A Non-Review of Paul, Apostle of Christ

April 2, 2018

The word is out that the new movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ, is another post-Jewish/post-Judaism portrayal of first century Yeshua-faith. It reminds me of The Passion of the Christ, a profoundly upsetting movie in which the apostolic band had no living connection to Judaism, and the Judaism of the movie was a dead, fruitless religion run by a corrupt Jewish religious Mafia. It was a disgusting movie. The only thing it did well was portray the brutality of crucifixion, for which credit should be given. But it also crucified the reputation of Judaism. . . . again . . ., and for that reason I did, and do, hate the movie.

Now this new one, directed by Andrew Hyatt, with Jim Caviezel as Luke, James Faulkner as Paul, and a distinguished supporting cast.  I was going to see it, and even recommended it to my son. But then the reviews came in and told me this is yet another standard brand Christianity good/Judaism bad or just plain absent movie.

Can't stand it. If I DO go to see it, I will have to fortify myself. I will probably have to eat five boxes of Goobers while sitting there,  groaning.

So while I cannot really review the movie I have not seen, I thought to share with you a letter I wrote this weekend to an unnamed, profuse, but when it comes to Judaism, typically stereotypical Christian website. I am leaving it unnamed, because I am not here to defame Caesar, but to change him. So see the letter. It touches on the issues.

And groan a little with me

Dear Sir or Madame,

Reread this article and note how it represents the Jews. Is it positive or negative? It is typical of the way Christianity has become habituated to speak about the Jews--as the bad example of legalistic dead religion and xenophobia.

After fifty years of serving Christ among my people, the Jews, and with a PhD from Fuller Seminary, I can tell you this: this article is disheartening to me, disgusting to me, and sadly, not at all surprising to me or to any Jews I know, in Christ or not.

Just for the record. The incident in Acts 10 with Peter and his vision and his subsequent visit to Cornelius' house is NOT about food at all. Peter himself says, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. "  Two questions, HOW did God show him that?  Through the vision!  Was the message of the vision about food? No, it was about people!  In fact, Peter told the Lord on that rooftop that he had NEVER eaten anything common or unclean, and this is about ten years after Pentecost!

But this letter is not about food. It is about residual anti-Judaism in Reformed ranks, bordering on anti-Semitism. It is about why a Jew I know, who came to faith in Yeshua in NYC recently, and began visiting Redeemer Presbyterian Church, could not bear to remain there because of this kind of post-Judaism, post-Jewish Christianity. It is about the stumbling block that even well-heeled and well-educated Christians place before the Jews.

It is about the arrogance concerning which Paul warned the Roman gentiles three times in his letter. My letter is about sorrow, mine, Jesus', and I am sure Peter's, Paul's, and surely that of the Jews,  and it's about the church's continuing shame, even if the occasion of that shame is well-intentioned.

If you would like to talk more about these things, here I am. This email address, and this phone number 626-xxx-xxxx.

I am not angry. But at this time, Passover/Easter weekend, 2018, I grieve.

Yours, hoping for a gracious hearing, and reminding you that the One who is risen is still the King of the Jews, and the Son of David, something that Paul considered important, but the church, apparently not: "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel" (2 Tim 2:8, ESV).

Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD

Director, Interfaithfulness: "Building bridges where history builds walls."

5 comments on “A Non-Review of Paul, Apostle of Christ”

  1. This rings so true. I am currently reading ‘A profile of Jewish Believers in the UK Church’ by Jonathan Allen which also supports your description. I regularly hear throwaway comments in sermons about the faults of the ‘Old’ in the Scriptures. Very painful. No sense of the permanence of Covenants.

    1. I have two copies of that book, sent me by the publisher, who also published my scholarly books. The author references me about eight times iun the book so how could it be bad? As for what you regularly hear about the faults of the 'Old,' etc., I cannot and do not listen to Christian radio for that reason--whenever the Jews of biblical days are mentioned, it is always as a negative example.

  2. I saw the movie with some friends.

    My assessment is the movie ignores Jews and Judaism. The early Christianity portrayed is definitely not Jewish.

    The only Jewish element I noticed in the movie is when Paul recounts to Luke about his time as a Pharisee in charge of rounding up believers. During his retelling, we see Paul with a group of tzitzit-clad men stoning a Christian.

    And that is really the only reference to Judaism or Jews in the whole movie. The Jews Aquila and Priscilla are featured prominently but are never shown to be Jewish. Their community, which the movie centers around, is not at all Jewish.

    Overall, I liked the movie; the end was stirring as Paul gives his farewell letter to Timothy. It's probably unreasonable to expect modern Christian movies to portray early Christianity as Jewish. In that regard, we have a lot of work ahead of us to restore the Jewish roots of Christianity.

    1. If it is unreasonable to expect modern Christian movies to portray early Christianity as Jewish, why bother with that lot of work you mention? Why be unreasonable?

      It may well be humanly speaking unrealistic, given the pervasive anti-Judaism, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in both society and much of the church, but I believe it is eminently reasonable to expect well-intentioned modern movies to be historically accurate, and we need to call them out and criticize them when they are not.

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