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Friday, April 01, 2011

Jesus On Film

I am in Salem, Oregon hanging out with the Jesus Seminar.

Wednesday featured L. Michael White. He offered an excellent presentation on Paul and the Corinthians.

Yesterday, Shelly Matthews challenged the Jesus Seminar with the insights and commitments of feminist scholarship.

Last night, filmmaker Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Basic Instinct) presented his book on Jesus. He is an interesting guy.

He is not a scholar but has participated in the work of the Jesus Seminar since the mid 80s with the goal of making a film on the historical Jesus. So after all this time he doesn't know how to make a movie on Jesus. Yet he has been on a quest to find Jesus for himself. His new book,
Jesus of Nazareth, is his own portrait of that work. The book doesn't meet scholarly criteria, but it is a fun read.

I was thinking about his inability to make a film about Jesus. On one level, it isn't hard to see why. The historical Jesus appears in shards and fragments. Nothing connects these fragments, except one's own fiction.


His inability to make a Jesus movie perhaps reflects our contemporary struggle to find a meaning for humanity (for which Jesus is a cipher?) when the old mythology crumbles about us. Jesus dying on the cross for sins, rising from the dead, and hanging out in heaven until he gets his assignment to come back again and what all has become meaningless, but we have no myth to place these shards of Jesus' remains.

Let me put it to you.

I am sure you have seen a lot of Jesus movies. Except for Jesus of Montreal, most are pretty lame. How would you make a movie about the historical Jesus? What would the plot be? What is his character? Is it a tragedy or a comedy? Is it even possible?

Today, Friday, the Jesus Seminar on Christian Origins meets to discuss the topic of Corinth. Betsey Robinson of Vanderbilt is going to provide an overview of Ancient Corinth and three papers will be presented on issues surrounding Corinth.

Later this afternoon, we will have a discussion on the possibility of a "God Seminar" (who knows where that conversation could go) and then tonight, it is an "Evening with Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza." I am looking forward especially to that.

I have been asked to serve on a task force regarding making Jesus Seminar insights available to an on-line public. Ideas?
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