Most of us here at Bible Gateway are book geeks. There are several hundred books—many of them different Bible translations—within 15 feet of my desk here at Bible Gateway headquarters. And although I haven’t polled my coworkers, I suspect that most of them are the sort of readers who eye movie adaptations of written works with suspicion or even snobby disdain (I’ll never forgive Peter Jackson for leaving Tom Bombadil out of The Fellowship of the Ring).
The Bible, of course, is not “just” an ordinary book, and no film adaptation of a Bible story could surpass the power of the Scriptures. But as I’ve been reviewing the Holy Week accounts from the Gospels this week, I’ve been thinking about the long tradition of films about Jesus and the Easter story.
The Easter story has made the transition to film many, many times and in many different ways. Some films aim for strict accuracy. Others take dramatic liberties with the story or tell it from the perspective of fictional characters. Some have bent the Easter narrative even further, setting it in modern time periods or depicting it critically.
The widely-translated Jesus film and The Passion of the Christ are two films that aim for a relatively straightforward retelling of the Scriptural accounts, often holding to the exact dialogue recorded in the Gospels. Other movies, like Ben-Hur or The Robe, include the Easter story as an important element but frame it within a fictional, non-Biblical narrative.
Below: a scene from the Jesus film depicting the discovery of the empty tomb.
I haven’t seen many of these films, so I’m interested to hear from the movie fans out there: What film, if any, do you think best adapts the Easter story?
And more specifically, what makes that film a good adaptation of the Scriptural account? Does your favorite Easter film stick with total accuracy to the language of Scripture? Does it take liberties with the dialogue, but communicate the emotional power of the cross? Or is it something else that makes it work?
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