It is easy to say that Bible movies are based on the scriptures, but do they go too far and take too many liberties? This question has been debated since the dawn of Bible cinema, and with good reason. But I think there is more to it, there is something surprising about the nature of stories themselves.
The Beginnings of Bible Stories
Historically, the early Church had very few written documents. All of the stories of Jesus were memorized and passed down verbally. The beginnings of the New Testament Bible did not begin to come together for hundreds of years. And while writings of the Apostles did exist, very few people had access to only a small number of them. So the everyday person learned everything they knew about Jesus through stories.
The Heart of Christian Movies
Do you think every early Christian was able to perfectly memorize all of the New Testament? Probably not, and while they did memorize some common things, the major teaching point was passing on the essence of what happened along with as many hard facts as one could recall. They were amazingly good at it too. But the point that we often miss when looking at Bible movies is that they tell stories visually. And the stories are told the way that the directors and producers understand them.
It is amazing if you think about it. The directors of modern Bible films are taking on the role of Bible teachers from the early Church. Telling the true Bible stories the way that they understand them, with as many hard facts as they can fit in. Sure some people say that producers and directors take too much liberty when creating Bible movies, and I suppose that sometimes they are right. But if you look at the Bible movie industry as a whole, I think that many of them are representing the scriptures like any true story they would tell. And so many Christian movies that are based on the Bible fall into this same category.
Putting Bible Movies In Perspective
I recall listening to some missionaries tell stories about preaching in other countries where there are no Bibles and the interpreters are not very experienced. They cannot teach from the scriptures line upon line, sometimes they do not even have a Bible themselves. So what did they do? They had to relate to the people the same way that Jesus did, they told stories. Stories from the Bible, stories about things they had experienced, and stories with illustrations that the people would understand. In fact, the great evangelists from the Book of Acts did not have Bibles to carry around and quote from. They had to rely on God’s help and become inspired story tellers.
So when we look at directors of modern day Bible movies, let’s not criticize them for not using the Scripture in exact detail. Instead, let’s see how well they told the story and how well they communicated the essence of God’s Word. After all, the early Apostles were not perfect, why would we expect our modern Christian movie directors to be? Image courtesy of Janaka Dharmasena / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Different Bible Films Have Different Purposes
And in some ways different Bible films made of the same Bible story are like different translations of the scriptures. Some are very accurate to the original text, and some help us understand and see the meaning behind the stories in new ways.
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