Ten years ago, I went to go see The Passion of the Christ. At the recommendation of a friend, I saw the movie in a theater by myself. It was hard to watch. Yes, it had its problems, but it was a well-made film. Last night, I went to see Son of God in theaters. Again, I went by myself. It, too, was hard to watch — but for a completely different reason.
In addition to being painfully inaccurate, Son of God is an extremely boring movie.
If you don’t know, this is a spin-off of the History Channel mini-series The Bible (or as I’ve called it, The Babble) which broke all kinds of cable records last year. Much of the movie is lifted right from the show. It’s essentially the extended footage of the Jesus section of the series.
There’s a reason all of that footage was cut. At almost two and a half hours long, this was just a bad piece of filmmaking. The special effects are silly, the score is forgettable, the acting is terrible, the plot drags, the dialogue is blah, and lines are… delivered… so… slowly…
Now, that’s just my critique of the film as a piece of cinema. I could fill pages about how inaccurate the movie is. The filmmakers were just plain lazy with the source material — and by source material, of course, I mean the actual Bible. Anything better than a 1st grade level of understanding of Sunday school would have produced a better movie.
Harsh? I hope so. Because there’s just no excuse for how bad this is. Here’s a short list of problems…
- The movie is being narrated from the perspective of the Apostle John, and starts with a very loosely translated version of John 1:1-18. I don’t remember anything he said, but I remember thinking, “That’s not exactly John 1.”
- When we first see Jesus on screen, he approaches Peter on the Sea of Galilee and gets in his boat. He delivers a lame unbiblical line: “Give me and hour and I will give you a whole new life.” Peter, who hasn’t caught any fish, is reluctant to listen to him until Jesus performs a miracle and Peter catches a whole bunch of fish. Jesus tells him to leave his nets and he will make him a fisher of men. Peter asks, “What are we going to do?” Jesus says, “Change the world.” In the scriptural account of this meeting, Jesus gets in Peter’s boat who is also with his brother Andrew to teach the crowds on the shore. He then tells Peter to go out onto the lake and let his nets down. Peter calls Jesus, “Master,” and obeys. And he catches so many fish the boat begins to sink, and some other men have to come over and help them. Peter then fell on his face and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Jesus said, “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be catching men.” And they left their nets and incredible catch to follow Jesus.
- There’s some random scene where Pilate fools a bunch of Jews into gathering for a protest, but it turns out to be an ambush and he has them all beaten and killed. Pilate was a tyrant who killed Jews needlessly (Luke 13:1, for example), but this story doesn’t appear anywhere in scripture.
- When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he went into the tomb and breathed into his head rather than stood outside the tomb and called Lazarus out. Then Jesus wept after Lazarus was raised rather than before.
- When Jesus receives news that John the Baptist had been killed, Jesus sits sulking with his disciples. He says to them, “John was the greatest teacher I ever knew.” When in fact Jesus said, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28)
- The scene where Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey is silly. Barabbas is there stirring up trouble when Jesus extends his hand to him and calms him down. This never happened. Jesus then goes straight into the temple where the temple merchants are selling. Jesus gets “upset” and tips over a few tables. Not tosses — very nonchalantly tips. He never gets angry as scripture describes in all four gospels, nor drives the merchants and animals out with a whip. He’s just kind of disappointed.
- Jesus talks about how it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. This line is delivered without the rich young ruler who, according to the biblical account, approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to be saved (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31). He then throws in the line, “The most important thing is that you love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Um, no, the greatest command is to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and strength, and the second command is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
- The whole thing with Judas is depicted as him being fooled by the high priest, as if Judas reluctantly betrayed Jesus. When Judas threw his money back, he threw it at the feet of Roman soldiers rather than on the temple floor, the way it was prophesied to happen.
- When Jesus speaks with Nicodemus, it’s very late in the movie when this exchange actually happened earlier in Jesus’s ministry. It’s to Nicodemus that Jesus delivered the famous passage found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, and whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” In the movie, the phrase “will not perish” has been removed.
- In the film, Jesus didn’t know until the last supper that Judas would betray him. But Jesus always knew this. In John 6:70, for example, Jesus says that one of his disciples is from the devil. Also, after the supper is over, Jesus says all of the disciples will desert him. Peter follows Jesus out of the room and says he will never deny Christ and will even die with him. Delighted, Jesus embraces Peter. But then he has a vision that Peter will actually deny him three times. That’s not at all how this appears in scripture (Matthew 26:30-35). Jesus didn’t have random visions.
- During the last supper, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And that’s it. The rest of that verse goes, “No one gets to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This verse comes up again in the movie, but the omission is never corrected. He passes the bread and says, “This is my body.” He passes the cup and says, “This is my blood. Remember me.” But never says what the body and the blood are actually for — the forgiveness of sins.
- While praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus begs God, “Spare me!” Read Matthew 26:36-46 and see that his prayer is much different. The film never depicts him sweating drops of blood, or even reflecting near that kind of anguish concerning what’s about to happen. Jesus wasn’t merely going to be executed — he was taking upon himself the sins of mankind.
- While carrying his cross, Jesus falls and Mary, his mother, runs over to him. Through blood and sweat, Jesus says to her, “Everything is possible with God.” That never happened. And the words inserted here in the film are taken out of context. Jesus said, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” He said this when asked by his disciples, “Who then can be saved?” This exchange took place during the encounter with the rich young ruler.
- In the film during the crucifixion, everyone there on Golgotha is pretty quiet, just watching Jesus. When Jesus says he’s thirsty, a guard gives him some water on a sponge. In scripture, the sponge was filled with sour wine. The film also depicts the earthquake happening before Jesus dies rather than after. And the curtain in the temple is never shown to have torn (Matthew 27:51). It just kind of falls over as you would expect something to do in an earthquake.
- Mary Magdalene went by herself to find the empty tomb, when scripture actually records that there were several women with her (Mark 16:1). Mary is part of the inner twelve disciples the entire film, which would not have been the case.
- Jesus gives a very paraphrased version of the Great Commission to the disciples before he ascends into heaven. He says to go and preach the gospel, but says nothing about making disciples and baptizing. Then he just sort of disappears. Peter says, “We have work to do,” and the disciples saunter off.
- The very last scene of the film is Jesus appearing to John in exile. The two of them exchange the very last two verses in the book of Revelation. End film and roll credits. But no context has been given as to the significance of what these verses are saying.
In fact, no reason is ever given in the movie as to why Jesus died on the cross. There was nothing about repentance of sins. There was nothing about Christ’s blood being shed as an atoning sacrifice, a propitiation to satisfy the wrath of God against unrighteousness. None of that was in the movie. If they had to edit John 3:16 and 14:6, they’re certainly not going to talk about repentance.
Therefore, the film is completely pointless. The filmmakers had no respect for the text. The movie conveys no good message whatsoever. Not to mention it’s just poorly executed. The fellow who plays Jesus presents one of the worst depictions of Christ I’ve ever seen, devoid of passion. The disciples were equally as emotionless, even Peter, shown in scripture to be easily riled.
Pardon the pun, but there’s nothing redeemable about the movie. It was a waste of 2 1/2 hours (actually, a little longer than that after 25 minutes of previews, and I went to a theater out of town). I’ve endured the film so you don’t have to. Don’t go see Son of God. Inaccurate and boring.
A pastor friend of mine shared a very telling article about the creators of Son of God. The writer says the following: “I think this Son of God film is outright dangerous. It should be treated the same way we treat Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness material. Yes, they talk about Jesus. Think about it — they share our same Bible stories. But they have twisted the gospel, the nature of God and the nature of Christ. It is the same thing.”