Biblical violence in film

From the Last Temptation of Christ (1987)

From the Last Temptation of Christ (1987)

Dr. Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies and advisor to AAS, has recently published a scholarly and peer-reviewed article about portrayals of biblical violence in film, titled Film and the Apologetics of Biblical Violence in the Journal of Religion and Film.

In the article, Dr. Avalos shows that most films with biblical subjects are very conservative in their approach to biblical violence. Films minimize, maximize, or exclude certain incidences of violence as found in the bible, seemingly in order to portray religious figures in the best possible light, rather than following the biblical stories exactly.

From the conclusion:

Our typology is merely a starting point for further explorations into the complexity of how biblical violence is addressed. Certainly, it may need to be refined to accommodate gradations of minimization and maximization, in particular. But it is clear already that the depiction of biblical violence is actually quite conservative insofar as it seeks to protect the moral superiority of biblical characters. Filmmakers still depict the Bible’s main characters as justified and bearing higher ethics in their use of violence. Even films that have radical portrayals of Jesus’s sexuality ( The Last Temptation of Christ ), will not violate the image of a benign and non-violent Jesus. The best explanation is that, despite all the seeming religious radicality of modern film making, validating and justifying violence by biblical heroes is still the reigning paradigm.


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