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January 20, 2010

How Movies Shape Our Image of Jesus

Jesus of Hollywood explores how films tweak and nuance Christ's story

In her book Jesus of Hollywood, Adele Reinhartz, a professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, takes an objective observer's view -- she's Jewish -- of how Christ is portrayed in more than 40 films over the last century.

Jesus of Hollywood is a "critical evaluation of similarities and differences found in the interpretations" in those films, writes Wayne Holst in a review in the Toronto Star.

Holst, who teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary, goes on to write, "Movies – rather than the scriptures and the churches – shape and define a lot of our contemporary cultural awareness of Jesus. This interesting and accessible book unpacks and elaborates upon that reality." He also notes that because the author is Jewish, "she doesn't readily adopt the clichés of an almost too-familiar Christian story. She critically yet sensitively assesses the Jesus of Christian scripture and of the cinematic portrayals.

"Reinhartz uncovers many of the foibles and flaws in both the familiar biblical texts and the popular movie scripts that might otherwise elude the unsuspecting. This is done with clarifying skill and is especially evident in the book's latter parts. . . . The author writes as a film critic and a religion specialist. She is expertly conversant in both cinematography and theology. This helps her to view Jesus movies in ways unmatched by those limited to only one discipline."


And you're running excerpts from a three-year-old newspaper article because...?