Every year I teach an undergraduate course called “Jesus in Scholarship and Film.” In the class, students study about a dozen gospels (canonical and non-canonical), see what historians say about the historical Jesus, and watch/evaluate Jesus movies. The point is that every portrayal – ancient literary, modern scholarly, cinematic – has a slant and a perspective; every portrayal is different.
At the beginning of the year I have students watch an interesting overview – with clips – of major portrayals of Jesus in film, called “Jesus Christ Moviestar,” which begins with the silents and goes up to the early 90s. Afterward, I ask the students which of those films (they’ve never seen any of them!) do you think would be most interesting to watch.
The resounding answer, every time, is “Life of Brian.”
It’s a FANTASTIC choice. Yes, it’s a Monty Python spoof. Yes, it’s meant to be (and is) very funny. Yes, it was attacked by conservative Christians as being blasphemous (the vast majority of them hadn’t actually seen it). BUT, yes, it is also an unusually clever and extremely smart film, written, directed, and produced by people who had far more insights into the Gospel accounts (it is not about them, directly) and the historical Jesus (or about him, directly) than almost anyone else in the Jesus-film business.
Everyone I know who teaches a “Jesus in Film” classes uses The Life of Brian and a large number of these academics list it as their personal favorite Jesus movie of all time.
In 2014 a conference was organized by Kings College London to celebrate the 35th year of the film’s release. It was, well, an unusual conference. A group of scholars of the New Testament and early Judaism met and presented academic papers on the film. I was invited to give one, and it was a blast. John Cleese and Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) came to the conference (Cleese thought it was a hoot that academics were reading serious papers about it). And the papers were published the next year in a volume called Jesus and Brian, edited by Joan Taylor
All that is preamble. We are doing a Bart Movie Club (BMC) on the Life of Brian to raise money for the blog. All revenues will go to blog expenses, which are rising since the blog is expanding, and that takes resources, and we steadfastly refuse to take out overhead from membership fees and regular donations.
So, are you willing to watch a terrific film, come to the movie club, discuss it all with me, donate some dosh, have a great time, AND help a worthy cause??
The main event, the discussion with me, will be on June 25th (coming up soon!) at 3:00 PM EDT (I’ll be in London; it will be 8:00 PM for me!).
The Movie Club viewing will not be that day, but before; and you have two (well three!) massively convenient options. You can:
- Watch it on your own at your leisure.
- Join other blog members in watching it together on Zoom in silence, with a brief introduction and discussion afterward (without me) led by movie club organizer and blog member Lance Boyer, on this Sunday 18 June 2023 2:00pm EDT.
- Join other blog members in watching it together on Zoom in anything but silence, making comments and giving insights and whatever, led by movie club organizer and blog member Lance Boyer, on this Sunday 18 June 2023 7:00pm EDT.
As you might imagine, I do NOT recommend doing ONLY option 3; but if you’ve already done options 1 or 2, 3 could be fun. Lance’s descriptions of these options are below.
SO, the basic idea is that you watch the film at some point, by yourself or with others, and then we discuss it on Sunday, June 25th at 3:00 PM EDT.
We are asking for a minimum donation of $30 to participate in the event. If you can’t afford it, or all of it, come anyway. If you’re feeling generous (beginning of the year giving!), the sky is the limit. For those who agree it’s one of the best movies they’ve never seen, we suggest multiples of $10 up to and including $30,000. Anything above that, please send small unmarked bills to my private address.
For those who sign up, I will be providing a brief movie-viewing-guide in advance. (That can help for this film in particular. It’s not at all hard to understand on the surface, but there’s a lot more to it than you might expect at first glance.)
I hope you can do it. I’m looking forward to it.
Watch the movie in advance of Jun 25th (7:00 PM EST), and come to the meeting (Zoom link) with your reflections, opinions and questions for Bart. Or just come to listen! The same link will work for the two pre-Bart viewings:
Enjoy Father’s Day by watching “The Life of Brian” with a group of your Ehrman Blog Friends. Two convenient showtimes make it easier for Ehrman Blog Friends across the globe to watch the movie together.
Sunday 18 June 2023 2:00pm EDT Life of Brian–Silent Movie Watching Only with discussion afterwards! The film is an hour and half long.
Prior to the movie, Lance will have a brief conversation with all the guests to explore their familiarity with this movie. Then he’ll roll the film and participants can watch it together in silence. Afterwards, participants will have a half hour to discuss the movie.with one another.
Sunday 18 June 2023 7:00pm EDT Life of Brian–Questions, commentary, discussion, or observations will be welcome as we watch the film together!
Even if you watched it earlier this promises to be a fun showing that won’t necessarily be silent. Anyone is welcome to ask Lance to pause the film so they can ask questions, make comments, discuss something, rewatch an important scene or even play MST3K (Mystery Science Theatre 3000) and attempt to tell jokes and get people laughing while you watch. Afterwards, you’ll have some conversation if anyone is left with something to say.