Developmental Divinity: a Review of “The Young Messiah”

The Young Messiah, a film based on a novel by Anne Rice, is about Roman soldiers in the employ of Herod Antipas looking to hunt down a boy named Jesus, a rumored miracle worker, who seven years previously may have escaped Herod the Great’s slaughter of the innocents.

Sean Bean, who is so often killed off in movies and (as in Game of Thrones) on TV (IMDB actually keeps a list), plays Severus, a Roman soldier who is an almost direct analogue to the Tribune, Clavius, in another 2016 film, Risen. And like that later Roman, Severus is investigating a mystery, except it’s not the man’s disappearance but the boy’s reemergence. Whereas Clavius was out to quash rumors about the Resurrection of Jesus; Severus is charged with making sure He will not live to have a Bar Mitzvah.

So already you see one of the problems at the heart of this listless mess of a movie that the producers claim “seeks to present a realistic portrait of Jesus as a child both grounded in faith and consistent with the adult Jesus revealed in the Bible.” Director Cyrus Nowrasteh tries to use the pursuit of Jesus by the Herods, senior and junior, to build the kind of tension that propels action films. But how can it? We all know Jesus won’t be caught and killed.

And that’s only what makes the movie boring – that and the snail’s pacing, reliance on narration for exposition, and lackluster acting that, as Mrs. Parker once quipped, runs the gamut of emotions from A to B; ‘A,’ in this case, for apathetic and ‘B’ for bombast. The script (by Nowrasteh and his wife, Betsy Giffen) ricochets between the clichéd and the silly. For instance: men argue about the complicity of Jesus in another boy’s death, even though the young Jesus has just raised the other kid from the dead:

“He was dead!” one man insists.

“Well,” another man says, stating the obvious, “he’s not dead now!”

If that sounds vaudevillian, believe me: the scene evokes no other Biblical film than Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

In their first confrontation – a scene similar to the one in Risen in which the Legion battles Zealots (done much more convincingly in Risen) – Severus, who has yet to receive marching orders from Antipas, spares Jesus, who has stumbled upon the fight. Severus says to Him and Mary and Joseph: “Next time, there’ll be no mercy.” An idle threat, of course.

The movie’s best sequence is the “Jesus and the teachers” scene, although here it’s set at the synagogue in Nazareth, not in Jerusalem and not during that Passover when the Lord’s parents realized the boy was not with them in the caravan, a reminder that “revealed in the Bible” may be sundered by structural convenience. And it doesn’t even make sense, since there’s a pretty good scene later on shot on a Jerusalem-temple set (during Passover), depicting a final confrontation between Jesus and Severus.

Sean Bean as Severus
Sean Bean as Severus

The Bible is often quoted in the film – sometimes at length – but to cite Scripture, which the Devil may do, is not to understand it, and this points to a much bigger problem than bad moviemaking. The Young Messiah‘s Christology is appalling.

The movie fails to grasp the truth about Christ’s knowledge of Himself. It suggests that this confused, questioning prodigy had to be taught that He is God. But were that the case, as it clearly is in the film, the boy would not be God.

Here’s a précis from the filmmakers’ website:

When the mystery of Jesus’ divinity begins to unfold in His early years, He turns to His parents for answers. But Mary and Joseph, in an effort to protect their child, are afraid to reveal all they know.

It is heresy to assert that His divinity was ever hidden from Jesus, that His awareness was developmental.

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith put it in a 1966 document about “popular” errors following Vatican II:

A certain Christological humanism is twisted such that Christ is reduced to the condition of an ordinary man who, at a certain point, acquired a consciousness of his divinity as Son of God.

In Gaudium et Spes (paraphrasing St. Paul in Hebrews 4:15), the Council fathers wrote that Jesus, “[b]orn of the Virgin Mary. . .has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.” How could the 7-year-old Jesus have avoided sin if He were unaware of His divinity? (For a clear exposition of this infallible teaching, consult “Jesus’s Knowledge” by Fr. William G. Most.)

As the closing music swells, Jesus addresses his Heavenly Father: “Someday you’ll tell me why I’m here.”

To be clear, Pius XII wrote in Mystici Corporis (1943) that there was never a question in our Lord’s mind about his identity, never a moment of doubt:

For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love.

My wife actually fell asleep during the film, and was still rubbing her eyes as we were leaving the theater.

“Whatja think?” she asked.

I showed her my gravest countenance: You have to ask?

She nodded and shrugged.

“Well,” she yawned, “at least Sean Bean didn’t die.”

Actually, I suspect he did a little when he saw the final cut of The Young Messiah.

