"Son of God" (2014) movie review

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Visually beautiful: casting, costumes, cityscapes, and landscapes. Diogo Morgado as Jesus.
Contemporary dialogue. After saying, "I will make you a fisher of men," Jesus invites Peter to come "change the world."
Theological, historical, and scriptural problem: "Son of God" does not mean "God the Son."
"Son of God" (History Channel)
Based on "The Bible" mini-series.
LightWorkers Media
Dialogue from the trailer: "Are you the Son of God?" "I am." "Blasphemer!"
The blasphemy is in the next part of the verse, not in the claim to be "Son of God": "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Mk 14:62).
2 hours, 20 minutes long.
Katherine Monk, "Jesus' Greatest Hits."
"Torture porn."
"The moviemakers fabricate miracles for us to believe in — as though cinematic sleight of hand should be taken as proof of Christ’s holiness."
Daniel Eagan, "Son of God."
Follows the gospel of John. Three-year ministry.
Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (who also plays Mary, the mother of Jesus), the creative force behind the hit TV series "Touched by an Angel," deserve credit for their sincere, heartfelt approach to the material. Within reason, they are entitled to their own interpretation of scripture—even if the preponderance of Mary's close-ups threatens to turn this into a vanity project.
Strictly on a moviemaking level, this is routine stuff, poorly paced, weirdly structured, indifferently acted. The story deserves better.
Viewers will either resent or prefer Son of God's easygoing, watered-down message. The hard parts of what the scriptural Christ preached—love your enemies, believe in the unknowable, abandon all earthly things, live a life of sacrifice—are largely missing here.
Keith Phipps, "Son of God."
[Normal path: from movie theaters to TV; this reverses direction, starting life as part of a TV series and now entering the theaters as a movie.]
The most effective parts of Son Of God are the ones that serve the mission of The History Channel, placing Jesus’ mission in the midst of an ongoing conflict between the Roman Empire and Jewish authorities. They’re too brief, however, and the film’s not much more effective when it comes to conveying what Christianity’s about, either. The first recital of The Lord’s Prayer gets cut off before it ends—one of the many moments when Son Of God feels designed to cut to commercial—and a sermon plays out in the background while some disciples chatter with skeptical rabbis in the foreground. Anyone wanting to learn something about Jesus would be better off looking elsewhere.
The Bible played to great ratings on TV, hence this repackaging. If Son Of God finds a similar audience in theaters it will say more about the absence of better, more thoughtful religious films than its own virtues.
Peter Chattaway, "Jesus Returns to the Big Screen in Son of God."
Son of God works as a pop illustration of certain Bible stories, but it’s not exactly life-changing in and of itself.


Does the movie follow the gospel of John?
The movie opens and ends with John in exile on Patmos, and it has a few Johannine features, but it freely adds in any number of elements from the synoptics: Jesus' baptism by John, parables, miracles, the Sermon on the Mount (beatitudes, Lord's prayer, new commandments), the Agony in the Garden, the Ascension. It leaves John out of key scenes where John's gospel features "the disciple whom Jesus loved": at the Last Supper, in the courtyard of the High Priest's house where Peter denies Jesus three times, and at the empty tomb.
Was John really alone in exile?
Legend has it that he was accompanied by one disciple and that he converted some inhabitants to Christianity during his exile.
Would Joseph have been present at the birth of Jesus?
Almost certainly not. Mary would have been surrounded by women, all things being equal.
Why is there no theophany after Jesus is baptized by John?
This bothers me very much. The movie shows the baptism (full immersion--Protestant-style) in several flashbacks; none of them go beyond the immersion itself. There is no descent of the Holy Spirit nor a voice from Heaven affirming Jesus' sonship.
Are Savior and Messiah interchangeable terms?
No. The kind of salvation the Messiah would bring was military, political, and economic freedom from Roman rule.
In the movie, Jesus calls Simon "Peter" when they first meet. Wasn't it some time after Simon became a disciple of Jesus that Jesus gave him the name "Peter"?
