How would a faithful movie of the Bible rate?

I love movies. My wife and I have a fair­ly decent sized col­lec­tion of movies which we very much enjoy. We also rent movies, and we’re care­ful to check the movie rat­ings label on the back to see what kind of con­tent to expect. That is prob­a­bly a pecu­liar prac­tice for two adults who don’t yet have chil­dren, but it hap­pens nonethe­less. And it got me thinking…

If the Bible were faith­ful­ly made into a (very epic) movie, what would it be rat­ed and what con­tent descrip­tors would that rat­ing car­ry with it? 

With the first appear­ance of man we would have “nudi­ty.” And this would be real nudi­ty, not the art­sy kind where tree branch­es, flow­ers, or var­i­ous oth­er things just hap­pen to be act­ing as a cov­er­ing. Adam & Eve would have no rea­son to hide them­selves and a faith­ful movie would have to depict that. There was no shame in their nudi­ty. But there was nudi­ty, and it would cer­tain­ly be men­tioned on the back of the box.

And before long, anoth­er descrip­tor would need to be added, as Adam & Eve “knew” each oth­er. A faith­ful movie would have to depict that–it is just as much a part of the Word of God as “let there be light” so why shy away from it? And so we would add “sex­u­al con­tent.” We might also add “sen­su­al­i­ty” at this point as well; it’ll be there any­way once Song of Solomon showed up on screen.

Mov­ing on, we have more char­ac­ters intro­duced in this movie, a pair of broth­ers by the name of Cain and Abel. We all know their tale, and so we should not be sur­prised that “vio­lence” would need to be added to our movie’s box.

Let’s skip ahead to the time of the flood. Here we have sons of God mat­ing with daugh­ters of men, result­ing in giants. And the thoughts of men become increas­ing­ly and con­tin­u­al­ly wicked. And a great flood cov­ers the earth, result­ing in the drown­ing of count­less men, women, and chil­dren. I think it’d be safe to call all of these things “the­mat­ic ele­ments” and depend­ing on the real­ism of mil­lions drown­ing and what a flood would look like lit­tered with count­less dead men and ani­mals, we might also add “dis­turb­ing imagery” to the list.

We could jump for­ward a fair bit to the Judges, where we learn of Ehud thrust­ing a sword into a man so fat that the entire sword entered his body, his fat clos­ing in around the han­dle. Depend­ing on the trans­la­tion of the Bible used, either the exit point for the sword would make sit­ting down a very dif­fi­cult task or the man’s waste mat­ter was spilled as a result of the wound. Per­haps the “vio­lence” descrip­tor should be upgrad­ed to “strong vio­lence” or even “strong per­va­sive vio­lence” in light of the many bat­tles depict­ed in the Bible and the many, many mil­lions (or even bil­lions, in light of Rev­e­la­tion) that would die as a result of them.

As Judas’ bow­els burst forth on a rock and blood flows like a riv­er in Rev­e­la­tion, we should prob­a­bly note that this movie would con­tain “gore” as well.

Satan would cer­tain­ly have a part in this movie, as would his demons, witch­es, and so on. “Demon­ic imagery” should cer­tain­ly be noted.

Sor­cer­ers are men­tioned as well, and they were the “drug deal­ers” of their day, drug­gists or poi­son­ers who per­haps used psy­che­del­ic drugs to make peo­ple think they were com­mu­ni­cat­ing with lost loved ones or what­ev­er. At the very least, let’s add “drug ref­er­ences” to our list of descriptors.

I’m cer­tain the list could go on for quite a while.

Movies are often crit­i­cized by Chris­tians for their “adult con­tent,” but it does­n’t take labo­ri­ous research to dis­cov­er that much (if not more) of the same con­tent can be found with­in the pages of Holy Writ. Is read­ing it that much dif­fer­ent than see­ing it on screen? If one is real­ly get­ting into the Bible, his imag­i­na­tion will fill in the visu­al part of it any­way, would it not?

The Pas­sion of the Christ comes to mind; on more than one fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­t­ian web­site I saw the very idea of a Chris­t­ian movie con­tain­ing so much vio­lence and blood as being com­plete­ly and utter­ly wrong. But the Bible says that Jesus was beat­en and whipped even more so than the movie depict­ed for the Bible says He was unrec­og­niz­able after His beat­ings. In the movie, that was­n’t the case.

Per­haps Chris­tians think that if they see cer­tain things on screen, it some­how cor­rupts them. How could a gory movie pos­si­bly cor­rupt me? It isn’t real. It isn’t even a depic­tion of some­thing real. But the Bible describes real inci­dents which were real­ly gory and in some instances very, very, very bloody. Is imag­i­nary gore bad but real gore okay? Or is it sim­ply a mat­ter of visu­al ver­sus men­tal? I don’t know about you, but men­tal­ly imag­in­ing gore is just about the same as actu­al­ly see­ing it. The dif­fer­ence is most­ly of source–the mind or the eye.

As far as I know, most of you read­ing this enjoy movies; I’m will­ing to make that assump­tion. So, the next time some­one crit­i­cizes you for the movies you watch, ask them how they enjoy “The Bible — Rat­ed ___ for Nudi­ty, Strong Per­va­sive Vio­lence, Gore, Adult Con­tent, Strong Sex­u­al Con­tent, Drug Ref­er­ences, Dis­turb­ing and Demon­ic Imagery, The­mat­ic Ele­ments, and what­ev­er else you can hon­est­ly add.” The rat­ing itself I will leave up to you to fill in. Would a movie with all of these man­age the R rat­ing? Or would it be even more restricted?

How would you rate such a movie?






8 responses to “How would a faithful movie of the Bible rate?”

