"King of Kings"(1961) Movie Review

Updated: Oct 4


During the twentieth century, television provided a new way of storytelling. Instead of reading a book or listening to someone tell a tale, people could see images on a screen, hear words spoken, and they could visualize the story through someone else's imagination. One of the most popular, published, read, and endless stories of the world are now being viewed on a screen. People who can't read, see, or hear, could one day watch and listen to the stories as they unfolded, portrayed by actors of today. The stories of the Bible are transformed into movies, a vision seen through the producer's eyes or play writer imagines the story and how it has played out in real-time. At times the producer may follow the story closely, while other times varying the timelines and adding the writer's spin or thoughts on the subject.


The story of Jesus' life is a story told by many. In the Bible alone, four different people write the life of Jesus from four different perspectives. The four perspectives of Jesus' life "The Gospels," written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each writer portrays similar scenes from the life of Jesus while also adding or omitting other passages that are not included in all four gospels. But for this writing, I will only be comparing the Gospel of Mark to the movie "King of Kings"(1961).


The "King of Kings" movie, speaks of Rome's conquering of Jerusalem in 63 B.C. Of how Caesar Augustus slaughtered thousands of innocent Jews and imprisoned many others. Even Caesar Augustus naming Herod the Great as "The King of the Jews," whom many believed was the "False King. But the Jews rebelled and survived this horror by believing the one promise, "God would send the Messiah." The movie portrays the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, the Three Wise Men visiting Jesus in the manager. The film follows Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing from the manger to Egypt, as Joseph flees with his family to Egypt, as King Herod the Great orders the slaughter of all the newborns in Bethlehems. King Herod the Great dies, being replaced by his son Herod Antipas. Joseph and his family return to Nazareth. As Jesus turns12, Herod Antipas orders a great census of all the people. However, Jesus is not among the list of people. Both his mother is told to make sure he is added to the census by the end of the year (Ray, 1961). From this point in the movie, it starts to portray some of the writings of Mark.


In the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Mark does not write about the birth of Jesus but begins with the foretelling of John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for Jesus (Mk 1:1-4). Mark speaks of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. Of Jesus seeing the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. He hears a voice from heaven, "You are my son, the Beloved: with you, I am well pleased." (Mk 1:9-11). The movie did not portray the heavens torn apart, a dove, or a voice.

Mark speaks of Jesus' forty days in the wilderness (Mk 1:12-13) but does not write in as much detail as the movie portrays. Mark goes on to speak of Jesus choosing his disciples, but Mark does not describe Jesus changing Simon's name to Peter, as did the movie. Mark begins to write about the teachings and miracles Jesus preforms, such as the healing of the blind man and the paralyzed man carried through the rooftop to be healed by Jesus (Mk 2:4). All of which are portrayed in both the biblical writing and the movie. But many other miracles that Mark wrote of were left out of the film. The hemorrhaging women (Mk 5:25-34), the legion and the swine (Mk 5:1-20), Jesus also says many times throughout the Gospel of Mark, "Tell no one about him" and the miracles he performs, but the movie does not. There were other miracles not portrayed in the film, perhaps for time constraints, technology issues, or perhaps by choice of the film writers and directors. The timeline of the movie also varies from the story written by Mark.


Mark does not go into as much detail about the beheading of John the Baptize (Mk 6:144-27). Mark speaks of Jesus teaching and feeding the multitudes in two different scenes (Mk 6:35-44) and (Mk 8:1-9), but the movie portrays one scene. The film shows Jesus answering all the people's questions at one time, not throughout many days, as Mark describes. The movie depicts a follower asking Jesus about the end of time and what to expect, but Mark tells of Jesus talking to Peter, James, John, and Andrew privately about this (Mk 13:3-37). The Last Supper, the arrest of Jesus and his defense, and the crucifixion of Jesus parallel each other closely in both versions.


Mark speaks of Jesus telling the twelve disciples that one of them will betray him, and one will deny him and of the events of the last supper (Mk 14; 18-31). Mark even writes that Jesus would not speak to defend himself as he is charged with the offense of being the "King of the Jews" (Mk15: 2-5). From the thorn of crowns, the taunting, and the crucifixion of two thieves alongside Jesus. Even Jesus as he buried in the tomb, the removal of a large stone, and the appearance of Jesus to his two disciples on the road these events parallel the movie version very closely.


But why are there so many scenes that do not coincide with the Gospel of Mark? The Gospel of Mark is not the only Gospel written about Jesus. Three other men write at least three other gospels at different times. In the retelling of a story, the story may often change by a few words depending on who is telling it. A story many people see can be seen from another's viewpoint, and different versions can be told. The Gospels of Jesus' life has last over 2000 years, been translated into many different languages. As the Bible or any other book was translated, copied by hand, and passed on through history, small changes are likely to have occurred. Although I am only comparing this movie to The Gospel of Mark, many scenes that do not coincide with Mark may possibly follow the Gospels of Mathew, Luke, or John. And one last thought to ponder, today's world of television and Hollywood, sometimes it is not so much about the story, but about the money and fame being produced.




Next week’s post will discuss the Gospel of Matthew and the last chapters of McGinn.

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