The Old Testament Goes Hollywood


I became a Christian because of Hollywood.

Many years ago, when I was a teenager in Brazil, I used to go to the movies every Sunday. One Sunday I saw a preview for a movie titled “The Story of Ruth.” The movie was based on an Old Testament story. The preview was very interesting.

The next Sunday I went to see “The Story of Ruth.” It was a good movie. And that movie brought me to church. On my next post I will explain why that movie brought me to church. I will also write a review of the movie.

Hollywood has presented many movies about the Old Testament. These movies were made during what is called “the golden age” of Hollywood. The golden age of Hollywood was the time from 1920s to 1960s when the major Hollywood studios produced a high number of classical movies that are consider masterpieces in cinematography.

My son J. R. is a movie lover. He has a collection of more than 5,000 Blue-rays and DVDs. Every Friday he comes to our house to eat dinner and watch a movie with my wife and me. J. R., together with his friend Dane, have a YouTube channel, “The Cult Lords” in which they review movies. Their reviews are very entertaining. If you like movies, you should visit and subscribe to their channel. I am sure you will enjoy their reviews (You should watch their Star Wars Cold Openings; it is very funny).

One night, after dinner, my son and I were talking about biblical movies. J. R. suggested that I should review movies about the Old Testament. I thought it was a good idea. In 2005 J. R. suggested that I should begin sharing my knowledge of the Old Testament in a blog. I have been blogging ever since.

So, at the suggestion of my son, I will take the Old Testament to Hollywood. I have been interested in biblical movies since I became a Christian. In fact, I have published three articles dealing with Old Testament movies.

I have published “Deborah on Films,” “Jonah on Films, and “Ezra on Films.” These three articles were published in the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception.

I have also consulted with movie producers. The producers of the movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” called me to ask about death, life after death, and the concept of resurrection. The movie deals with the death and the resurrection of Superman. At the funeral of Superman, musicians played “Amazing Grace,” one of the suggestions I made.

I could not share my contribution to the movie with anyone until after the release of the movie. My name does not appear in the credits, but I received an autographed copy of the poster for the movie as a gesture of appreciation for my contribution. No one will ever know that I had a small part in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, ” but the signed poster tells the story of my input into one of Hollywood’s great movies.

I must say one important word about movies dealing with Old Testament people and events. Every movie about the Old Testament must include some adaptation and some creative writing because the Old Testament does not provide much background information about some of the main characters in the stories found in the Bible.

For instance, we know nothing about Ruth while she lived in Moab. So, the writer for the movie “The Story of Ruth” had to develop a story about Ruth’s early life in Moab before she came to Israel. And from my perspective, he does a good job in imagining Ruth’s life in Moab. In the same way, the Bible says nothing about the life of Noah before he began building the ark. However, the writers for the movie “Noah” do a very poor job in creating Noah’s life before he began building the ark.

In the next weeks and months, I will review a few movies about the Old Testament. If you want to follow a blog dedicated to biblical movies, you should visit Bible Film Blogs by Matt Page.

These are some of the movies dealing with the Old Testament.

The Story of Ruth. My first movie review will be “The Story of Ruth.” This movie was released in 1960 and it was based on the book of Ruth. The film stars Stuart Whitman as Boaz, Elana Eden as Ruth, and Peggy Wood as Naomi. I will review this movie first because it was the movie who brought me to the Bible and to church.

The Book of Genesis. This movie is part of The New Media Bible series and it was released in 1979. This project was intended to recreate the entire Bible on films. “The Book of Genesis” was made into three parts: Part I: from Genesis to Abraham. Part II: The Story of Isaac and Jacob. Part III: The Story of Joseph.

In this movie, Chaim Topol (of “Fiddler on the Roof”) plays Abraham. Part I has the best portrayal of the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2. It clearly shows why Genesis 1 and 2 are two different stories of creation. I showed this segment every year to my Old Testament classes at Northern Seminary.

