Biblical Archaeology Review 34:6, November/December 2008

ReViews: Jesus in Movies

Jesus, the Gospels, and Cinematic Imagination: A Handbook to Jesus on DVD

Jeffrey L. Staley and Richard Walsh (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007) viii + 208 pp. (paperback), $19.95

Rarely have I perused a book that adheres so closely to its stated goals, in this instance, as formulated in its subtitle. The heart of this volume indeed consists of 18 chapters, each allotted to a different Jesus film (to use the authors’ term) that is available on DVD. The films range from the well-known to the obscure (at least for me), and cover almost a century of cinematic history from 1905, beginning with the silent film The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ, to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004. In between are works by well-known directors, features specifically made for conservative Christian audiences, updatings, spoofs, musicals, made-for-television miniseries, and even a film populated entirely by puppets.

These chapters are sandwiched between an introductory “Watching Jesus Films” and a concluding “Teaching Jesus Films,” both filled with questions to prime further discussion. These contents are topped off with a minute-by-minute (often second-by-second) listing of key gospel scenes in each DVD, organized within “A Gospel Harmony” that allows professors, ministers or film buffs to go to exactly the desired point without having to search or, as we used to say, “wind and rewind.”

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