_____

The Young Messiah is rated PG-13. There’s a bloody sword or two and several men crucified. With Adam Greaves-Neal as Jesus, Sara Lazzaro as His mother, and Vincent Walsh as Joseph, her husband. A bleach-blond Rory Keenan plays “The Demon.” The movie was filmed in Matera, Italy and at Rome’s Cinecittà studio.

Brad Miner

Brad Miner

Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing, senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA. He is a former Literary Editor of National Review. His new book, Sons of St. Patrick, written with George J. Marlin, is now on sale. The Compleat Gentleman, is available on audio and as an iPhone app.

  • Mary Lee

    I thought we had done with that garbage about Christ didn’t know who He was at first. My response to that was always “then He wouldn’t be God if He didn’t know who He was”. Poor Sean Bean…I have always been a big fan of his since I first saw him on BBC series. He is a better actor than this movie.

  • Paul

    ‘But if we are to submit our speculations to the text [the four canonical gospels] and build our theology only with the bricks provided by careful exegesis we cannot say with any confidence that Jesus knew himself to be divine, the pre-existent Son of God.’

    James D.G, Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation p. 32.

    Dunn is a British New Testament scholar who was for many years the Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham. Too many people (usually fundamentalist evangelicals) accuse him of being “liberal” and “unorthodox”. Dunn is trying to tell us what he thinks the apostle Paul or the gospel writers believed about Jesus, and not necessarily what he personally thinks of him. Dunn loves Christ dearly, and that has certainly come out in his writings. He is simply trying to avoid putting his personal theology in his books; something that other scholars would do well to imitate.

    • Brad Miner

      One Protestant scholar’s opinion that, unsurprisingly, dissents from Roman Catholic orthodoxy.

    • ThirstforTruth

      Dunn unwittingly is making his own case against Sola Scriptura with that quote…
      Putting her personal theology in her writings and ignoring Truth in order to suit
      her own agenda is exactly the case in Anne Rice’s works.

  • Stanley Anderson

    The prequel to The Last Temptation of Christ?

  • Craig Payne

    I had heard that the Anne Rice novels on which the movie is based were actually pretty good (haven’t read them). Any input from readers?

    • Ray Schultz

      Anne Rice writes erotica and gothic novels. She claims to write ‘Christian’ novels also, but her books are factually inaccurate and often border on heresy. I would be very, very careful reading anything of hers. She is one of those people who call herself Catholic but her words, actions and beliefs speak very differently

      • ThirstforTruth

        She no longer calls herself Catholic…..thanks be to God. Your analysis of her writing is spot on!

    • ThirstforTruth

      Please see my comment above about Anne Rice and her creative efforts.

    • Murray

      Also, see my comment above. I read both books, written before she apostatized, and found much of value in them, though with some serious reservations.

      Anne Rice is pretty clearly a woman fighting her own demons, and it’s a great tragedy that she chose to surrender to them–at least for now. Yes, she wrote vampire novels and erotica (and may still, I haven’t checked), but at the time she wrote her Christ the Lord series, she had renounced those in favor of her Lord and his Church, and if you read the books, you should keep that in mind.

  • Ray Schultz

    I totally agree with this review, but can someone explain why Archbishop Chaput and numerous other leaders in the church had such rave reviews for this movie? I am truly hoping they were misquoted because I do not want to think such strong leaders actually approved of this trash

    • ThirstforTruth

      Nope!

    • olhg1

      Simple explanation. Jesus has graced you with more spiritual insight and understanding than He has His bishops.

    • Kmbold

      Ray Schultz, see response to thirstfortruth, above.

      • Ray Schultz

        No, Chaput clearly endorsed the movie. As did Cardinal O’Malley

  • ThirstforTruth

    Anne Rice is a prolific and acclaimed author, mostly of the occult, where the usual fare concerns the powers of Satan, which she seems to fully understand. Were her depiction of the Christ as profound and as exacting theologically.
    She is also well known for the aspersions she publically casts against the Catholic Church with which she has had a life long stormy relationship. This movie is taken from a series of novels she wrote about The Christ during one of her many “conversions” to the church. The Young Messiah, was the first in the series. I borrowed it from our local library, on the recommendation of the late Father Bernard Groeschel, who was so excited by her return to Catholicism he apparently overlooked its many theological errors ( I think Groeschel likely had not read it ) The book, like the movie was appalling and I did not even finish. The series stopped when she reverted to her former disbeliefs and disenchantments with the Church ( which seemed to coincide with her son’s outing himself publically as a homosexual). I think only two or three books at the most are in this series. She has since returned to writing the occult books. In Amazon reviews, she and Gary Wills can be found defending each other’s work which all dissent from Truth.
    Why Archbishop Chaput gives rave notices of this movie is one of the great mysteries of our time. Obviously, he is not aware of Anne Rice nor ever saw this film and is being “quoted” by one of his less than stellar clerks. Someone should get his attention and correct this error.
    Read or view Anne Rice at your own risk and peril.

