Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Moving Texts: A Hermeneutics of the Gospel According to Hollywood

  • Paul Clogher (a1)

Abstract

The Hollywood Jesus epics re-visualize the gospel story against the anxious backdrops of secularization, cultural pluralism, and moral skepticism. While these epics are often derided for their lack of theological insight, cultural awareness, or aesthetic taste, this article argues for a re-appreciation of the genre's internal pluralism and hermeneutical significance. Focusing on Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings (1927) and Nicholas Ray's King of Kings (1961), it reflects on the epic as a tradition-forming moment in the Jesus story's reception. Both DeMille and Ray offer competing interpretations of Jesus, thus illustrating how the genre functions as a site of christological and hermeneutical reflection. Against this backdrop, I argue for a reinterpretation of the genre and, further, proffer a hermeneutical exploration of cinema more broadly as a central moment in the dialogue between Christianity and popular culture.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Moving Texts: A Hermeneutics of the Gospel According to Hollywood
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Moving Texts: A Hermeneutics of the Gospel According to Hollywood
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Moving Texts: A Hermeneutics of the Gospel According to Hollywood
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

References

Hide All

1 Grace, Pamela, The Religious Film: Christianity and the Hagiopic (New Approaches to Film Genre; Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) 5.

2 Babington, Bruce and Evans, Peter, Biblical Epics: Sacred Narrative in the Hollywood Cinema (Manchester: Manchester University, 1993) 102.

3 Grace, The Religious Film, 5.

4 Babington and Evans, Biblical Epics, 110.

5 Cardullo, Bert and Bazin, André, “Cinema and Theology: The Case of Heaven Over the Marshes,” Journal of Religion & Film 6 (2002), http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol6/iss2/15.

7 Schrader, Paul, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (Berkeley: Da Capo, 1972) 164.

9 Grace, The Religious Film, 65.

10 Mitchell, Jolyon, “Understanding Religion and Film in ‘Post-Secular’ Russia,” in Religion in Contemporary European Cinema: The Postsecular Constellation (ed. Bradatan, Costica and Ungureanu, Camil; Routledge Studies in Religion and Film; London: Routledge, 2015) 186198, at 188.

12 Coates, Paul, Cinema, Religion and the Romantic Legacy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003) 203.

13 Marty, Joseph, “Toward a Theological Interpretation and Reading of Film: Incarnation of the Word of God—Relation, Image, Word,” in New Image of Religious Film (ed. May, John R.; Communications, Culture and Theology; Wisconsin: Sheed and Ward, 1997) 131–50, at 132.

14 Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane, “Iconography,” in The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film (ed. Lydon, John; London: Routledge, 2009) 443.

17 Babington and Evans, Biblical Epics, 119.

19 Grace, The Religious Film, 77.

20 Reinhartz, Adele, Bible and Cinema: An Introduction (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013) 64.

21 Viladesau, Richard, Theological Aesthetics: God in Imagination, Beauty, and Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) 168.

22 Sobchack, Vivien, “‘Surge and Splendor’: A Phenomenology of the Hollywood Historical Epic,” Representations 29 (1990) 2449, at 34 [italics in original].

24 See Westbrook, Vivienne, “The King of Kings (DeMille Pictures, 1927): The Body and the Word on Film,” in The Silents of Jesus in Cinema: 1897–1927 (ed. Shepherd, David; Routledge Studies in Religion and Film; New York: Routledge, 2016) 256270.

25 Sobchack, “‘Surge and Splendor,’” 34 [italics in original].

26 See Chauvet, Louis–Marie, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Re–Interpretation of Christian Existence (trans. Madigan, Patrick, SJ, and Madeleine Beaumont; Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995).

27 Ibid., 208.

28 Chauvet builds his argument on the “semio-linguistic theory of the text” as outlined in Barthes’ contribution to Encyclopædia Universalis (Roland Barthes, “Texte, Théorie du,” Encyclopædia Universalis, http://www.universalis.fr/encyclopedie/theorie–du–texte/).

29 Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, 205.

30 Ibid., 201.

32 Barthes, “Texte, Théorie du.ˮ

33 Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, 208.

34 Ibid. 208 [italics in original]. The original French quotation is helpful here: “En reprenant le couple «géno–texte»–«phéno–texte» de J. Kristeva, nous pouvons dire que cet établissement du canon des «livres saints» est le déploiement ultime, au niveau du phéno–texte, d'un procès de canonicité constitutif du géno–texte, procès qui dénote le rapport essentiel du corps lecteur au texte. Un tel rapport vaut pour tout texte, mais il atteint une prégnance particulière dans les livres tenus pour sacrés par les groupes religieux et dans les mythes” (Chauvet, Symbole et Sacrement: Une Relecture Sacramentelle de L'existence Chrétienne, [Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1987] 214).

35 Shepherd, David, “Hollywood's Bible and Beyond” in Images of the Word: Hollywood's Bible and Beyond (ed. Shepherd; SemeiaSt 54; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008) 19, at 6.

36 Barthes, Roland, “The Death of the Author,” in Image Music Text (ed. and trans. Heath, Stephen; London: Fontana, 1977) 142–48, at 146.

38 Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, 195.

39 Ibid., 201.

40 Taylor, Charles, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MAn: Belknap Press, 2007) 54.

41 Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Massachusetts: Harvard University, 1989) 376.

42 Taylor, A Secular Age, 539.

44 Babington and Evans, Biblical Epics, 103.

45 Grace, The Religious Film, 70.

47 Davey, Nicholas, “The Hermeneutics of Seeing,” in Interpreting Visual Culture: Explorations in the Hermeneutics of the Visual (ed. Heywood, Ian and Sandywell, Barry; London: Routledge, 1999) 330, at 4.

48 Ibid., 14.

49 Gadamer, Hans–Georg, Truth and Method, (trans. Weinsheimer, Joel and Marshall, Donald G.; 2nd rev. ed.; London: Continuum, 2004) 85 [italics in original].

50 Ibid., 291.

52 Ibid., 293.

53 Ibid., 298.

54 Ibid., 297.

55 Babington and Evans, Biblical Epics, 138.

56 Loughlin, Gerard, Telling God's Story: Bible, Church and Narrative Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1996) 153.

57 Ibid., 156.

58 Gadamer, Truth and Method, 123.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Harvard Theological Review
  • ISSN: 0017-8160
  • EISSN: 1475-4517
  • URL: /core/journals/harvard-theological-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed