The biblical world of the LightWorkers Media productions by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett sometimes seems not unlike a film about Shakespeare in which lines like “To be or not to be, that is the question” and “The whole world is a stage and all that men and women are just gamblers, ”but everyone seems to have heard them by now. There is no sense of revelation or discovery. nobody is met by them or finds them fascinating.
In the 2014 Jesus film Son of god (adapted from the last episodes of the 2013 miniseries The Bible), Jesus reprimands a hot-headed Peter with the novel words “turn the other cheek”. When Jesus said this in the Gospels, this provocative idea required several verses of explanation and context, but in Son of god Peter immediately understands, as if it were already a familiar cliché.
in the resurrection (adapted from the first episodes of the sequel The Bible goes onand thus a kind of continuation of Son of god), Simon Peter himself (British actor Adam Levy), who speaks to a Zealot resistance fighter, throws brilliantly: “Live by the sword and you die by the sword.”
Peter does so conspicuously on the morning after the crucifixion, with no hint of the freshness of the wound these words were supposed to represent for him – considering that they were the last words of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane a day and a half ago.
On Thursday evening it was Peter who wanted to fight sword in hand until Jesus reprimanded him. Now, barely more than a day later, Peter repeats these words calmly, like a confirmed pacifist who has never thought otherwise.
Such storytelling smooths the arc of divine revelation, the gradual unfolding of God’s plan in history rather than dramatizing it. Everything takes place in a homogeneous, undifferentiated “Bible time”, which is culturally not as different from our time as you might expect.
“We are fishermen,” he smiles, “not fighters.” Imagine fishermen fighting! (Here was a missed opportunity: What if Peter had remorsefully said to both himself and the other man, “We were called to be fishermen of men, not to fight them”?)
I think the most mundane moment in a LightWorkers production could have happened in an exchange in 2016 Ben Hur Remake between Jesus and the protagonist whose mildly anachronistic response to one of Jesus’ most revolutionary demands – “Love your enemies” – was “This is very progressive”.
It’s not just the challenging teachings of Jesus that are taken for granted.