  1. Rick Beckman Avatar

    I for­got to men­tion this in the mes­sage itself, but I want to clar­i­fy that I am in no way con­don­ing vio­lence or things of that nature. Sin is still sin. But is the por­tray­al of sin wrong? Does not the Bible itself por­tray numer­ous exam­ples of it?

    I’m also curi­ous… Is view­ing nudi­ty wrong? Would it be a sin to have por­trayed Adam and Eve in the gar­den, allow­ing us to watch? If the actu­al view­ing of such nudi­ty is wrong, what of the rather detailed depic­tions in Song of Solomon which leave lit­tle to the imag­i­na­tion? Or even what of the explic­it inci­dent involv­ing Onan in Gen­e­sis 38? What we know of him most peo­ple would prob­a­bly con­sid­er very pri­vate, but the nit­ty grit­ty details are there for all the world to read, regard­less of our age.

    I have read that Jews at one point for­bade chil­dren under 13 to read the Song of Solomon because of its “adult nature.” Is not the whole of Scrip­ture prof­itable to the whole of human­i­ty? How does one deter­mine an age lim­it on these things? And if such a lim­it can­not be cre­at­ed on reli­gious con­tent, are not the sec­u­lar con­tent lim­i­ta­tions with­out scrip­tur­al basis then?

  2. Brett Avatar

    Nice­ly done. Although i do encour­age my kids to read the bible, im not sure i would want them to see it in a movie until they are old enough to under­stand it. My old­est daugh­ter is 8 years old and i dont mind her hear­ing foul lan­guage because she under­stands the nature of the sin and can now choose not to fall into it. My younger daugh­ter is 4 years old and can­not make that dis­tinc­tion yet, so i wont let her watch movies with curs­ing. As far as an entire bib­li­cal movie goes, i would look for­ward to see­ing one. I per­son­al­ly own a copy of The Pas­sion and plan on let­ting all my chil­dren see it when they are able to under­stand what it rep­re­sents. I found that it put the entire New Tes­ta­ment into a much more real­is­tic light as opposed to the “sto­ry book” con­text that many peo­ple view it as.

  3. nick Avatar

    I’m also curi­ous… Is view­ing nudi­ty wrong? Would it be a sin to have por­trayed Adam and Eve in the gar­den, allow­ing us to watch?

    I think it depends on the per­son who is view­ing it. How does that per­son respond to it? Does he or she think impure thoughts about it? I am a firm believ­er that a lot of things have to do with motives. Like drink­ing, are you drink­ing because you like the taste, and you want to enjoy a drink, or are you doing it to get drunk?

  4. Rick Beckman Avatar

    nick: You go along with the “to the pure, all things are pure” teaching?

    If you are, then I have to agree with you that motives are a huge part of it.

  5. Brett Avatar

    I agree also. The dif­fer­ence between some­thing being a sin and not being a sin depends on where the per­sons heart lies. For exam­ple, if some­body is gam­bling because they enjoy the strat­e­gy behind it and they find it enter­tain­ing then it prob­a­bly isnt a sin. If they gam­ble because they lust after mon­ey and the things that mon­ey can buy, then it most def­i­nite­ly is a sin. Two dif­fer­ent peo­ple sit­ting at a casi­no and only one of them may be sin­ning. This makes draw­ing dis­tinct lines dif­fi­cult because some­times the only two that know if some­thing is a sin is the per­son com­mit­ting the sin and God himself.


  6. Daniel Avatar

    Was this post­ed in 2006 – are you still accept­ing and respond­ing to com­ments? Your take on sin in movies com­pared to sin in the Bible is miss­ing a HUGE ele­ment that I’d be curi­ous to dis­cuss with you.

    1. Rick Beckman Avatar

      Yeah, the post is rather old… but com­ments are always wel­come from real peo­ple with real com­ments! :D

      What ele­ment did I miss?

  7. Daniel Avatar

    First, let me say I’m in agree­ment with your premise the Bible would earn an R rat­ing or even more restrict­ed (as you point out). I agree with that and appre­ci­ate how you pre­sent­ed the details of the Bible that they could be clas­si­fied as “sen­su­al­i­ty”, “vio­lence”, “gore” etc.

    But the ele­ment that is miss­ing is in your conclusion/application of watch­ing a movie being the same as read­ing the Bible.

    I’ll call the miss­ing ele­ment “pur­pose­ful con­text”. Sin is depict­ed in the Bible in the con­text of being wrong with the pur­pose that we will respond in god­ly sor­row (I am specif­i­cal­ly talk­ing about “sin” and not nec­es­sar­i­ly every occur­rence of vio­lence, sex etc.). In the Bible, sin is nev­er pre­sent­ed for our vic­ar­i­ous enjoy­ment. How­ev­er, in movies, sin is often in the con­text of a clever punch-line or var­i­ous oth­er amus­ing dra­mat­ic ele­ments pre­sent­ed with the pur­pose of our vic­ar­i­ous enjoyment.

    I think Romans 1:32 teach­es us this. In my inter­pre­ta­tion it basi­cal­ly says you are guilty if you sin and you are guilty if you take plea­sure in some­one else sinning.

    There’s also some­thing that even takes this a step fur­ther that I’d be curi­ous to dis­cuss but first it would be great to hear from you and if you think this mesh­es with your arti­cle or if you dis­agree etc. Thanks!

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Use your Gravatar-enabled email address while commenting to automatically enhance your comment with some of Gravatar's open profile data.

Comments must be made in accordance with the comment policy. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam; learn how your comment data is processed.

You may use Markdown to format your comments; additionally, these HTML tags and attributes may be used: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Rick Beckman