The Ten Commandments. “The Ten Commandments” was released in 1956 and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The movie stars Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Rameses. I consider “The Ten Commandments” to be one of the best Old Testament movies ever made. Cecil B. DeMille also directed another movie titled “The Ten Commandments.” This movie was released in 1923. I have not seen this movie.

Moses the Lawgiver. Most people are familiar with the Moses played by Charlton Heston, but few people are familiar with the Moses played by Burt Lancaster. “Moses the Lawgiver” stars Burt Lancaster as Moses and Irene Papas as Zipporah. The reason most people do not know this movie is because this is an Italian movie that appeared first as a TV miniseries. I believe that this movie presents a more realistic view of Moses.

Moses. This 1995 movie stars Ben Kingsley as Moses, Frank Langella as Merneptah, and Enrico Lo Verso as Joshua. The movie was produced under the auspices of the TNT Network. The Moses of this movie is not very convincing.

Exodus: Gods and Kings. This 2014 movie was directed and produced by Ridley Scott and stars Christian Bale as Moses, Joel Edgerton as Ramses II, John Turturro as Seti I, and Aaron Paul as Joshua. This is a good movie, but it deviates some from the Old Testament.

Noah. “Noah” was released in 2014. The movie was directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Russell Crowe as Noah and Ray Winstone as Tubal-cain. If I tell you that Tubal-cain survived the flood, you know that the movie is bad. I think that the movie is a poor imagination of what happened in the days of Noah.

Jeremiah. “Jeremiah” was a made-for-television movie which was released in 1998 and stars Patrick Dempsey as the prophet Jeremiah and Vincent Regan as King Zedekiah. This movie is also part of TNT’s Bible Collection series. From my perspective, this movie is a very poor adaptation of Jeremiah’s life and ministry.

There are many other good Old Testament movies that I watched a long time ago, movies that I would like to review in the coming months. Here are a few movies that deserve a review:

Samson and Delilah. “Samson and Delilah” is a 1949 movie produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The movie stars Victor Mature as Samson and Hedy Lamarr as Delilah.

David and Bathsheba. “David and Bathsheba” is a 1951 movie directed by Henry King and produced by Darryl F. Canuck. The movie stars Gregory Peck as King David and Susan Hayward as Bathsheba.

Solomon & Sheba. “Solomon & Sheba” is a 1959 movie directed by King Vidor. The movie stars Yul Brynner as Solomon, Gina Lollobrigida as Sheba; George Sanders as Adonijah, and Marisa Pavan as Abishag.

Sins of Jezebel. “Sins of Jezebel” is a 1953 movie starring Paulette Goddard as Jezebel, Eduard Franz as Ahab, and George Nader as Jehu.

One Night with the King. “One Night with the King” is a 2006 movie based on the life of Esther. The movie stars Tiffany Dupont as Esther, Luke Goss as King Xerxes I of Persia, and John Rhys-Davies as Mordecai. This is a good movie, however the movie develops several plots and characters that are not found in the book of Esther.

There are many other Old Testament movies, old and new, too many to mention. I hope to watch these movies again and review them as I take the Old Testament to Hollywood.

As for the New Testament, if you have not seen The Passion of the Christ, you have missed the best and the most realistic movie about the life of Christ. The movie was produced, directed and co-written by Mel Gibson. The movie stars Jim Caviezel as Jesus of Nazareth. My wife and I had the privilege of attending the premiere of the movie in which Mel Gibson was present and spoke about the making of the movie. I also received a numbered poster of the movie. “The Passion of the Christ” is a great movie.

I will see you at the movies.

MOVIE REVIEWS

The Story of Ruth – The Movie

The Story of Ruth – A Movie Review

Samson and Delilah – The Movie

Samson and Delilah – A Movie Review

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba – The Movie

Solomon and Sheba – A Movie Review

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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If you are looking for other series of studies on the Old Testament, visit the Archive section and you will find many studies that deal with a variety of topics.

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