Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Joseph of Nazareth" had some explaining to do

The second in the “Friends of Jesus” (or “Close to Jesus”) series from Barnholz and Artisan is “Joseph of Nazareth” (2000). 

The film opens with an impressive shot of the kind of work the 35-year-old widower can do with his hands.  We could say he has a “real job” and has “paid his dues”.  Pretty soon, we learn of tragedies in the family dealing with the Romans, and Joseph sees little sense in resisting.  He is asked by elders to wed Mary, who is younger than would be an acceptable age in modern culture.  (English teachers have to cover this point with ninth graders when teaching Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet’.) 

There are a number of versions of the lineage of Jesus, and of the exact manner in which Joseph was approached.  In this film, he promises chastity, but soon notices Mary’s pregnancy.  In ancient cultures, he would have had the legal right to stone her (although that doesn’t make sense here before he is wed).  His kind treatment of her (and willingness to forgo his pride) is seen as a testament to his faith.  In time, he has some explaining to do.  At least, she should not appear pregnant until he has built her home.  If she is not with his child, why is he willing to raise it?  (The same situation is going on right now in the soap “Days of our Lives”.)  It would appear that Joseph accepts chastity and the possible abuse of his reputation just out of loyalty to God.

I have a posting about this Christmas scenario on my “Bill Boushka” blog on Dec. 24, 2007, based on a sermon given by James Somerville of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC. Somerville said “Joseph had some explaining to do.”  Somerville has since gone on to take a pastorship  in Richmond, VA.
There is a biological aspect to Virgin Birth: Logically, Mary could have only born a female child.  The only way the DNA information for the Y-chromosome for a male child could have gotten to her would have been a virus (even like a retrovirus).

In this society, men had definite obligations to the community, to protect women and children even when not married.  They had an obligation to marry if asked to, when not able to do so out of their own social bearing.
The movie does show Joseph getting instructed in lucid dreams, which may seem a bit hokey, or maybe not.  There is an anticipation of “Inception”.

The well-known story of Jesus in the temple at age 12 appears near the end of the movie. Jesus is obviously “different”.  The Bible has him at a younger age than would be really effective dramatically (say maybe 18).  We do encounter teens like this, sometimes.   I wasn’t aware that Joseph died in his late 40s.
Joseph is played by Tobias Moretti, and he looks a bit weathered for 35.  Mary is played by Stefania Rivi.

The film does not pay much attention to the associated story of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, which is interesting (as an opportunity for more dramatic controversy) because her husband Zacharias was told not to speak (or blog!) for three months!  Also, there isn't much attention to the angel Gabriel visit.  

Yahoo has an answer page of Joseph’s “online reputation”, here.

The music score (by Marco Frisina) is schmaltzy, and has a Mahler-like theme spanning octaves.  

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