Paul, Apostle Of Christ — A Movie Review

I generally don’t like Biblical fiction, either in novel form or on the screen. In regard to movies, non-Christians are most often behind the production and frankly, when you don’t believe in the supernatural, it’s hard to do a good job of portraying events in the Bible.

But Paul, Apostle Of Christ is quite different. While I wouldn’t say the movie ranks in the top ten all time, I also don’t feel as if I wasted my time. It really was worthwhile.

The Story. I was mildly surprised that the story centered on Paul’s last days—his imprisonment in Rome. Those, of course, are not detailed in Scripture, so in reality, it’s safest to fictionalize that part of his life than any other part. With flashbacks, the gist of Paul’s conversion story is incorporated, but his missionary journeys are pretty much brushed over.

What made up a good part of the story was the condition of Rome and the persecution of Christians during the time of Nero. In this movie Luke was spending time with Paul, interviewing him for his record we know as Acts.

Strengths. I thought the acting was believable, the setting was incredible, the feel of the movie was realistic. I had a much better idea of the persecution and the fear and the unfairness that surrounded those early Christians.

There were also some lines straight from Scripture that brought home the central point of forgiveness and love, even for the enemy.

At a couple points I thought the movie might bog down in rhetoric, but the pace immediately picked back up, and it was appropriately tense and intriguing.

One thing that the movie made particularly real to me was why Paul was so strong on the subject of grace. His own past, persecuting and imprisoning Christians and participating in Stephen’s martyrdom, would have been so hard to face if the grace and forgiveness of God weren’t so very real to him.

Weaknesses. My biggest concern was that some of the lines the Paul character told the Luke character to write down were actually from the book of Philippians and other parts of the epistles, like Romans. The impression, then, is that Luke wrote those letters too. In the movie he summed up the end of Acts, changing some of the “facts” we had just witnessed, particularly that Paul was in a dungeon, when Acts says he was in a house. And the movie character did it on purpose, as if the truth somehow needed to be hidden. In other words, the strong implication was that Luke played fast and loose with the truth in order to give the suffering Christians what he thought they’d be inspired by.

In addition, while the point of love and forgiveness were strong (at one point Paul defined love for Luke, in a very I Corinthians 13 way, though not word for word as recorded in Scripture. But close), I thought it was sort of light on the areas of faith and belief in Jesus Christ and the hope of the gospel.

While it was interesting to see the conflict of doubt and fear, when the Paul character experienced what might be close to PTSD for his earlier persecution of Christians, I didn’t think that was believable, given his clear statements of grace and faith and hope, stated in Scripture. Not to mention the times he himself almost died, how he’d traveled so much to spread the gospel. I just doubt he’d be caught up in remorse at this stage of his life. But, as I said, this is the part of his life that the Bible leaves open, so I can’t say speculation here was inappropriate. I just think the script writers missed it.

Funny thing I have to share. When I got home I checked Rotten Tomatoes because I was curious what other people thought. One person gave the movie something like 2 stars, saying . . . well, here it is; I’ll let you read it for yourselves:

We learn no more about Paul than we know from reading the Bible. It’s CRIMINAL to make what should literally be the greatest story ever told into a cheesy mostly made-up bunch of tripe.

I find that quite astounding! Does this person think the Romans were wearing body cams and the movie makers just suppressed them or something? What would the story have been if they told something about Paul that wasn’t in the Bible, if not “made-up”? I also take issue with the idea that anything was cheesy. Well, one scene could have been played more realistically—when Dr. Luke treated a certain patient, the ill person wasn’t particularly believable at one point.

One other mild “beef,” and this has to come with a SPOILER ALERT. Throughout the movie there was an ongoing discussion between some in the Christian community (they never called it the Church) there in Rome whether to stay or to flee. Ah, I thought, someone is going to come up with the idea to hide in the catacombs. But no. That never happened. And since we have all kinds of factual evidence that Christians actually did hide there, I wonder why the movie makers decided to go a different way. [End SPOILER ALERT]

But that’s why I don’t like Biblical fiction. I expect the historical facts to be immovable, and they seldom are. This movie did better than most. Much better than most, and would likely cause anyone who is not a Christian to look at those early Christians a little differently than they otherwise would have.

Recommendation. I’m very glad I saw this movie. The reality of first century persecution is sobering, and I think it’s a good kind of sobering. The movie makers handled it without any gratuitous violence, but the point couldn’t be avoided. The belief in love and forgiveness was just as obvious, and I thought we Christians (who probably were the greatest part of the audience) could benefit from hearing it out of the mouths of those suffering for Christ. Plus the realistic worldbuilding aspects made the first century come alive, I thought. I would say it’s a good one to see. Must see? I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d be poorer if I hadn’t seen it.

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Published in: on April 10, 2018 at 5:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for this, I’ve been wondering about this and wanting to see it! That review you saw on rotten tomatoes is hilarious by the way!!

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  2. Thank you for your review. I haven’t had time to see the movie yet. Regarding Paul’s remorse–is it possible that remorse could be his “thorn in the flesh”? He knew and grasped and truly believed God’s grace, yet the awareness of what he had done never left him. (Rather like Elijah’s depression) J.

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    • That’s actually the angle the movie makers took. Since we don’t know, I think it is possible, though I’ve always had the sense that it was a physical thing rather than emotional. Paul strikes me as being too joyful to have this kind of struggle be an ongoing part of his life. I suspect he worked through this in his years after his conversion when he went away. But it’s interesting to think about.

      Becky

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  3. […] Paul: Apostle of Christ, (which Miller also reviewed here). […]

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