Peter T. Chattaway, “Jesus in the Movies,” BR 14:01.


See Michael Hudson, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land,” and the accompanying sidebar on the Liberty Bell in this issue.



DreamWorks originally tried to create a genderless voice for God with the help of computers, but in the end, the voice was provided by Val Kilmer.


Richard H. Campbell and Michael R. Pitts, The Bible on Film: A Checklist, 1897–1980 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1981), p. 2; Derek Elly, The Epic Film: Myth and History (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1984), pp. 35, 188.


Campbell and Pitts, The Bible on Film, p. 5.


Campbell and Pitts, The Bible on Film, p. 4.


Sumiko Higashi, Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture: The Silent Era (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1994), p. 1.


See Bruce Babington and Peter William Evans, Biblical Epics: Sacred Narrative in the Hollywood Cinema (Oxford: Manchester Univ. Press, 1993), p. 7; Gerald E. Forshey, American Religious and Biblical Spectaculars (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992), p. 46.


Babington and Evans, Biblical Epics, p. 5.


Included in the 40th anniversary edition of The Ten Commandments (Paramount Home Video, 1996).


Charlton Heston, In the Arena: An Autobiography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), pp. 135–136.


Forshey, Spectaculars, p. 128.


Babington and Evans, citing Michael Wood, America in the Movies, or ‘Santa Maria, It Had Slipped My Mind’ (New York, 1978), in Biblical Epics, p. 10.


One early scene, in which Moses presents the Ethiopian king to Pharaoh’s court as an ally rather than as a humiliated foe is open to a number of interpretations. Forshey (Spectaculars, p. 132) notes that Moses’ graciousness to Ethiopia parallels America’s graciousness to former enemies such as Germany and Japan. Babington and Evans (Biblical Epics, p. 55), however, suggest that the scene reflects American concerns over Soviet influence in the Third World.


This plot element was reportedly inspired by Josephus’ account of an Egyptian scribe who predicted the birth and future success of Moses (Antiquities of the Jews 2.205). However, Josephus does not mention a star.


There have been a few theatrical films too, but they remain obscure and difficult to find. These would include Wholly Moses (1980), a comedy starring Dudley Moore, and Moses und Aron (1975), a German adaptation of Arnold Schoenberg’s three-act opera, which was first performed in the 1950s (Campbell and Pitts, The Bible on Film, pp. 64–65).


Previous films in the series depicted the lives of the patriarchs; one, Joseph (1995), won an Emmy for outstanding miniseries. However, ratings on subsequent installments have slipped, and as of this writing, executive producer Lorenzo Minoli has not found a network for the episodes on Solomon, Jeremiah and Esther, though CBS has expressed interest in an as-yet-unproduced film on Jesus (John Dempsey, “‘Jesus’ Won’t Bless TNT,” Daily Variety, July 20, 1998).


The next film in the series was Samson and Delilah (1997). The series, which explored the Book of Genesis in warts-and-all detail, jumps from the period of Israel’s oppression under the Egyptians straight to the period of Israel’s oppression under the Philistines, omitting anything that would make the Israelites look like oppressors themselves.