By Ron Halbrook
The New Testament record of Jesus Christ is factual, laden with historical references and allusions (Lk. 3:1-2; Jn. 18:39; Acts 11:28). The ministry of Jesus “was not done in a comer” but was carried out in the public arena where it could be fully examined (Acts 26:26). When Jesus arose from the dead, “he showed himself alive … by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). The New Testament preserves the testimony of men who saw, heard, and touched Jesus Christ, men who thoroughly researched and examined the things they wrote for accuracy (1 Jn. 1:1-3; Lk. 1:1-3). This record has stood every imaginable test for 2,000 years!
Jesus as a confused guru and a sinner, John the baptizer as a cultist, Judas Iscariot as a hero, Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, Paul as a hypocrite and a liar. “The Last Temptation of Christ” is a movie of the life of Jesus based not on the New Testament but upon a novel by the same title written in 1955 by Nikos Kazantzakis (died 1957). The author was censured by the Greek Orthodox Church, of which he was a member, because of his blasphemy. Early in life this Greek writer embraced Darwinian evolution and lost his faith in Jesus as the divine Son of God. He forged a picture of Jesus as a symbol of all men who make “idealistic service” their “spiritual career.” Such men must overcome the ultimate or “last temptation” of comfort and happiness in order to face an unselfish life of “Pain, loneliness and martyrdom” (sketch of author’s life and thought by Peter Bien, translator of English edition of book in 1960; Houston Chronicle, 12 August 1988, sec. A, p. 23).
Though the story is defended as a novel, film director Martin Scorsese, a Roman Catholic, says the film is an affirmation of his faith in Jesus and “is my way of trying to get closer to God” (Time Magazine, 15 August 1988, p. 34). Paramount Studios dropped this film in 1983 after investing two million dollars in it. Universal Studios took the project in 1987 and finished it in June of 1988 at a cost of ten million. The two-hour-forty minute movie was released 12 August 1988. We are not surprised that the long decadent movie industry is willing to desecrate the life of Christ to make money.
Bewildered, unstable, and confused minds have fabricated a story of Jesus as a man of bewildered, unstable, and confused mind. The story tells us nothing about the true Jesus but much about modern man who has lost his way and mirrors himself in this film. Jesus is portrayed as weak and filled with doubts and lust. He turns away the sick, admits to sinning, and persuades Judas, who appears to be a hero, to betray him.
Some of the actions, dreams, and fantasies of Jesus pictured in this film are those of a voyeur (one who obtains satisfactions from viewing sex acts). Both Mary Magdalene and Jesus are scandalized by a scene which portrays her as running a brothel and prostituting herself with countless men. Jesus stands in line waiting to see her, watching her conduct her immoral business, and then enters the darkened room where she lies undressed. There he begs her forgiveness for the wrongs he has done her in life.
A thirty-minute scene pictures Jesus dreaming and hallucinating on the cross about marrying Mary Magdalene, having sexual intercourse with her, and having children. She dies, so he marries Martha’s sister, Mary, but commits adultery with Martha and bears children by both women. The film is supposed to show that Jesus did not live out this last temptation, but it is degrading both to Jesus and to modern man to paint such vivid scenes of marital intimacy and sexual immorality upon which the eyes of people can feast. The Bible warns of men “having eyes full of adultery, that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, . . . who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pet. 2:14-15).
Joan Connell of the Knight-Ridder Newspapers says that only those who believe the biblical picture of Jesus as “a perfect being” will be greatly troubled by that “little” portion of the film which is “blasphemous, heretical or obscene.” After all, she says the Jesus of this movie “is a man who has known sin, fear, failure, and guilt” like all other men. She observes,
Blood gushes everywhere – from brutalized humans, sacrificial animals, even mystical apples into which Jesus bites. There’s violence and gratuitous nudity – such as John the Baptist’s earthly, vaguely pagan ceremonials on the banks of the River Jordan.
The meaning of Jesus’ life is “nasty and brutish, brief and tragic,” but the world is full of victims whose fives have such meaning and who are, like him, “a blend of the human and the divine” (Houston Chronicle, 13 August 1988, sec. F, p. 1). The Jesus of this movie is not the Savior of men lost in sin but rather is a man himself lost in sin like all other men and so in need of a Savior!
