New heart and new spirit
Editor: Wickham Clayton

The extreme profitability of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004 came as a great surprise to the Hollywood establishment, particularly considering its failure to find production funding through a major studio. Since then the biblical epic, long thought dead in terms of widespread marketability, has become a viable product. These screen texts, primarily film and television features adapting stories from both the Old and New Testaments, have seen production both inside and outside of Hollywood. Seeking both profits and critical acclaim, as well as providing outlets for auteurist ‘passion projects’ such as Gibson’s film, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014) and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), these texts both follow previous biblical epic traditions, as well as appear distinct stylistically and thematically from the biblical epic in its prime. With 2018 seeing the highly publicised release of Mary Magdalene, an attempt at a feminist take on this controversial figure, as well as Gibson’s announcement that he is in production on a follow-up to The Passion of the Christ, there is no clear evidence that the steady production of biblical media will abate anytime soon. Therefore, academic consideration of the modern biblical epic is both timely and highly relevant. With contributions from scholars such as Mikel J. Koven, Andrew B. R. Elliott and Martin Stollery, and a preface from Adele Reinhartz, this collection aims to be a starting point for initiating this discourse.

Abstract only

The introduction lays out the social, political and cultural landscape that led to and fostered the wave of biblical epics released in the new millennium. Providing a discussion of the theoretical approaches addressed, the introduction gives an overview of the chapters in this volume and defines the purpose of the book.

in The Bible onscreen in the new millennium
The Christian critical reception of elliptical Jesus narratives

This chapter reviews the critical reception of two films which depict fictional accounts of events in the life of Jesus by Christian reviewers and organisations. The Young Messiah (2016) has been positively received by Christian critics, even attaining the ‘Faith-Friendly’ seal of approval from The Dove Foundation, in spite of negative mainstream criticism. Last Days in the Desert (2015), despite having a major star attached, had a weaker distribution deal and was praised for cinematic quality by both mainstream and Christian critics, though more hesitantly recommended by Christian critics for having a somewhat uncertain relationship to institutionally approved faith. This exploration into faith-based reception will aid in the understanding of the relationship between the texts in this modern wave of biblical epics, and what Christians desire to see, stylistically and thematically, in clearly fictional explorations of their religion’s most sacred figures.

in The Bible onscreen in the new millennium