"Jesus in Film: Hollywood Perspectives

on the Jewishness of Jesus"

 by Adele Reinhartz


1. This paper is based on lectures entitled, "Jesus of Hollywood: A Jewish Perspective," delivered at Creighton University (March 22, 1998), and "The Pharisees on Film," delivered at Queen’s University (March 23, 1998).

2. William Klassen, "The Mediterranean Jesus: Context," in Whose Historical Jesus? ed. William E. Arnal and Michel Desjardins (ESCJ 7; Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), 6. The documentary, From Jesus to Christ, emphasizes and explores Jesus’ Jewish identity in detail.

3. E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (London, UK: SCM, 1985); idem., The Historical Figure of Jesus (London, UK: Penguin, 1993); Geza Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism (London, UK: SCM, 1983); Sťan Freyne, Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988); Paula Fredriksen, "What You See is What You Get: Context and Content in Current Research on the Historical Jesus" Theology Today 52 (1995): 75-97.

4. E. P. Sanders, "Jesus and the First Table of the Jewish Law," in Jews and Christians Speak of Jesus, ed. Arthur E. Zannoni (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 71.

5. William E. Arnal, "Making and Re-Making the Jesus-Sign: Contemporary Markings on the Body of Christ," in Whose Historical Jesus? 310.

6. Lawrence H. Schiffman, "The Jewishness of Jesus: Commandments Concerning Interpersonal Relations," in Jews and Christians, 39.

7. Sanders, Historical Figure of Jesus, 254-64.

8. Fredriksen, "Context and Content," 80.

9. John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991), 263.

10. Fredriksen, "Context and Content," 81-82.

11. Arnal, "Making and Re-Making," 310.

12. Marcus Borg, Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1994); N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992); idem, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996).

13. Fredriksen, "Context and Content," 86.

14. Wright, Jesus, 228.

15. Borg, Jesus, 26.

16. Fredriksen, "Context and Content," 88.

17. See, for example, E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), 33-60.

18. Chattaway, "Jesus in the Movies," 31.

19. Oswald Stack, Pasolini on Pasolini: Interviews with Oswald Stack (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970), 82.

20. Ibid., 83.

21. Tatum, Jesus, 112.

22. Stack, Pasolini on Pasolini, 76.

23. Zeffirelli, Jesus, 39.

24. Tatum, Jesus at the Movies, 145.

25. Franco Zeffirelli, Zeffirelli’s Jesus: A Spiritual Diary, trans. Willis J. Egan, S.J. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984 [Italian original, 1977]), 45.

26. Ibid., 59.

27. Ibid., 68.

28. Zeffirelli, Jesus, 6.

29. Ibid., 11.

30. Zeffirelli, Jesus, 101.

31. Graham Chapman, et al, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (of Nazareth) (Toronto: Methuen, 1979), 15.

32. Ibid., 27.

33. On the portrayal of Jesus in rabbinic literature, see Jacob Z. Lauterbach, "Jesus in Talmud," in (New Jewish Expressions on Jesus: An Anthology, ed. Trude Weiss-Rosmarin York: Ktav, 1976), 1-98. Originally published in Jacob Z. Lauterbach, (New Rabbinic Essays York: Ktav, 1973), 473-570.

34. Tatum, Jesus, 164-65.

35. It must be said that no cinematic Jesus would make the best groomed, let alone the best dressed, list, except perhaps for Max von Sydow who stars in George Stevens’ "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

36. The novel makes reference to the high priest’s condemnation of Jesus but does not portray the scene directly. See Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), 445 (originally published in 1961).

37. See note 34 above.

38. Forshey, "Jesus Cycle," 83.

39. See, for example, Sanders, Historical Figure of Jesus, 265-75.

40. Forshey, "Jesus Cycle, 93.

41. Dwight Macdonald, Dwight Macdonald on the Movies (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1969), 428, 436.

42. Ibid.,. 429

43. Ibid., 431.

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