A proposed new film about Jesus is outraging conservative Christians with its unorthodox story line.
The Daily Mail reports the movie is based on the book "Jesus of Nazareth" by Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch director most famous for his films "RoboCop," "Total Recall" and "Basic Instinct," will also direct the movie version of "Jesus of Nazareth."
The most controversial aspects of the book and future film include a portrayal of Jesus as the child of a Roman soldier who raped Mary, a depiction that is contrary to the profession of faith by Christians that Mary was a virgin. The story also discounts the common biblical teachings of Jesus performing miracles, the resurrection and of Jesus' divinity.
As William Doehring explains in the Examiner, the film is based on the work of prominent Biblical theologians such as Rudolf Bultman and Raymond Brown, and the members of the Jesus Seminar, a group of biblical scholars whose research focuses on constructing an accurate portrait of the historical Jesus, one who was more ethicist and radical prophet than Son of God.
Verhoeven spoke about his research to Mike Fleming at Deadline.com:
“If you look at the man, it’s clear you have a person who was completely innovative in the field of ethics. My own passion for Jesus came when I started to realize that. It’s not about miracles, it’s about a new set of ethics, an openness towards the world, which was anathema in a Roman-dominated world. I believe he was crucified because they felt that politically, he was a dangerous person whose following was getting bigger and bigger. Jesus’ ideals are about the utopia of human behavior, about how we should treat each other, how we should step into the shoes of our enemy.”
Verhoeven’s take on Jesus isn’t likely to pacify more conservative Christians who are already gearing up for a fight.
"Hollywood isn't anti-Christian, we are constantly told. Yet the evidence keeps piling up that it is precisely that way," Dan Gainor of the Culture and Media Institute told RadarOnline.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue called Verhoeven's claim about Mary "laughable," on Fox News' website when the book came out in 2008. "Here we go again with idle speculation grounded in absolutely nothing," Donohue said. "He has no empirical evidence to support his claim (about Mary), which is why they say 'may have.'"
It seems unlikely that Christian protests will be able to prevent Verhoeven from making the film -- he recently obtained funding -- and the controversy may offer the film the kind of free publicity that helped Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ," and Monty Python’s "The Life Of Brian."
"Priest," a depiction of homosexuality in the priesthood, drew the ire of the Catholic League when it was released in 1994.
Monty Python's "Life of Brian" was so contentious when it was released -- it angered Catholics, Jews and others -- that the BBC made a comedic film for TV about the controversy, "Holy Flying Circus."
Based on a 1955 novel that was banned by the Catholic Church (and whose author was excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church), Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" was called blasphemous by Christian groups before it was even released. Thousands of theaters later refused to screen the film. Still, people lined up to see it.
"The Golden Compass," the first in a trilogy of fantasy films, was decried by the Catholic League as "selling atheism to kids" and denounced by Focus on the Family for encouraging people to reject God. The protests may have prevented the rest of the trilogy from ever being made.