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date: 17 April 2024

Bible and Filmlocked

Bible and Filmlocked

  • Richard WalshRichard WalshDepartment of Philosophy and Religion, Methodist University


For most, the designation “Bible and film” refers to the studio epics of the 1950s, as well as Mel Gibson’s financially successful The Passion of the Christ. This designation, however, also includes silents, travelogues, documentaries, musicals, comedies, parodies, television miniseries and serials, shorts, and avant-garde art films. Other than Jesus, who starred in numerous passion plays, the most popular biblical film subjects are those characters or stories already successful in 19th-century theater, operas, or novels. Since at least the 1990s, “Bible and film” has also referred to the work of biblical critics. Such scholars deal in semiotics, ideology, and reception criticism rather than the theology and apologetics of their precursors. These scholars have vastly expanded work under the “Bible and film” umbrella to include the Bible’s cinematic use as artifact, quotation, and so forth; the Bible and film (films that seem biblical, like so-called Christ figure or messianic films, only after convincing arguments); and film as Bible (where film functions as some biblical texts do). The most important recent developments in Bible and film, however, are technological advances in delivery systems and niche marketing. These developments, not Gibson’s success alone, appear to be driving the recently renewed interest in biblical films. Now, old films, including silents, and films from more diverse cultural perspectives (e.g., Indian and Islamic biblical films) are available to more people than ever before. While Christian Bibles may still dominate film, one can find other cultural perspectives as well as films or interpretations that challenge “the dominant.”


  • Religion and Art

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