    • Murray

      I read both her books and quite enjoyed them while I was going through RCIA. This was in 2009 or so, I think, before Rice recanted her conversion with a great hullabaloo. Given her recantation, her theologically erroneous portrayal of Christ, and her reliance on gnostic texts to provide material for Christ’s early childhood (I believe the story of Jesus unintentionally killing then raising the other child comes from the so-called Gospel of Thomas, but I might be wrong), I wouldn’t recommend them today to anyone not fully grounded in Church teaching.

      As I recall, Rice chose to portray Christ as gradually becoming aware of the true nature of his calling in order to provide dramatic tension. As a literary device, her decision makes sense: not only would it be near-impossible to write a story narrated by an omniscient being, but his divine foreknowledge would make it very difficult to maintain any suspense.

      On the positive side, I very much appreciated her portrayal of St Joseph as the respected, authoritative patriarch of his extended family (Rice’s Joseph hews to the ancient tradition of him as an older man with children from a previous marriage). When Joseph speaks in Rice’s books, everyone falls silent, including Jesus. Her portraits of first-century Jewish custom and the Galilean landscape are vivid and enlightening, and her portrayal of Our Blessed Mother is really quite good. In Rice’s version, no-one in Nazareth ever seriously questioned Mary’s virginity, since a) she was confined during her betrothal, and b) no-one thought her capable of adultery in the first place, given her character. Rice portrays Mary as quite an active player in Jesus’s early ministry, and I particularly enjoyed Rice’s interpretation of the famous dialogue at the Wedding of Cana. I recall that the Temptation in the Wilderness and the Baptism in the Jordan are also well done.

      On the other hand, Rice completely butchers the Finding in the Temple (Jesus is 8 rather than 12, and he stays in the Temple due to some sort of trance or fever). And ultimately, her portrayal of Jesus’s kenosis is gravely misleading. Rice’s narrative, combined with the effusive blurbs from prominent orthodox Catholics, led me to believe that it was acceptable to hold that Jesus grew in his divine self-knowledge. I was shocked when I later discovered that this is a heretical proposition!

      If, like me, you enjoy books that place you in the cultural and physical environment of first-century Galilee, I would recommend Between the Savior and the Sea by Bob Rice (no relation to Anne), which tells the Gospel narratives from St Peter’s perspective. Bob Rice is not quite as skilled a writer as Anne Rice, but he also avoids her errors.

    • Kmbold

      You may be referring mistakenly to the testimonial at the bottom of this forum by Archbishop Chaput. That is his praise for The Catholic Thing, not the movie being reviewed. My husband, not a daily visitor to this site, made the same error.

      • Brad Miner

        No, ThirstforTruth is correct. On the film’s website you can see praise for the film from Archbishop Chaput and Cardinal O’Malley.

  • grump

    Anne Rice left the Church and calls herself a “secular humanist” so why would anyone want to watch this twaddle? The way people talk in these so-called “biblical” movies is so anachronistic they wind up being laughed at.

  • Mack

    Thank you for your thoughtful and useful review. Well-meaning fundamentalist friends often ask me to visit their meeting halls and see the latest magic-lantern show; on this occasion, at least, I will have a specific Christological reason for a polite thank-you-but-no.

  • Leonard

    Heresy or not, Jesus would be a bizarre inhuman alien if he emerged from the womb fully conscious and aware of his purpose like a child from “Village of the Damned.” I would not relate to such an infant let alone change his diapers. It is surely the case that, if Jesus is fully human, that as an infant he was naked and helpless just like the rest of us and his mother and father taught him how to speak, bathe and eat. “Appeal to authority” in naming it “Heresy” is not an explanation.

    • olhg1

      For Roman Catholics, Jesus is God Almighty and has been from the instant of His Conception within His Mother, Mary. Certain folks, when facing your remarks about Jesus, seem to lean heavy on the fact that He is God Almighty, and how could God Almighty not be aware of things. Ergo, any depiction of Jesus that hints that He didn’t have to undergo the human process-wasn’t fully human with all the necessary stages to go through-is bananas. Explaining the “Mystery of Faith” is like trying to “catch the wind.”

      • Robert A Rowland

        And often as fruitless.

    • Ray Schultz

      I don’t think it would make him an ‘inhuman alien’; I think it would make him fully God and fully man. Just because we don’t understand the mysteries does not make them ‘bizarre’

    • Leonard

      I object and reject appeal to authority saying it is just a mystery that man is not meant to understand. If God cannot lie or dissemble and if the infant Jesus, emerges or, for that matter, dwells in the womb, a fertilized zygote, fully conscious while floating unfixed within the amnion, and feigns early childhood as a deception to conceal his true nature then he cannot be trusted and cannot be God. This is logic. The Church is wrong.

  • TBill

    I think I’ll skip this film . Thanks.

  • olhg1

    Anyone, pro or con this movie, trying to make rational sense out of what forever has been THE mystery of faith, is pretentious.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Yes and No. Brad you managed to address the most profound mystery, Jesus’ consciousness of his divinity, in context of the most profound, wonderful, miraculous, saving mystery The Incarnation of the Divine Word. Even the Dominican theologian translators of the best transl, that of the Blackfriars ed of the Summa do not offer absolute certitude. The reason is it is not only a mystery but the most profound of all. Enlightenment can be found in two authorities Leo the Great and Aquinas. Leo the Great in his letter to Flavian Bish of Const says “Just as the Word does not depart from equality with the Father’s glory, just so the flesh does not abandon the nature of our race.” Aquinas adds in ST III 34 Ad 4 “At the first instant of his conception Christ received fullness of grace. Grace effects act. It follows that he saw God in his essence more clearly than other creatures. Nevertheless he learned as a human what he already knew as God.” Aquinas in ST III 19 1 AD 2 “Insofar as that nature [human] is the instrument of the divinity it is not distinct from the activity of the divinity. At the same time Christ’s human nature possessed its own activity distinct from the divine activity.” We must always understand from this the necessity for our salvation of a human nature that is distinct from the divine giving the Son of Man the real, efficacious role of savior of the human race. As Leo the Great implies and Aquinas confirms Jesus received fullness of grace at his conception meaning in his human nature. That fullness as Aquinas says does not provide absolute knowledge of the substance of things. The agent intellect of his human nature had to acquire that. I add that the interchange of definitively divine locution and definitively human is fitting to the conditions that warrant either. The mystery therefore is best understood from the Cross. From the Cross Christ experienced not only real pain but real desolation, doubt, anguish far more that any human person can experience because of his uniquely greater compassion for us and love of the Father. It was not as if God were faking it, as if Our Lord knew all the time He would be saved, this said with the understanding that God permitted this precisely for our salvation, that in his human nature, a nature given the sufficiency of grace to remain faithful to his mission, the perfectly obedient Son would with absolute and complete freedom accomplished through his authentic suffering that which only in his human nature could be accomplished, our redemption. That is why it is and always will remain the most profound and beautiful of mysteries.

    • Brad Miner

      Interesting exegesis, but you’ve failed to address the specific issue: Did the boy Jesus know His own identity? It is clear to me the Church teaches that he did.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Yes the boy Jesus did. If asked directly he would respond with answer that would lead to that conclusion, “Son! Why did you do this. Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house.” Then the Evangelist adds, “Jesus returned with his parents and grew in knowledge and wisdom.” You have in this the interchange of locution by subject and author one a response from the one Person Jesus responding correctly in allusion to his divinity. The author of the Gospel then alludes to Jesus’ human nature and the reality of his actually learning. That may seem an anomaly but it isn’t because we’re dealing with two distinct natures that must be considered distinct whenever we read his words. Aquinas says that is why although Our Lord knew all things perfectly in his divine nature he nonetheless was subject to learning Aramaic from his parents. So the inter locution is always subject to the conditions of question and the event. In agreement with your understanding if asked Jesus will never be found to deny his divinity alluding to his divine nature in every instance, thus responding in accordance with the conditions. The answer is yes but must be understood in the reality of his distinct human nature and distinct divine nature in the miracle of One person.

    • Dave Fladlien

      Fr. Morello: I wasn’t going to comment on this article since I’m not all that knowledgeable, but thank you for this really strong affirmation of what made me an actual, not just nominal, Christian: reading a little book by the great Catholic Scripture scholar Fr. Raymond Brown. That book, called “Jesus God and Man”, explains things much as you have, also citing Pope Leo (as I recall) and St. Thomas Aquinas. My memory, perhaps actually my internalized summary, is that Aquinas said something to the effect that “If Jesus didn’t have human knowledge, He couldn’t have known anything.” Fr. Brown (again I’m going by 30 year old memory) says that is true because the Church teaches that the two natures of Jesus *cannot* be rolled together into one, that is, Jesus literally is not God/man, He is God and He is man: two separate and distinct natures. If that were not true, the heretic (I forget who it was) who taught that Jesus wasn’t *really* human, he just seemed like it, would have been correct.

      To me as a Christian that is essential and vital, which I hope anyone who is now like I was then will pick up on. I believed in and liked God, but I could not relate to a man who was so “perfect” that He couldn’t hit is finger with His hammer while working. From Fr. Brown’s book I learned what the Church actually teaches but most Catholic schools in my day blatantly ignored: Jesus is TRUE man as well as TRUE God, like us in ALL things (including ordinary human clumsiness, etc.) except that He never sinned.

      This is very difficult, very hard to understand, since as Fr. Brown points out, it is also wrong to deny Jesus any virtue He might have had. But it also very much shows how much God does love us and how much He really did desire to become one of us.

      Please correct any errors my 30 year old memory is making here. I don’t want to mislead anyone, but thanks for writing this comment, which corresponds almost precisely to the “teaching” which changed me totally as a Christian. Jesus, while God, really is one of us and really does know, from experience, how it feels to be down here struggling as we do.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        I don’t perceive any errors Dave. You have a good, better than ordinary understanding of what is a matter of faith.

        • Dave Fladlien

          Thanks Father. Much appreciated.

    • Sheila

      Yes, “most profound and beautiful of mysteries”. Thank you Father. Excellent description – in each section (my humble opinion) of how:
      –“the perfectly obedient Son would
      — with absolute and complete freedom
      –accomplished through his authentic suffering
      –that which only in his human nature could be accomplished our redemption.”
      Is that not amazingly how God still works to save our souls? To get our attention. When we have to suffer pain, esp. day after day, we learn of God’s true Mercy, Grace and Love for all of us thru Christ’s own sufferings. And then we take the next step and more readily and even thankfully offer those sufferings back to God for others. God never ceases to amaze me. God is Good.

      The movie was okay. It would have been much better and effective to have had a good priest onboard with catholic Truth to tap into. Like what you just stated Father. The script needed to have been more factual. I liked the actors who portrayed Jesus and Mary and I esp. loved the best scene when Mary finally told Jesus how He came to be born. It was very tender and so sweet.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Beautifully stated Sheila, in acknowledging our attraction to the depth of Christ’s suffering, and the desire that elicits from us participation by suffering for the salvation of others in His redemptive act. In that He revealed His glory.

    • Bobo Fett

      Fantastic. So clear. Thank you.

  • Harry

    A few thoughts on the knowledge of Jesus of His divinity, and on His knowledge in general:

    Christ is one person with two natures, a human nature which was like our own except for sinfulness (Heb 2:17, 4:15; Philip 2:7), and another which is the divine nature. One person, two natures.

    At times the Gospels make it evident that He is speaking from His divinity, as in Luke 10:18, where He says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” In John 8:58 He says of Himself ” … before Abraham was, I AM.” And in John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.”

    At other times He appears to be speaking from His human nature. In Mt 24:36 Christ asserts that “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” It seems to me He must have been referring to the Son in His humanity, as the Son in His divinity is omniscient.

    In John 14:28, He states that “… the Father is greater than I.” Yet the Holy Spirit has preserved in the Church the understanding that Christ is “one in Being with the Father.” How can the Son, one in Being with the Father, be less than the Father? It seems to me that Christ’s assertion that “the Father is greater than I” can only be a case of Christ speaking from His human nature, that is just like ours in all things except sin — which would include, in His humanity, being less than the Father.

    Exactly how the integration of divine knowledge and human knowledge operated in the one person of Jesus, I think, will remain a mystery. Clearly, from His human conception onwards, in His divinity He was omniscient; in that sense, that one person, Jesus, always knew He was God. In my humble opinion, when His human intelligence matured to the point that a human intellect can grasp the very notion of God, which occurs at a young age, He knew, in His human knowledge, that that is Who He was.

    The one person, Jesus, sometimes spoke from His divinity, and sometimes from His humanity. Regardless of which was the case, we can take whatever He said to the bank, so to speak. What I find incredibly irritating is modern Scripture scholars attributing Christ’s descriptions of future events being amazingly accurate to the Gospel writers putting those words into the mouth of Jesus after the events took place. Christians attribute that accuracy to the omniscient knowledge of Jesus in His divinity.

  • Diane

    I would love for Hollywood to make more realistic Biblical movies. It states, at the beginning, that it is the imagined life of the Young Messiah. I agree that it did not follow the Bible. But, I think that a story about Jesus, that isn’t derogatory, is better than no story about Jesus.

    • Ray Schultz

      It surprises me that you don’t think it is derogatory. You don’t think Jesus killing a child because he did not know his powers is derogatory? If he did such a thing, how could he possibly be fully God? I think it is a pretty negative depiction of Christ. It did not follow the Bible because Scripture does not address this issue. Maybe there is a valid reason for that? I disagree with you statement that anything is better than nothing. I think there is great value in mystery and we don’t need to attempt to ‘explain’ it, even through fiction

      • Brad Miner

        Just a point of fact: Jesus is accused of killing the other boy, but it is actually an accident abetted by a satanic figure. And the film’s portrait of Jesus isn’t exactly derogatory. He’s shown as a sweet, smart boy. My point is only that the film’s Christology is an affront to Catholicism. I’ve no doubt Mr. Nowrasteh would say: “So what, it’s not a Catholic movie.”

