I recently took a group from the church I pastor, Eureka Baptist Church, to see Roma Downey' sand Mark Burnett's movie "Son of God". This blog is a review of their movie.
Let me first say that this blog seeks accuracy and authenticity. It seeks to be Berean and not blind. Downey and Burnett need to be applauded for their love of Christ and His story. However, this doesn't mean that there shouldn't be accountability for accuracy and authenticity.
This movie opens with breath taking accuracy as it affirms the preincarnate Christ according to Colossians 1:15-20. This lands a damaging blow to those cults who believe Christ was created by God and not one with God. However, this strong opening quickly faded into 2 hours of timeline confusions and creative liberties.
Our first glimpse of Jesus ministry was in his calling of Peter. The movie's rendering of this account is partially accurate. Peter is portrayed as being the only one called to follow in this sequence. However, Luke 5, states that Andrew, James, and John were also present and called.
Peter's calling is presented as more of a pleading than a calling. Jesus in the movie pleads when he says, "Peter, just give me an hour and I'll give you a whole new life." Scripture never presents Jesus as pleading with anyone to follow him.
After Peter's great catch he inquires of Jesus as to what they were going to do to which Jesus responds; "we are going to change the world". Again this is not said by Jesus though it is stated in Scripture as being said about the disciples (Acts 17:6). Peter's response to his catch is described in Luke 5:8 as repentance and in Luke 5:11; they left all and followed him.
Jesus came into the world to save sinners from the righteous wrath of God, which is the just penalty for our sins. He never said He came to change the world. He said He came to transform people by giving them new hearts and new minds through repentance and faith in Christ alone.
The Mary I Didn't Know
Scripture list twelve disciples all men (Peter, Andrew, James and John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas Iscariot). However, Son of God attributes to Jesus as having 13 disciples, with this new disciple being a woman named Mary. She is always with them; especially in stories such as Jesus walking on water.
She is portrayed as having greater faith than the other disciples including two occasions where she puts forth a rebuke. She is also seen in those disciple-only teachings of Christ.
Her bravery and strength is portrayed as far exceeding her male counterparts. She is screams at the crowd during Christ crucifixion. She is the only woman to go to the tomb. She also accompanies Peter and John who later come to the empty tomb to see for themselves. In Scripture, three women go to the tomb early in the morning and are greeted by angels who remind them that Jesus said He would rise on the third day. In the movie, then she and the disciples remember all this on their own.
Nicodemus and Barabbas
Both of these men are seen far more in the script of this movie than in Scripture. Nicodemus is mentioned only twice in all of Scripture (John 3 & 19). However, he is given a prominence that is just not known and shouldn't be assumed.
I was shocked by Barabbas reoccurring presences. He is only mentioned in the context of Christ trial before his own people. However, in the movie is makes at least 3 additional appearances.
Lazarus Raised by Kiss not Command
Scripture teaches that Jesus delayed his going to Lazarus on purpose so that he might die. When Jesus arrives, He is greeted by Martha (one of Lazarus' sisters) who says, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Martha confesses that Jesus is the Christ and that she believes she will see her brother on the last day, the resurrection. Then Jesus tells her that He is the resurrection and the life. Shortly after telling her this, as He comes to the tomb He weeps. Then from outside the tomb, the Lord Jesus commanded, "Lazarus, come out." With his face wrapped in a cloth and the rest of his body wrapped in linen strips, Lazarus obeys Christ and comes out of the tomb.
In Son of God Burnett and Downey clearly take creative liberties into an unbiblical realm. Jesus is found by Martha as Mary, the 13th disciples, spots her weeping as they were walking through a crowded street. Martha informs them that Lazarus has died to which Jesus appears to be surprised, which by the way happens on several occasions. Jesus asks to be taken to Lazarus. Upon his arrival Jesus walks into the tomb. He weeps but never speaks. Mary and Martha go into the tomb with Him. Jesus bends down and places his lips on the crown of Lazarus head. After a few seconds Jesus and Lazarus both open their eyes simultaneously. It is a powerful and dramatic moment. However, it is not accurate and not as powerful as the Biblical account.
The Reluctant Judas
Scripture paints Judas as a lover of money and not of people or the Messiah. He willingly betrays Christ for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus while eating his last meal with His disciples grids himself and expresses greatness in a visual form. During this time his says to Judas "what you are going to do, do quickly".
In, Son of God, the Upper Room sequence tells quiet a different story. Jesus never washes His disciples feet. It is during this meal he tells them, for the first time, of his impending death. And this only occurring after a sudden vision of his betrayal. Again this is totally inaccurate as Jesus foretold his death on three separate occasions (Matthew 16:21, 20:17-19; Mark 8:31).
What is further astounding in this sequence is Jesus being portrayed as forcing Judas to betray him. Judas is portrayed as a sorrowful unwillingly participant until Jesus lovingly insist that he do it, and do it quickly.
There are many additional issues such as where Jesus was and who he was speaking to when he prophesied concerning the Temple's destruction.
Nicodemus though told that he needed to be "born again" was never told why. There is a reference to Christ's Great Commission. However, it was lacking in what makes the "Good News" good and that there is "Bad News". Though Jesus twice tells people "to go and sin no more" there is no other mention of sin or why one needs to trust in Him.
Matthew's encounter with Jesus was powerful though not totally accurate as it relates to context. The Pharisees and Sadducees feelings and attitudes towards Christ was anything but accurate. In the movie, the Pharisees want Jesus dead, not out of sinful hatred and jealously, but out of deep concern to spare the people of Israel any further harm from the Roman Empire.
I was often uneasy throughout the movie due to its blatant inaccuracies in lieu of creative licenses. Scripture needs no creative help. It needs no one to fill in its perceived gaps. We have what is necessary so let us rest by faith it what has been recorded.
This movie would not be productive for a new or novice Christian; as it will create confusion and introduce extra biblical material as true Scripture. I want to see faith-based movies succeed and I am sure "Son of God" will be very profitable. However, I desire to see faith-based movies that are accurate portrayals of the biblical record.