Son of God
Christianity had become the primary religion of the Mediterranean world by the 5th Century.
But not every early Christian viewed Jesus in the same way. Some believed that Jesus was completely human while he was on earth. Some found the notion of Jesus being a flawed human offensive and claimed that he was the embodiment of God and nothing more.
In 451, the top holy men met to conclude the debate once and for all. At the Council of Chalcedon (in present day Turkey), the true nature of Jesus was established: Jesus was 100% man and 100% God.
Though the numbers don’t quite add up, the conclusion does make sense. It is consistent with the Bible and it makes the story of Jesus more compelling.
Thinking of Jesus as fully human and fully divine makes the gospels an interesting read. It also makes it very hard to put the story on the big screen. While there are plenty of screenwriters in Hollywood who know how it feels to be a 33-year-old Jewish guy, none of them know how it feels to be a deity.
I suppose that’s why there has never been a truly great film about Jesus. And “Son of God” is no exception.
“Son of God” is an earnest and faithful attempt to retell the story of Jesus. And it’s a bland and unsurprising film.
The movie does a darn good job of expressing Jesus’s philosophy, even some of his more controversial opinions. Jesus (Diogo Morgado) chose to live a life of poverty, and preached against greed and earthly wealth. Jesus is known as a rebel, but he accepted the legitimacy of Roman government and preached respect for earthly institutions. Jesus lived in a world where “an eye for an eye” was the law; Jesus told his followers to forget justice, forget revenge, and to turn their other cheek.
The movie does a horrendous job, though, of building rich characters. Every character is pathetically one dimensional: Thomas doubts, Peter denies, and Jesus’s mother Mary cries. It feels like director Christopher Spencer was literally afraid to make “Son of God” thought-provoking.
Just like in the Bible, Jesus performs a lot of miracles. He multiplies loaves and fish, he heals the sick, he raises the dead. Jesus also seems to have invented sunscreen. That’s the only way to explain how a man that pale walked through the desert all day without a hat and never got burnt.
But the film doesn’t answer the question as to why Jesus chose to perform so many miracles during his brief time on earth. I don’t really understand the purpose of the miracles. The primary tenant of Christianity is to have faith in the divinity of Christ. That is the one rule that all sects of Christianity have in common and it is THE ticket to eternal salvation. However, by witnessing undeniable miracles, it seems like the disciples were robbed of the opportunity to believe in Jesus by taking a leap of faith.
Maybe the idea is that salvation is determined by predestination so it doesn’t matter what proof the disciples saw.
“Son of God” certainly doesn’t try to answer my questions. And that’s part of the problem. I am more interested in theology than the people who made this movie.
The Greatest Story Ever Told deserves to be told with a great movie. “Son of God” isn’t it. (It’s a whole lot better than “The Passion of the Christ,” though).
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