Yes. Jesus gave Simon a new name that means "Rock" when Simon said that he and the other disciples believed that Jesus was "the Christ."
Did Jesus go to Jerusalem to "speak the message to the heart of power"?
No. He went to Jerusalem to fulfill His mission of destroying the kingdom of sin and death. Jesus did not aim to overthrow Roman rule!
Did Jesus drink of His own blood before giving the cup to His disciples?
This is a classic Protestant argument against transubstantiation: if the wine had become Jesus' blood, Jesus would not have drunk from the cup with His disciples. The idea that Jesus shared in drinking the wine may come from Mark: "they all drank from it" (Mk 14:23). The next verse in Mark is used to support this theory: "Mark says that Jesus said this is my blood first and then said he wouldn’t drink it again until the kingdom" [1]
No mention of forgiveness of sin in the consecration?
I would have to watch again. This is what my notes suggest.
Why didn't they show the disciples reclining at table?
Too much work, I suppose. The script makes a complete hash out of the dialogue between Peter, John, and Jesus by which Jesus identifies Judas as the betrayer. Instead of giving Judas a morsel from the table, dipped in a savory sauce, Jesus gives Judas another portion of the Eucharist (if I remember correctly).
Is it true that the Jewish priests wanted Jesus killed by the Romans for reasons of political expediency?
This is not what the Scriptures say. The reason for the death penalty from the Sannhedrin was Jesus' claim to be equal in glory with God. The reason they could not stone him to death was that the Romans did not allow their subject peoples to carry out a death sentence. Only the Romans were allowed to put people to death. Therefore the Sanhedrin had to get Jesus convicted of a capital offense against Roman rule.
Why did the authors change the dialogue between Jesus, Mary, and John?
I don't know. This baffles me. Instead of "woman, behold your son" and "behold your mother," the script has Jesus say, "Mother, behold your son" and "John, behold your mother." This is unfortunate. Mary is also called "woman" in her dialogue with Jesus at Cana. I believe Jesus meant something by referring to Mary this way--the new Eve who works with the new Adam to recreate the human race.
Would Mary have washed the body of Jesus in preparation for burial?
The scene of Mary washing Jesus' body has no ground in Scripture. Two of the gospels say that the men prepared the body. Two others say that a group of women not accompanied by Mary went to the tomb to complete the burial ritual.
Was Peter the first of the apostles to believe in the resurrection?
In the movie, yes. In the Gospel of John, no. In the gospel of Luke, Peter probably is the first apostle to see Jesus--but there is no claim that seeing the linens in the empty tomb gave him faith prior to seeing Jesus in person.
Did Peter celebrate the Eucharist before meeting the risen Jesus?
There is no reason to think that this is historically accurate, although we do not have any records when the apostles first obeyed Jesus' command to "do this in memory of me."
Did Jesus appear to the 11 while they were celebrating the Eucharist?
No. That is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In His appearance to 10 or 11 disciples, they were "at table."
Were there women among the 12 apostles?
This is what the Ascension scene suggests. The dialogue makes it clear that both men and women are present. After Jesus ascends, Peter says, "We have work to do." The next scene shows twelve people descending from the mountain--both men and women.
Do the producers of the movie believe in the divinity of Jesus?
They present one clue very well: the forgiveness of the sin of the cripple on the stretcher who was let down through the roof. "Only God can forgive sin." The use of "I AM" in the trial scene is another great clue that is included. But they leave out Thomas's act of faith: "My Lord and my God." The movie does begin with a version of John's prologue, but I'm not sure just now whether it has an Arian flavor to it.
Is the depiction of the crucifixion accurate?
No. The death of Jesus on the Cross was a wonderful event, but it makes a horrible script for a movie. The producers don't believe in the deductions drawn from the Shroud of Turin. The crucified are all perfectly upright and do not endure the agony of the dance of the crucified.