        • Ray Schultz

          Another point of fact, in the book, Jesus actually DOES kill the boy.

          • Diane

            Well, it wasn’t in the movie!

        • Diane

          There is so, very, very much that is anti-Catholic now and for always. That is why it is the One True Church that was instituted by Jesus. They will hate you in My Name. At least maybe non-Catholics can have a movie that has Jesus in it, instead of sex and violence. Why don’t we have Catholic movie writers who will tell the truth of Catholicism.

        • PalaceGuard

          Among several things in the trailer that made me decide not to see the movie in the first place, was a bit wherein Mary was questioning her worthiness and ability to be Jesus’ mother. While Full-of-Grace is humble, as is her Son, her trust in God would not have left room for her to ever question His choice of a mother for His Son! She may have asked Gabriel “how?”, but never did she ask “why?”.

      • Diane

        Did you see the movie? Jesus did not kill the child, the devil did with the apple. They stated in the beginning that it was the imagined life of Jesus the child. So, you knew going in that it was not based on the Bible or fact. There was at least the depiction of Jesus as special and as the son of God.

    • Robert A Rowland

      Anything that does not tell the whole truth about Jesus is derogatory

      • Diane

        It was really not derogatory, it was just imagined. Jesus still came out of it looking good and wonderful. I didn’t like that they thought that they would need to have Mary telling Him that He was the Son of God.

  • Stan Marciniak

    Dr. Miner assumes the movie is a religious documentary, whereas Anne Rice does not tout it as such. The movie is entertaining. Nothing more. Enjoy it at face value, not as Gospel.

    Methinks some take this Hollywood fare far too seriously.

    • Ray Schultz

      Nobody assumes the movie is a religious documentary, but when you put things out there that are in contrast to common sense regarding Christ, fiction or not, it has a negative impact. That impact is intensified when religious leaders support said fiction.

    • Robert A Rowland

      Considering heresy as entertainment is problematic.

    • Cheryl Jefferies

      Sadly, these days, entertainment is taken as “gospel” by too many people. And, for some time now, also sadly, the true Gospel has been treated as entertainment by too many, also. Entertainment, for many, contains “truth.” And, Truth, is not taught as Truth, but, as feel-good, I’m o.k., you’re o.k. pablum; as entertainment for those who wish their secular moral relativism touched with “Writ.”

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    There are two principles regarding the mystery of the Incarnation. The first is that we can never diminish either the divine nature or the human nature in attempting to understand it. The second principle is that it is an article of faith. It had to be revealed. The two natures doctrine was established by Cyril of Alexandria who anathematized Nestorius Patriarch of Constantinople who taught the Divine Word took flesh from Mary, and that the Divine Word was not born of her. Thus for Nestorius the Divine Word was essentially different from the historical Jesus. That meant that the flesh and blood of Jesus did not convey the divine nature at communion. This is vital in understanding the mystery. Saint Cyril taught that Jesus had a real complete human nature including a human will distinct from his divine nature which possessed the divine will [thus not my will Father but thy will be done]. Saint Cyril therefore is the extraordinary Father of the Church who established not only the identity of Christ but the wonderful mystery of the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus that we receive in the Holy Eucharist. He also had the Church declare Mary Theotokos, Mother of God.

    • Robert A Rowland

      Thank you Father Peter.

  • Warner

    Leaving aside its theological errors, I have to ask: why oh why are Christian movies almost without exception lame and boring? Every time a new one comes out, I hope against hope that this time, our message will be proclaimed with power and attractiveness; and I am virtually always disappointed. Believing Christians have the greatest possible stories to tell; and we invariably drop the ball. Yet the enemies of the Church are filled with passion and creativity, and tell their stories with the greatest skill. Can anyone explain this?

    • Auggie

      It’s easier to portray sin than grace. And sin is much easier to fund.

      • Laura

        What’s the sin they are portraying in this movie? I thought it to be very grace-filled.

        • PalaceGuard

          I believe the comment was in response to the question of why most faith-based movies are mediocre at best, and not a comment on the movie itself.

