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Bible and Film  

Richard Walsh

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.”

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The Pentateuch  

Thomas B. Dozeman

The Pentateuch (“five books”) is the title for the first five books of the Bible in the Greek translation, known as the Septuagint (LXX). The more original title is the Hebrew, Torah, meaning “law.” The revelation and composition of the Torah is attributed to Moses, which is reflected in the additional designation of the books as the “Torah of Moses.” The authorship of the Pentateuch is central to its interpretation in Jewish and Christian tradition. The Mosaic authorship characterized the interpretation of the Pentateuch in the precritical period of research. The study of the Pentateuch in the modern era has been dominated by the quest to identify its anonymous authors and the changing social contexts in which the literature was written.