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Son of God: Their Empire, His Kingdom, reviewed by Kevin Williams

 

Son of God: Their Empire, His Kingdom (20th Century Fox). Actors: Darwin Shaw, Sebastian Knapp, Paul Knops, and Darcie Lincoln. Directors: Christopher Spencer. Music by Hans Zimmer.

Son of God begins with John’s gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and ends with Jesus before John on the Isle of Patmos, in Revelation 1:17 “Fear not; I am the first and the last.” What falls between is a cinematic, 138-minute encapsulation of the life of Christ.

For the unchurched, this will undoubtedly present a Jesus that is within the boundaries of creative license and tells the story of Christ with great production value, first rate acting, believable costumes and sets, a remarkable soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman Begins), and some very well-executed directing. It is rated PG-13, but that can only be attributed to the violence of the crucifixion, which spares little of Rome’s brutality.

We get a glimpse into Peter, John, Judas, a hint of Thomas, and short but wonderfully poignant episode with Matthew, but nothing of the other disciples. Mary Magdalene is there as well, almost always with Jesus and the twelve, but solitary woman traveling with a rabbi and 12 men across the Israeli countryside simply is not probable.

Eight minutes is given to carry us from Adam and Eve to the wise men standing before Mary and Joseph with the newborn Jesus. It happens quickly, but anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Scripture can keep up. The film truly begins as Jesus walks toward the Sea of Galilee.

On the one hand, the film is very conscientious of the Jewish people. For instance, “Jewish” is routinely the word of choice over “Jews,” the latter considered derogatory within modern Jewish society. The details: from daily life, customs, and dress are followed, but not always. For instance, the tzit-tzit fringes of the prayer shawls of the Pharisees would most certainly have had the Torah-required tekhelet (blue) threads, but few will catch the omission.

For the churched and biblically literate, let us simply say, you will like the book better than the movie. There were few scenes I did not find some problem with its non-adherence to the Bible. There are many liberties taken from Peter fishing to almost no one there to hear the Sermon on the Mount, to name two quick examples. There are many, many more.

The Pharisees are immediately set up as Jesus’ adversaries, but curiously, it is always the same Pharisee, which hardly makes the case for the cause of all Pharisees as antagonists. That is until Nicodemus comes along. He seems to be a willing cohort or even snitch of the High Priest, Caiaphas. Granted, Nicodemus was in the Sanhedrin and Scripture refers to him as “the” teacher of Israel (John 3:10), but that he might be a co-conspirator with Caiaphas is certainly extra-biblical.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2014

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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