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The Life of Brian Conference

I need to take a hiatus from my thread on textual alterations of the NT (you may be relieved to know!) in order to make some posts on the Life of Brian Conference, called “Jesus and Brian” that was held this past weekend at Kings College London.   I will not be giving my personal blow-by-blow account.  One of the attendees, Mark Goodacre, a friend and colleague who teaches New Testament at cross-town rival Duke, who has been a huge fan of Monty Python as well as the genre of the “Jesus film” for most of the years of his conscious being, is himself doing so, and has given me permission to use his account to inform you of what happened each day (although he had to leave before the third and final day, which happened to be the day on which I read my own paper).

After this present short introductory post I’ll provide Mark’s post(s), and then possibly over the course of three posts or so give you the paper that I read.

For all of this, I’d suggest strongly (I’d suggest this strongly even if it were not for this!) that you watch the Life of Brian, if you have never done so; and that you watch it again if you’ve seen it before.   I’ve seen it roughly 93 gazillion times, and I have to say, it simply never gets old.  It is extraordinarily clever, witty, and thought-provoking.   When it was released, it was condemned as blasphemous – principally by pious Christians who had not seen it and did not actually know what it was about.  It was banned in parts of the U.K. and the U.S.   But it had a huge following and is today often named as the greatest comedy ever to come out of the U.K.

The movie was NOT…

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Day One of Jesus and Brian
Radio Debate with Pete Williams on Textual Variants



  1. Avatar
    Hana1080  June 23, 2014

    Ah to have been a fly on the wall ! lol

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    BrianUlrich  June 23, 2014

    I obviously have a particular connection to this movie =)

    I try to reference the “People’s Front of Judea” scene when I teach Late Second Temple Judaism/early Christianity in my gen ed World History I survey, yet after 5 years of teaching about 80-120 students each semester, I can’t recall any student ever having seen it. I’ve taken to including the Youtube clip as part of their assignment so they’ll know what I’m talking about, which they actually wind up remembering more than they would the reading or lecture on my part.

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    Hana1080  June 23, 2014

    Could I recommend as well Wholly Moses with the late Dudley Moore?


    • Avatar
      John E Paver  June 25, 2014

      One of the lectures, by Dr David Shepherd of Trinity College Dublin, was about Wholly Moses. It’s main failing was that it was not funny, and the bits referencing Life of Brian weren’t funny either!

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      veryrarelystable  June 25, 2014

      There was a talk at the conference about Wholly Moses by David Shepherd. I have to say previously I was unfamiliar with this film, but it seems to have been brought out about a year after The Life of Brian, based on Brian’s considerable box-office success. Wholly Moses didn’t gain such success, and from the few clips that Dr Shepherd gave I could see why.

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    RonaldTaska  June 24, 2014

    I follow Goodacre’s blog as well as periodically reading sections of his New Testament Gateway and readers might find these helpful although he does not blog near enough. I plan to watch the movie soon.

    I once sat by an elderly woman at a church conference and when the class was asked what had most influenced their religious beliefs, she burst out Monty Python films. So, I started watching them as a result of her comment.

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    fishician  June 24, 2014

    There is a lot of humor in religion, though most of it is unintentional. Like, the one time God writes something down for the people of Israel, the Ten Commandments, they then lose the tablets! Apparently the ancient Egyptians were more serious about preserving their history in stone than were the people of God with the very words of God. Also funny how believers call The Life of Brian blasphemy even though it is not about Jesus, while every Sunday preachers are mangling and twisting the words of Jesus to justify whatever they happen to believe, but that is not considered blasphemy.

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    MikeyS  June 24, 2014

    As someone in the UK that saw the original series of Monty Python, I may be in a minority but couldn’t stand them and didn’t think they were at all funny or witty and to me just like schoolboy humour that passed me by. Its a bit like most of those contemporary series at the time like the Goon show, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and loads of others doing the rounds. I did see a little bit of the film quoted above but turned it off after a few minutes.

    Maybe Its because I am a misery? 😉

    Maybe you need to have a special sense of humour to appreciate them. Just to say that even as a Christian at the time, nothing printed or filmed about Christianity or Jesus/Christ bothered me anyway.
    I wish Muslims will get to feel the same way about Muhammad one day.

    • Avatar
      veryrarelystable  June 25, 2014

      I have some sympathy with this as fellow Brit, but I would modify it slightly. I do think the Pythons had occasional flashes of brilliance – take the philosophers’ drinking song for example. But a lot of what they produced seemed to me quantity rather than quality. I do think the The Life of Brian bucked this trend – it really is their funniest film by far, much better than Holy Grail. If you haven’t yet seen LOB you really shouldn’t write off the Pythons before you do.

      There’s some more info on this conference on my blog (http://atheistbiblicalcriticism.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/jesus-and-brian-or-what-have-pythons.html) including a photo showing the back of Bart Ehrman’s head!

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      Arlyn  June 26, 2014

      I’m with you… such humor misses me completely but I’ve a son who i could easily tell enjoyed it greatly so I had no problems giving it value even though it had none for me personally.

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    Wilusa  June 25, 2014

    Have to admit, I’ve never been a fan of movies about Jesus, or of the comedy genre. Just not my thing. And recently, I haven’t been interested in looking at *any* movies. Plenty of interesting things to look at on TV or DVDs, with shorter running times!

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    Wilusa  June 27, 2014

    Just mentioning…it’s once again impossible to get the list of recent posts to show up on the right-hand side of the page without clicking on “Continue Reading” for some one post. Not a big deal, because a person presumably *does* want to look at one of them! But I did prefer the way it worked before. Ditto your having separate links for members and non-members.

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    AdamPanacci  September 21, 2014

    King’s College posted your talk on Youtube at the 1 hour 18 min mark at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaSQyktvJDw

  10. Bernard
    Bernard  June 5, 2018

    As I recall, Jesus appeared three times. The last being while carrying his cross on the road to Golgotha. Brian comes to help him and he ducks and runs, leaving Brian with the cross. Or am I misremembering?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 5, 2018

      Yup, you are. There’s no scene of Jesus carrying his cross.

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