Son of God: heavy on atmosphere, light on sacrifice

Ron Vanderwell

Ron Vanderwell
February 27, 2014

Son of God is a compelling portrayal of first-century Israel, but it doesn't spend much time on the why of Jesus' sacrifice.

February 28, 2014

I went to see Son of God tonight with a charitable outlook and an open mind. I truly was excited by the evangelical emphasis and community outreach that this movie had been generating. I was entirely prepared to accept some minor inaccuracies and artistic/dramatic liberties in the screenplay. But as much as I WANT (truly WANT) to embrace this film, I really feel that it may undermine my job as a Bible teacher, and for that I can't help but feel let down.

Let me illustrate what I mean with just one example: the raising of Lazarus. The Gospel of John very clearly depicts Jesus as instructing his disciples to remove the stone, then standing outside Lazarus' tomb and calling him to come out--which he does. But in Son of God, Jesus and Mary (Lazarus' sister) actually enter the tomb, and Jesus proceeds to "breathe life" into Lazarus through the crown of his head. Okay, now I get the idea of artistic liberty and agree that the basic point and emphasis of the story remains the same regardless of how it's depicted, but I still found myself asking, "What was wrong with the way the Bible says it happened? Why did we need a different story?"

It bothers me because now, as a Bible teacher, when someone comes to me and asks about where they can find that story in the Bible, I have to point them to the text that contains different details, and then I have to explain that the portrait they saw in the movie doesn't actually fit the details as the biblical authors--eyewitnesses--gave us. I guess I wonder if this sort of thing won't undermine responsible biblical hermeneutics, causing seekers to question whether it's really even necessary to believe the eyewitnesses got every detail right, as long as the "basic story" is intact.

Another aspect of the plot that bothered me was the addition of non-biblical dialogue between Judas and Jesus recasting the devilish motives of the betrayer. I get what the filmmakers were after; I do. It just smacks of eisegesis to me.

I probably won't be popular for posting a comment like this. Let me reiterate how much I WANT to appreciate this film...and I certainly DO appreciate the production values and considerable conversation-starter value of the endeavor. But I guess I still just feel a bit let down.

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