a fiery chariot; and it is profoundly significant, of course, that both Moses and Elijah are there with Jesus at his Transfiguration. But there is no indication in the text that Jesus got his radiance from any heavenly agent, the way that Moses and Elijah did; Jesus simply glows on his own, as it were. (The Father does address the apostles from a cloud soon after this, but to go by the way the story is written, it would seem the cloud arrived there AFTER Jesus began to shine.)

: 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).

: Christianity is far more Greek than it is Jewish.

I would dispute that, though I do think Christianity flourished among Hellenized, Diaspora Jews much more readily than it did among what you might call Hebraic, Palestinian Jews.

M. Leary wrote:
: The great hypostatic party line on this is that Jesus' was perfect relative to every stage of his emotional and cognitive development. The corollary: Jesus' self-perception as divine progressed at the same pace of his emotional and cognitive development.

Well put.

: Would it not have taken Jesus an equivalent amount of time to understand the Scriptures and his relationship to them?

Oh man. I suddenly had a flashback to Damien: Omen II and the bit where the teenaged boy realizes that all those "prophecies" about the Antichrist are actually about HIM -- causing him to run outside and yell at the sky, "Why ME!?"

#126 MattPage

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 05:08 AM

: 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

#127 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 05:41 AM

: 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?

#128 M. Leary

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 08:26 AM

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, 19 March 2010 - 08:28 AM.


#129 MattPage

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 08:50 AM

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

#130 Darrel Manson

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 09:17 AM


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.

#131 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 09:18 AM

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.

#132 MattPage

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 09:54 AM

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, 19 March 2010 - 09:54 AM.


#133 M. Leary

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 09:58 AM

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.

#134 Darrel Manson

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 10:19 AM

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.

#135 MattPage

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 10:20 AM

1 on 1?

Matt

#136 Darrel Manson

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 10:22 AM

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.

#137 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 10:30 AM

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.

#138 M. Leary

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 10:31 AM

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.

#139 Darrel Manson

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 10:39 AM

1 on 1?

Matt

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

#140 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 10:53 AM

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.