Campus Crusade for Christ

A Critical Review of The Jesus Film

This review has been adapted from a review done by an East-coast pastor of the video The Jesus Film. The Jesus Film is a major motion picture of the life of Christ based on the Gospel of Luke. Campus Crusade has made the Film available to more than 180 new mission agencies (in addition to the more than 400 already using it), and it continues to be one of the key ingredients of Campus Crusade's New Life 2000 ecumenical world evangelization campaign. Since Campus Crusade claims The Jesus Film has been viewed by more than 710 million people, in 220 countries, in 340 languages, with 41 million "making decisions for Christ" (as of 6/96), its accurateness in doctrine and style must be a major concern to all Bible-believing Christians:

1. The video claimed that there were one billion Christians in the world. This is obviously a loose definition of a Christian which would include many who name the name of Christ, but have not truly believed in His salvation on His terms.

2. Satan is portrayed in this video as a snake. This is not stated in the gospel of Luke on which the Film is based). If I were asked how I would have handled this situation I would have had the narrator keep speaking and have a different voice for Satan.

3. The video says that Jesus was called upon to read in the synagogue, but Luke 4:16 states that Jesus stood up to read. This indicated to me an authority which the movie leaves out. In the same scene the video shows Jesus kissing the scroll of Isaiah. This also is not recorded in Luke 4, and kissing the scroll is a form of worship which is contrary to the nature of God to worship any thing.

4. When Jesus calmed the sea in Luke 8:22-25, the video presented Jesus calming the sea without speaking. In Luke's gospel, it does not give the actual words which Jesus spoke, but it does record the fact that Jesus did speak! This is important because the Film removes the picture given in John 1:1-5, that Jesus is the Word of God.

5. The video, when portraying Legion, showed him naked and showed an inappropriate view of this man. Even if this was factual rather than speculative, it is inappropriate for a general audience.

6. The video dealt with parables, but only gave part of the reason for Jesus use of parables in His teaching.

7. When the video portrayed Jesus casting out a demon, the video did not indicate Jesus speaking. Again, while Luke's gospel does not record the actual words which Jesus spoke, It does record that Jesus rebuked the demon. This, again, is an omission of an important picture that Jesus is the Word of God.

8. In the video, after denying Jesus three times, Peter prays. This is not recorded in the gospel of Luke.

9. What really bothered me as I watched this video was simple fact that I never felt like I was getting the whole picture. It is true that Campus Crusade was only presenting what was recorded in Luke's gospel, but God gave us four gospels so that we could get the whole picture. It was very hard for me to see the crucifixion depicted, yet Jesus was not wearing the crown of thorns. It was also hard for me not to hear all that Jesus said as He hung on the cross. Since this video is meant to be evangelistic, and God has recorded and preserved four gospels for us, should not the whole picture which He has given us be portrayed?

10. The events presented in the video are out of order as they are presented in the gospel of Luke. If the intent was to stay true to the gospel of Luke, should not the message be presented as Luke gave it? (The Holy Spirit spoke through Luke!)

11. The video leaves out Jesus rebuking the Pharisees. The gospel of Luke, along with the other gospels, share much information regarding Jesus rebuking the Pharisees and the sin of the Pharisees. The video only presented John the Baptist rebuking the Pharisees. If those who made the video intended to leave out this information because they were emphasizing the gospel message, would not the gospel of John have been a better choice? (John 20:30,31)

12. The prayer at the end is all right, but it is not the prayer I would use to lead a person in salvation. The admission that, "I am a sinner," is not definitely clear although it is implied.

13. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, a question which was my own even before I viewed this tape: Does a video of the life of Jesus in any way offend God, i.e., are not the first and second commandments violated by the portrayal of Jesus on film? In the past, not even Hollywood dared to portray Jesus face-on. One saw the back of His head or hand in films such as Ben Hur. But now a man who doesn't even profess to be a Christian plays the part of God manifest in the flesh! Are those who "come to Christ" through the film coming to the real Jesus, or the actor who plays his part? (That actor, Brian Deacon, describes himself as a "lapsed Catholic" who hasn't practiced his faith: "I've had many doubts about Jesus' teaching," says Deacon. "I'm just an actor. I don't want the responsibility of being Jesus Christ ... The character of Jesus belongs to everyone and I had to find my own voice and emotions for the role." What "Jesus" is this who attracts multitudes!)

Whenever a film about Jesus is made, the one playing the role of Jesus must use facial expressions and tones in his voice to portray Christ. If he does this in any way wrongly, he has misrepresented God to people. This is much to scary a task for me! The Bible clearly states that, "... Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). The Bible also states that it is the preaching of the cross which is God's chosen method of evangelism. I do not have a problem with a video which preaches the gospel message, but I do get concerned about anyone playing the role of Jesus for Jesus is God!

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 8/96