I’ve been pretty amused by the initial reaction of people on social media about Marketing The Messiah. Christians are angry because it has atheist scholars in it. Atheists are angry because it has Christian scholars in it. And biblical scholarship nerds are angry because it doesn’t have their favourite bible scholars in it.
You really can’t please anyone. Here are a few answers to common questions I’ve been getting.
Why are these particular people in the film?
It’s simple – when we started production we reached out to about 50-60 scholars whose work I had read or was familiar with. A dozen of them agreed to be in the film. And so that’s how we decided who is in the film.
I explained to every person in the film what the vision was – a focus on the consensus in current bible scholarship about who wrote the New Testament, when and why it was written, and how the idea of a messiah changed from the original Jewish concept into the new Christian concept, as we try to understand how the entire Roman Empire ended up worshipping a dead Jew.
They all signed on for that film and that’s what we’ve delivered. If you don’t like this or that scholar, or think certain people shouldn’t have been included because you disagree with their views, I get it, but I don’t care. They agreed to help us make the film we wanted to make, freely giving of their time and knowledge, and I thank them for it. If you’re the kind of person who won’t watch something because it has a few minutes of someone you disagree with in it, then you’re the problem. Get over yourself.
Are the title and poster meant to be hateful and provoke intolerance of Christianity?
Of course not. They are meant to convey the focus of the film. It’s undeniable that the idea of the Jewish messiah was significantly altered by the early Christians, and then they marketed/sold/promoted it to a Greco-Roman audience. If they hadn’t, none of us would ever have heard of him and the only Christians today would still be Jews. I’m not sure why that idea strikes anyone as hateful or a sign of ill intent. It’s actually a pretty mainstream idea in biblical scholarship.
As for the image of Jesus in the poster, again, it’s designed to communicate the focus of the film – that the concept of Jesus as a messiah for gentiles was packaged up and marketed to the Roman Empire. I don’t see anything inherently offensive about an actor dressing up as Jesus (it’s happened in a ton of movies) or an image of Jesus smiling (that’s common in Christian imagery). If you think it’s offensive to have a picture of Jesus getting his hair done, then… again, you’re the problem. Calm down.
We’ve got actual Christian biblical scholars in the film and NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM has said anything about the title or poster being offensive. Neither have the Catholic priests and Anglican pastors we’ve sent it to for review. Neither have our Christian test audiences. Of course, if you want to get offended by such things, that’s up to you. But again – you’re the problem.