    • Brad Miner

      I can’t explain it, but I can offer some possibilities. Many of these films are done to appeal to a secularized version of Christianity. They are, as the popular word has it, non-denominational. A synonym for that would be “bloodless.” And today’s Christian films are often undertaken precisely because Hollywood (yes, a banal generalization, but let it serve) is so irreligious. So those who write and direct “Christian” movies aren’t (with some exceptions) cinema’s great talents. They tend to be earnest marketers looking to fill a market vacuum. Artists, including great ones, aren’t necessarily full of wisdom about life, and many have bought into the religion-is-oppression narrative, which is why — especially in “Hollywood” — faith is either missing from movies or, when it appears, is presented as the crutch of neurotic, even psychotic people. We may hope that one day, somebody of the stature of Alejandro G. Iñárritu or Ridley Scoot will undergo a conversion experience and, instead of hostility to faith, will make movies full of heart and soul.

      • Ann-Marie Blaney

        I for one think some of you are blowing it way out of proportion. I happened to be lucky enough to preview the movie at Loyola University in LA on Monday night before opening weekend with the producers. They had a Q and A after. Chris Columbus is one of the producers and he had 12 years of Catholic schooling, his faith means a lot to him and he just wants to tell a great story. People barley support Christian movies and are highly critical of each and every one. Hollywood has to have a bit of flair in order to get money backing to even have a film like this come to fruition. Overall it is a very faith affirming movie, it has foreshadowing of baptism and crucifixion. How can Hollywood keep trying to make these movies if the “Christian” viewers continually pick apart each and every detail. Isn’t the bigger point to get Christs message out, let a non-believer find a church or someone like each of us and seek out the truth there. But if this in some way helps bring people to Christ, wouldn’t it be worth it. Or go watch some R movie and find the good in that.
        .CIMA (Catholics in the Media) Have liked this film as well as Sister Rose. Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP, is a Catholic sister. She is a member of the Daughter of St. Paul and the founding director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, CA.

        Also this review by Cardinal O’Malley
        “Captivating, inspiring and deeply moving.” — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap
        Sorry , but some pretty big people give this movie their blessing. And until we have that “perfect” movie this will have to do, unless you prefer that R rated movie.
        Ann-Marie

      • Warner

        Thanks for your reply. I agree with you, broadly speaking; but I still often wonder why, by sheer chance, even one filmmaker hasn’t emerged who happens to be a devout Christian, and thus just happens to make great, truth-affirming movies. You’d think the law of averages would allow at some point. (Or maybe they’re out there, and “Hollywood” is so averse to such stories that they never get a chance to be told. But that seems a bit conspiratorial.)

      • PhilOFS

        Remember the words of St. Augustine to this effect: if you choose in the Gospel what you like and throw out what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe in but yourself, which is a perfect description of what you call secularized Christianity.

    • Fred

      I think Yeats did a long time ago “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

  • Robert A Rowland

    when I saw an advertisement for The Young Messiah on TV, my only comment without even thinking about going to the movie was that it had to be heresy. I was glad to see Brad confirm it.

  • Human Being

    Just another Gnostic Gospel coming from the unhallowed halls of Hollywood.

    • Lola

      Amen to that. The dead bird, the kid raised from the dead all gnostic ancient writings but not cannon at all and hogwash

  • Did Jesus ever learn anything? Luke says, “Jesus grew in wisdom” (Luke 2:52.) Fr. Most’s article cites St. Athanasius’ explanation that Jesus was measuring out how much of his infinite wisdom he allowed to show as his age progressed. If so, then Jesus always knew how to read but had no need to read anything (except for show, as at the synagogue.) Was Jesus born able to speak all languages but opted not to? As an obedient baby, did he cease crying as soon as Mary or Joseph willed it? Perhaps so, but that makes his human intellect rather superfluous, doesn’t it?

  • Steven Barrett

    Booruhhh for hollow-wood.

  • “How could the 7-year-old Jesus have avoided sin if He were unaware of His divinity?”

    Did the Blessed Virgin Mary need to know she was the Immaculate Conception in order to avoid sin?

  • Jerome_in_KY

    Do they refer to the land as “Palestine?”

  • Maggie Sullivan

    If God did not know He is God then he is not God.

  • Michael DeLorme

    Well, at any rate, I enjoyed the reference to “Life of Brian.” It’s been years, but my favorite scene remains the “Sermon on the Mount” when somebody from the rear of the listening crowds, where the acoustics weren’t the best, wonders: “Blessed are the cheese-makers! Why them?”

    [By the way, in case anyone’s curiosity is piqued, be forewarned: “Life of Brian” has several blue stretches long enough to obviate custody of the eyes. Don’t know that I’d watch it, today. As loony satire, though, it is pretty funny.]

    • PalaceGuard

      There were some “good” moments (such as the Suicide Squad, and the UFO sequence). However, the one moment, at the beginning of the film, where Brian’s mother backhands her infant for not being the intended recipient of the Magi’s gifts, has left a bad taste in my mouth for decades. Hence, I have never watched it again.

