Added Update Below
I just got home from watching The Young Messiah with my wife and son. A few quick thoughts.
- I think it would be best, personally, to leave what the Spirit has not revealed to the wisdom of God. None of the gnostic gospels were helpful. It just isn’t a needed area of speculation.
- I do not think it is a violation of the 2nd Commandment to make a movie or the like about Jesus. I know many who do. However, I believe the making of images prohibited in that commandment is directly relevant to worship, first of all, and secondly, involves a human speculation about something God has not revealed. But the Son did, in fact, enter into human flesh, and I do not believe God would have struck a child dead for drawing a picture of Jesus on the ground. If you worship an image of Jesus, that is wrong. But portraying Him in the historical context of His own personal revelation is not. That’s my understanding.
- As to the film itself, I could provide a better discussion of how the original book, Out of Egypt, was transformed, edited, and “cleaned up,” if I had read that book. I have not, and do not have time to. I have read articles indicating that all the gnostic elements were removed. Well, mainly, yes. For example, the scene with the bird was quite different than I expected. It was not that Jesus formed a bird and made it alive. Instead, He found a dead bird, and brought it back to life. Some of the Infancy Gospel stories were in the back of one of the main early conflicts about a boy who was killed and Jesus was falsely accused of it. But the nasty Jesus of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was nowhere to be found. Instead, Satan himself had a major role in the film (which was rather creepy).
- I read an interesting article this morning (original review, discussion with author) where Ben Witherington interviewed the original author, and though Witherington is a good bit to my left, most of my problems with the film were raised by him. Issues relating especially to the idea of some inherent magical “power” residing in Jesus because of who He is, in particular, were first and foremost on my mind. Rice had clearly heard the objections and actually offered an apologetic (though not an overly strong one in my opinion). This included the fact that the idea Jesus was running around performing miracles just because of who He was is out of harmony with the role of the Spirit in His life, the whole Messianic purpose, ministry, etc. and etc. Lots of issues there.
- There were a couple of historical things that stood out, like the Romans walking about in the Temple (ask Paul how that Gentile thing in the Temple went), that made me chuckle a bit. But it was part of the sub-plot that made things interesting. I did catch an echo of the Infancy Gospel when Mary talked about weaving veils in the Temple, too. The acting was really good, as was the cinematography. The picture above is from the Temple scene where Jesus faces the centurion (Sean Bean, who always seems to do a good job) sent by Herod to kill him (at least the speculation about Herod is probably spot on). I have to admit, the healing of the blind rabbi was pretty heart warming.
So thumbs up or thumbs down? Well, it isn’t for everyone. But it was not a pile of gnostic silliness as I expected it to be. It has a decent historical context, and obviously an attempt was made to try to safeguard, as best you can when you are wandering around in the dark without any solid ground to stand on, the biblical truths about Jesus. But I guess I will leave it to the reader as to whether you will go see it or not. Just this thought: as I walked toward the theater after purchasing the tickets, I scanned what was playing. And I had to admit, there wasn’t a single other thing up there that wouldn’t have assaulted my mind with evil, profanity, sex, violence, etc. It sure stood out on that level, to be sure.
Quick Addition: Woke up this morning thinking about something I forgot to add. It did seem the producers went with the “Jesus as the only child of Mary” theme. I even leaned over to my son at one point and asked, “Where are the rest of the brothers?” because there is only one, James, and he is clearly not the child of Mary. Of course, given Jesus is only seven in the movie, it is possible to theorize the others came later, but that’s stretching it a bit. So that could very well be another echo of the gnostic gospels. It also functioned as a “non-complicating” tactic, too, keeping the screen a bit less jumbled and the plot a bit easier to follow.