Paul, Apostle of Christ — Another Bible movie ahead

“Mary Magdalene” is not the only Bible-themed movie to come out this year. Just by chance I came across videos for “Paul, Apostle of Christ” and “Samson” all to be released this springtime.

There is no formal trailer for “Paul” yet, but a handsome teaser and some behind-the-camera clips. Veteran actor James Faulkner (“Game of Thrones”) plays an aged Apostle Paul. Alongside with him is none less than Jim Caviezel (who played Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ”) as Luke the physician and—as tradition has it—evangelist. Unlike “Samson,” this appears to be serious film-making, so let’s take a look.

Wow!
Paul is imprisoned in Rome after the Great Fire (the one during Emperor Nero’s rule in 64 CE). While he waits for his sentence or execution he gets a visit by his long-time associate Luke. This is probably the vehicle for the movie telling Paul’s biography through flashbacks. There are appearances by Aquila and Priscilla, the couple Paul befriended back in Corinth.
The movie is shot in Malta under US director Andrew Hyatt. I haven’t seen any of his other works but he has already made a film about Mary (“Full of Grace”) and from the way the crew is talking it’s apparent that they want to win over a devout Christian audience… it seems safe to predict they won’t deviate from orthodoxy. This doesn’t automatically mean the movie will turn out preachy or too on the nose, but I’m sure that a historical-critical view of Paul would make for a more surprising story.

History vs. Movie vs. Orthodoxy

I must honestly say I’m torn on this film. As I’m trying to get as close as possible to what the earliest followers of Jesus were thinking and believing, I’m one of those people having difficulties with Paul’s teaching and role in the early church. On the other hand, the production looks gorgeous and it seems like they do care about well-written characters.
One thing that fascinates me is that Caviezel looks exactly how I’ve always imagined Luke the evangelist (unless you believe that the Gospel was actually written by a Christian woman in Philippi, like independent researcher Bernard D. Muller argues). Paul’s look is based on ancient traditions. Faulkner and Caviezel radiate with presence.
Imagining that an old Paul recounts his life to Luke who would then go on and write it all down for us is a lovely thought, but speaking from the historical consensus, it’s problematic. Paul was probably executed in 64. But Luke’s Gospel wouldn’t be composed until at least over 20 years later, around the year 90 CE, after the Gospels of Mark and Matthew and Josephus’ war chronics. And only after “Luke” wrote his/her Gospel he/she would then finish Paul’s story in “Acts of the Apostles.” I’m curious what the movie is going to make of this question of authorship or if we see Caviezel running down the streets to buy some more ink, chased by Hans Zimmer music…
A thing that made me jump from my chair was one of the producers describing the Pharisees as “the ISIS of [Paul’s] day“… that is just… mindlessly crude and wrong, and I hope hey won’t show Pharisees as murderous Jewish fanatics….

Paul was one of the most influential persons in history. In my studies I have focused on the Gospels and less on Paul’s letters and character, so this is a huge field for me to explore. Maybe this movie helps me open my mind towards him. It certainly looks promising.

What do you think?

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