I was appalled at Russell Crowe’s movie, Noah. And equally disgusted by Christian Bale’s, Exodus: Gods and Kings. So I was apprehensive about the new movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ. After seeing it last night though, I must say it was, in my opinion, the best Hollywood adaptation of a biblical account ever made. There may be a few minor spoilers below, so if you don’t want to know anything about the movie, do not keep reading.
I hate to even classify these as “negative,” because I think they were necessary for the sake of the story, but they do make the film inappropriate for younger audiences. The film takes place during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome. This is a period about which there is very little written in Scripture, except for Paul’s second letter to Timothy.
In the film, Nero’s persecution against Christians had just broken out. Christians were covered in oil and lit on fire, becoming human “Roman candles” along the streets of Rome. This is something we know from history actually happened, but it is painful to watch a portrayal of our Christian brethren suffering this way.
We also see flashbacks of Paul’s persecution against Christians before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. There is quite a bit of blood and the portrayal of women and children being abused and killed because of their faith. Again, this is accurate, but painful to watch. In Scripture, Paul says about this period of his life:
“I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women” (Acts 22:4).
In the film, Paul himself suffers horribly at the hands of the Romans. He is imprisoned in a dark cell under the floor of the prison. Luke, played by Jim Caviezel, calls Paul’s prison cell a “hellhole.” While that might seem a profane term to us, the word we translate as “hell” is the word “Gehenna,” an actual valley outside of Jerusalem.
I definitely would not recommend this movie for younger audiences. The persecution is graphic and intense. Though it is not as graphic as Mel Gibson’s, Passion of the Christ, I definitely will not be allowing my young sons to see this anytime soon.
There is no way I could list all of the things I appreciated about this movie, nor would I want to spoil them for you, but I would like to give you a few highlights:
- The baptism they portray is an immersion.
- Priscilla and Aquilla’s role in the church and their relationship with one another is portrayed in an outstanding way.
- Paul’s three years in Arabia is mentioned (and I love what they said about those three years).
- Paul asks Luke about his gospel account and why he focused so much attention on the poor and the outcasts; that’s a theme many modern Christians miss in Luke’s account.
- One of the major themes of the movie is the human desire to violently rebel against Rome versus the call of Christ to love our enemies.
Though there are a few things on which I have a difference of opinion with the film-makers (like Paul’s thorn in the flesh or when the book of Acts was written) there is nothing in the movie I would argue to be unbiblical.
At one point in the film, Aquila says to some young Christian men, “You may leave the city or you may stay, but if any of you take up arms, you have no place in this community.” That, my friends, is a message today’s Christians desperately need to hear. It is something Jesus preached, Peter preached, and Paul preached. Yet today, for some reason, many Christians try to argue against that very biblical principle.
We must remember our brethren who have suffered – and are suffering – for the sake of Christ. We must be willing to take up our own cross and follow Jesus. We must be citizens of the heavenly kingdom. So I will close with the words of the actual apostle Paul, who wrote these words to Timothy from his prison cell in Rome:
“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace…For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
I love you and God loves you,