Friday Film: The Book Of Eli

I'm usually selective about the films I watch. I rarely just watch a movie on a whim. But a while back, that's how I watched The Book Of Eli. On a whim. And it was a great surprise.

This movie has a lot of really good things going for it. There's a killer cast, with Denzel Washington as Eli. The first song in the movie is an old Al Green tune (please don't talk to me about the Bee Gees). And get this, Tom Waits has a cameo! Are you kidding me? What's not to like?

Early in the movie, you realize it's different than a lot of films. Eli prays to God before his meals. He teaches others to pray. Eli likes to quote the Bible (and Johnny Cash). Once, before beating down a gang of bad guys, he quotes from Genesis 3:17-19:

Cursed be the ground for our sake...  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for us... For out of the ground we were taken, for dust we are and to the dust we shall return.
And then he promptly returns the bad guys to the dust.
Just look at the…

John's Perspective On Jesus (Part 1)

We've looked at three of the four gospels in the New Testament. We explored how each one takes its own unique approach to the Jesus story. Now there is only one. The gospel of John.

John is rather different from the other gospels.

The style is different. The words about Jesus seem to be written in another stratosphere. Almost philosophical at times. It can seem much more abstract in its approach while Matthew, Mark, and Luke seem more tangible. This is clear from the start. Look at the first verse of John in the NIV:

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was God, and the word was with God."
Who's the word? Does this mean the Bible was there at the beginning? With God? How can that be? Let's keep reading. Maybe the second verse will help.
"He was with God in the beginning."
Well that's not helpful at all. That's the same thing he said in the first verse. I guess we should keep reading. Here's verse 3:
"Through him all things were mad…

Luke's Perspective On Jesus (Part 2)

All the gospels have their own unique characteristics and approach, and the gospel of Luke is no different. Luke, like Matthew, includes the story of the birth of Jesus, but his version includes the story of the shepherds (Matthew leaves that out) and doesn't include the story of the Magi (which Matthew included). Luke focuses on Mary in the birth story, while Matthew concentrates a bit more on Joseph. If it weren't for Luke, we wouldn't have the parables of the good Samaritan (Luke 10) or the prodigal son (Luke 15).

But the differences are about so much more than what stories were included or left out. Luke gives emphasis to a couple of things that the other gospels don't. Important things. Things like the Holy Spirit. The title "Holy Spirit" is only used five times in Matthew. Mark is even less interested, with only four mentions. To their credit, Matthew and Mark still talk about the Holy Spirit more than a lot of American churches.

Luke kicks it up a notc…

Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction, and the Book of Ezekiel

Ever watched Pulp Fiction? Me neither.

Yeah that's totally a lie. I've watched it.

This post is not a movie recommendation. If you choose to watch it, please don't blame me.

I digress.

Anyway, there is a scene in Pulp Fiction where Samuel Jackson's character, Jules, is threatening a young man who stole from Samuel Jackson's boss. He asks the young man, "Do you read the Bible, Brett?" and shares a Bible verse he believes "sort of fits the occasion." He identifies it as Ezekiel 25:17. You know what? Tarantino is a master at sharing his vision. Why am I telling you about it? Let's just watch it. I've edited it for content.

 Let me recap. Jules cites Ezekiel 25:17 as follows:

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.  Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and …

Luke's Perspective On Jesus (Part 1)

The Gospel of Luke begins with something the other gospels don't have. A preface. You know what a preface is. It shows up at the beginning of a book and the author uses it to explain why he or she wrote the book. I actually have a book called Famous Prefaces. No joke. A real page turner, as you can imagine.

Here's Luke's preface, found in Luke 1:1-4, taken from the NRSV.

"Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed."

Sheesh. Wordy much, Luke?

Do you remember how Mark began? "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the son of God." In Greek that phras…

Mark's Perspective On Jesus

Mark begins his Jesus story with the words, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God." Then, after briefly mentioning John (the baptist), he jumps to the baptism and temptation of Jesus. For Mark, that's the beginning.

But what about the Christmas story? Where is the manger? What about the wise men? The shepherds? The angelic visitors? What about tiny Jesus in his golden fleece diapers with his tiny little fat balled up fists... oh wait. My bad. That's the gospel according to Ricky Bobby.

Mark just isn't interested in the birth of Jesus. For Mark, the beginning of the Jesus story isn't about the beginning of his life but the beginning of his ministry. That's when the gospel begins.

Let's talk about the word "gospel" for a minute. The Greek word is euangelion. This isn't a word the Church invented. Lots of people used this word back then. Not like today. Today, if you hear the word "gospel" it's probably …

Matthew's Perspective On Jesus

I love the story about the three wise men visiting the child Jesus. I know, I know. The Bible never says there were three of them. In fact, the Greek text of the New Testament doesn't call them wise men. They're simply identified as magi in Matthew 2:1, a word which is translated as magician or sorcerer in Acts 13:6 and 13:8. Kind of funny if you think about it. If they're the good guys in the story, English translations call them wise men. If they're the bad guys, then they're definitely sorcerers.

Still, I love the story. Visitors from a distant land follow a star to a child who they deem worthy of their worship. The regional ruler attempts to gather information from the visitors so he can squash this potential threat in the form of a child. The visitors choose to deliver their gifts to the child (three gifts, which is why we came to think of three visitors) and circumvent the ruler on their way back home.

Did you know if it wasn't for the gospel of Matthew, …