Let us consider several contrasts between the cunningly devised fables of misguided men and the true accounts preserved in the historical record of Scripture.
|Cunningly Devised Fables||Historical Record of Scripture|
|1. John the baptizer is a hysterical cult leader.||1. John baptized people for the remission of their sins and taught the necessity of living an honest and unselfish life. Rather than creating a cult, he sent people back to their normal places in life. Rather than grabbing money he lived in the simplest manner (Matt. 3:1-12; Lk. 3:1-18).|
|2. Jesus is pictured as a wild-eyed guru who is confused about his mission, message, and method.||2. From the time Jesus began his public ministry, preaching, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” until he arose from the dead and gave the Great Commission, he never once faltered or failed in his work. He finished to perfection the work God gave him to do (Lk. 19:10; Matt. 4:17; 28:18-20; Jn. 9:4-5; 17:4; 19:30).|
|3. Jesus confessed to sinning: “I am a liar, I am a hypocrite.” He confessed to Mary Magdalene, “I know the worst things I’ve done, I’ve done to you.”||3. Jesus affirmed that he spoke only the truth and challenged his enemies, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” He never wronged Mary or anyone else, “But was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Jn. 8:32, 45-46; Heb. 4:15).|
|4. In confusion and doubt of himself, Jesus said, “Lucifer is inside me.”||4. Jesus said his enemies were filled with Satan, but he himself was the Great “I AM,” “the Son of God,” – “I and the Father are one” – “making himself equal with God.” He proved these claims with miracles (Jn. 8:44, 58; 9:35-38; 10:25, 30; 5:17-18).|
|5. Jesus turned away the sick.||5. Jesus never turned any sick person away. He healed “all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” – he healed “all sick people” who came to him (Matt. 4:23-25).|
|6. Jesus uses blood and bloody scenes in a sensational way. Blood pour from an apple he eats. The grape juice used at the last supper turns into literal blood. Jesus rips his own heart out of his chest and holds it up dripping and pulsating before his disciples.||6. Sensationalism stirs the superficial interests of curiosity seeks and emotionalists. Jesus calmly and forcefully taught in a manner which caused people to understand the truth, to be convicted of their sins, and to make intelligent decisions in obedience to his word. He never resorted to violence by tearing out his hear, but he used lilies and birds as object lessons. The Bible forbids eating and drinking blood (Matt. 6:26-28; 7:28-29; Jn. 6:44-45; 7:45-46; Lk. 23:8-9; Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:29).|
|7. Women are among the disciples who sat with Jesus at the last passover feast.||7. “Now when the even was come he sat down with the twelve.” (Matt. 26:20).|
|8. Judas Iscariot is so loyal to Jesus that Jesus had to persuade his faithful friend to betray him as part of God’s plan.||8. Judas stole from the Lord. His greed led him to betray Jesus. Knowing the treachery in Judas’ heart, Jesus told him it would have been better if he had never been bon (Jn. 12:6; 13:26; Matt. 26:14-25).|
|9. Paul is a hypocrite and a liar.||9. Paul said, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” He preached only “words of truth and soberness” (Acts 26:23-25).|
|10. Jesus dreams of rebuking Paul for preaching and Jesus arose from the dead. Paul answers that the facts are unimportant in people’s faith.||10. Jesus appeared as the resurrected Lord and told Paul to preach the gospel, including the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul stressed the factual nature of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 9:1-22; 22:1-21; 26:1-29; 1 Cor. 15:1-8).|
|11. Mary Magdelene is a prostitute who runs a brothel.||11. Not once anywhere is Mary said to be an immoral woman.|
|12. Jesus dreams of marrying Mary Magdalene and of having sexual intercourse with her. She dies, so he marries Martha’s sister, Mary, but also commits adultery with Martha.||12. To say that Jesus “was in all points tempted” is one thing but to say that he had lengthy and detailed dreams and imaginations as a taste of the pleasures of sin is blasphemy. He condemned such (Matt. 5:28; Gal. 5:19; Phil. 4:18).|
|13. Jesus announces that his death will pay for his own sins, not for the sins of other men.||13. Jesus denied that he ever sinned, but said that he would die so that other men could have “the remission of sins.” “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Jn. 8:46; 3:16; Matt. 26:28; Lk. 19:10).|
In summary, this movie convicts Jesus as being part lunatic and part liar. When the Jews demanded the death penalty and crucified him on the charge of blasphemy for claiming to be the very Son of God, they were right. Jesus was fully man, but not fully God. Jesus was wrong about his unique claims and the unbelieving Jews were right. Such views please Satan rather than God.
In other words, this movie mauls and maligns the Messiah just as unbelievers did 2,000 years ago. Jesus still says to men of such hardened hearts, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). To all of us Jesus says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). Until we obey Christ, we are lost in our sins as a part of Satan’s kingdom. We are in fellowship with all the servants of Satan, including those who maul and malign the Messiah. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30). Have you taken your stand with Jesus?
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 20, pp. 656-626, 632
October 20, 1988