  • Laura

    It’s truly a shame that so many are criticizing this movie as so much ‘twaddle’ and ‘trash’ without probably even seeing it for themselves. My family and I did see the film yesterday and I have to say we found it delightful. I was truly moved by the portrayal of St Joseph whose relationship with the Child Jesus was so loving and protective. (And when was the last time St Joseph played any role of substance in a movie about Jesus?) St Joseph and Our Lady together were a real couple in a loving relationship whose whole life revolved around Jesus. In fact when discussing the fear the Romans and Jews had of the boy Jesus St Joseph said to Mary ‘they should be afraid of you’. I loved that. They also had an extended family who supported them which we don’t really think of but was probable and was beautiful to see.

    For the most part the portrayal of Jesus made sense to me. If he in his fully human nature had complete knowledge and awareness of his divinity from the womb he indeed would have been a very strange child. As it is, God chose to BECOME MAN, not just God disguised as Man. Being fully human with a human brain he would have had limited knowledge as a child yet a great capacity for learning. That is why his holy Parents had to teach him everything and he grew in age and wisdom. The boy Jesus as portrayed already as a boy of seven had a deep relationship and dependence on God the Father. In fact if I recall he told an old rabbi at one point that ‘I depend on God for everything!’. It makes sense to me that his human awareness of his divinity and role in our salvation would have gradually taken hold in his young human mind and heart for how much can a boy of seven (or six or five or 3 months even) comprehend? At the same time in his fully divine nature he would understand EVERYTHING. This is a mystery! Right up there with the Trinity! Why should we be so hard on a movie made with good intentions for a secular culture that touches hearts and could perhaps be an instrument that brings people to God? Go easy on it people. See it or don’t see it but I tell you, this movie is not a heretical movie that is going to bring down Christianity and it isn’t trash.

    • Maureen N/A

      thanks Laura for your comment. I just secured the the book and so interested in how much is valid as i read. I have been involved with Religious Education most of my life and now find there might be much we didn’t know about Jesus as we teach?? Do you have any comments re: the novel as I like to keep an open mind but insist on validity. Thanks so much.

      • Laura

        Maureen I’ve never read the book mostly because I have never been an Ann Rice fan. I believe she turned wrote this when she was coming back to Catholicism (and evidently I hear she’s on the outs again with the Church). But anyway I am pretty sure the screenplay was adapted and she was not involved in that. Please keep in mind that this is all conjecture – but I did enjoy the film for what it’s worth and would recommend it. Thanks!

  • Kathy

    When the centurion said: “The next time there will be no mercy” it was prophetic. Although you say it was an idle threat, it was true. The next time Jesus was confronted by Roman warriors, there WAS no mercy – they put Him to death. If Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, I have to wonder if, in His humanity, He found His identity confusing, especially as a child. But of course I do now know this for a fact, And I don’t see how a film can be labeled as ‘heretical’ when there is no foundation in the Bible for Jesus’ childhood years. As far as I am concerned, a film that proclaims the name of Jesus in a holy way is a step in the right direction especially when compared to all of the other garbage that Hollywood is producing. We enjoyed this film and encourage others to see it!

    • Brad Miner

      I was reviewing the movie, not the life of Christ. The “next time” is the scene in the temple, and the Romans let Jesus go. And the movie is heretical in my view based upon the portrayal of Jesus’ knowledge, and I site in the review the Catholic teaching to support the assertion.

    • StJnChrysostom

      They (Romans) put Him to death?
      Oh no.. Not the Romans.

    • PalaceGuard

      “And I don’t see how a film can be labeled as ‘heretical’ when there is no foundation in the Bible for Jesus’ childhood years. ” No, but there is plenty of foundation for who He *was*, during the entire course of His life. Hence the quote from Pius XII, above.

  • Hmm, this is the first negative review of this movie I’ve seen. The other reviewers raved about it. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say. I was thinking of reading the novel first. You don’t mention the novel. Have you read it and if so, was it any good?

  • accelerator

    Great last line. My only objection, pre-viewing, is to giving Jesus that Breck Girl-like haircut. It looks way too precious.

  • Bill

    Whether they are well or poorly made, films like this have one very positive effect…they generate much discussion as witnessed on this board. They also make us think, reflect, pray, research, and read. And we all walk away knowing a little more about our Lord then we did before. I much prefer a film that can be thought-provoking and implores us to find out more, than one that pretends to give us all of the answers. By stating up front this is an imagined story of what Jesus’ childhood was like, the film does precisely that – provoke us to think about Jesus’ divine vs. human nature and get us to know Him a little bit more. I think it’s a wonderful thing to see how respectful and thoughtful the debate has been on this board and I think we have all grown a bit from having shared in it together.

  • Robert A Rowland

    There is no way can we learn anything worth knowing about Jesus from this film. Why does it even warrant a review?



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