Some of you may be saying, “Hey! You’ve mixed up the words in the title! It’s supposed to be, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’” But it’s turned around on purpose. I’ll explain later.
Millions of kids and adults in the Western world often rely on”pictures” (movies, videos and images) to learn things—and to be entertained in the process! Often this is done through TV or the movies—even biblical or religious movies.
Many of you have heard of and watched the movie The Ten Commandments. This 1956 epic film has turned into a classic as far as religious movies go—one that religious and biblical movies have been judged by ever since.
I remember seeing the movie for the first time when I was barely 5 years old, and the images of the parting of the Red Sea and God speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai are still indelibly etched into my mind after all these years!
But at age 5 my interest in biblical scholarship and studying the Word of God was nonexistent! The movie was great entertainment, but I really had no idea how accurate it was.
However, since that time I have come to understand that while there were some elements of the Cecil B. DeMille movie that were consistent with the Bible (and some powerful images of the miracles of God in the life of Moses and children of Israel), it was simply not very accurate when compared to “the book”—in this case, the Bible.
In the years that followed, other religious movies have come and gone, including Ben-Hur (1959), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and The Bible … In the Beginning (1966), to mention just a few.
There have also been controversial biblical movies such as Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2003). These movies attempted to capture the producer’s view of the life or death of Jesus—each claiming to depict the possible reality of both Jesus’ temptations and His suffering.
In the end, the Scorsese film mixed the author’s blasphemous depiction of lustful thoughts of the Messiah with the biblical account of His ministry, while Gibson’s used text and images that were in many cases more reflective of Catholic tradition and thought than the actual words of the Gospel accounts about Christ’s crucifixion.
What value are religious movies?
But in the end, what value are such movies anyway? While some of them claim to depict the stories of the Bible with presumed accuracy, others have simply used the theme of the Bible and its message to sell or market their own “story.”
In the moviemaking business, it’s all about entertainment, “selling” the product and making money!
In his recent book The Vanishing Word, Arthur Hunt shows us that through history, the pagan cultures were the ones that were far less literate and far more dedicated to pictures (or “the image”) to depict their gods and spread their influence.
Thus, most of the ancient cultures of the Middle East ( Egypt being a prime example) focused on the statues, carvings and images of their gods rather than the written word to explain their gods and way of life.
Even the ancient Egyptian system of writing (hieroglyphics) is primarily an expression of pictures and images. It seems the Egyptians would have been great moviegoers, but lousy book readers!
Yet God’s people, the nation of Israel , received their education of God through the written word. As Mr. Hunt says: “The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking. Iconography (study of images and statues) thus became blasphemy …” So, we see that God wanted His power, majesty and plan to be based on the written word more than the image.
Of course, that is not to say that some of the movies with a biblical theme have no redeeming value. That would simply not be true. Indeed, some movies or pictures that illustrate the reality of life in Bible times can be very helpful—adding to the mental picture of what the words in Scripture convey.
However, there is always the danger of being swayed into accepting an actor’s portrayal of a biblical character as being truly representative of that person. We must be especially careful that we do not visualize a particular actor in our mind when we meditate on Jesus Christ.
In any event, if you do decide to watch a biblical movie, don’t go into it unarmed. Know what the Bible says up front so that you will be able to retain what is useful and discard what is unbiblical.
Have you read the Book?
Indeed, since truth and accuracy are important to you, know that God chose to reveal the story of His people and the details of His magnificent plan in the written Word.
Therefore, to fully understand the great story of mankind, its Creator tells us to study His Word—to read the Book! As Paul told Timothy and us today, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
American King James Version×).
In writing to his young friend here, Paul was pointing out the great value in reading the Bible and studying the Scriptures to grasp the greater understanding and meaning of what Paul referred to as “truth.” While these early men and women of the Church had no Blockbuster Video store or television to portray God’s wonderful works, we can be assured that graphic pictures were indeed painted in their mind’s eyes by reading the Book!
The Bible is filled with great stories. Any one of them would make a great book or a great movie. And even though “the movie” about all of this is not out yet, the entire plan of God (the incredible story of His great purpose for mankind) is laid out for us all to read in the pages of the Bible.
The Bible’s explanation of what God is doing is an amazing story (see “The Biblical Plan of God”). And it has all the makings for an incredible movie some day—the ultimate action/ family/drama/love-story flick! However, we find no such movie at video stores right now.
For now, God has provided the Book (the Bible) and not the movie. In one sense, we’re living a very small but vital part of “the movie”—the live account of God working out His great purpose on this earth. As such, God encourages us to understand and, through our imagination as guided by His Word, foresee the picture of the great future He has in store for us.
God’s great plan is revealed in the Book primarily through His Holy Days. The observance and meaning of these annual Holy Days give His people a regular reminder that this world is not the real deal! Instead, we are all being prepared for a future world that will finally realize the perfect form of life, liberty and the pursuit of godly happiness (see our free booklet God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind ).
The Word over the image
All of God’s servants in the past lived and died without seeing any movie. They were thrilled to just read the Book. These dedicated servants either read or listened to the words of God telling them the great story of why we exist and where all of this is ultimately headed. Yet, as we see recorded by Paul, they saw a vivid picture of an incredible future—by simply reading the Book.
Hebrews 11:13 Hebrews 11:13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
American King James Version×says, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
I said at the beginning that I would explain later about the mix-up I made on the famous saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Whether this quote was an old Chinese proverb, the words of Napoléon Bonaparte or from the 20th-century advertiser Fred Barnard is not known (all these are theories of the saying’s origins).
However, the principle of this pithy saying is, nonetheless, often true. One wonderful picture, composed in a painting or photograph, can say so much about the contents of what has been written or said.
But the opposite can also be very true. Many well-stated and crafted words can paint a picture in the mind’s eye. A thousand words can paint a valuable picture —a very graphic and realistic one. There are many incredible pictures awaiting you in the pages of your Bible.
God wants you to engage your brain. He wants you to use your imagination to generate a mental picture of the true history of man, coupled with the reality of our bright future. He isn’t offering the movie yet, but He does encourage us to read His Book— the Bible. VT
The Biblical Plan of God
• In the beginning, God made eternal life available to the first man and woman. However, they refused this incredible opportunity. Ever since, mankind has chosen to go its own way, make its own rules and laws, and to seek its own form of happiness and success. Through approximately 6,000 years of human history, mankind has devised countless religions, hundreds of forms of Christianity and varied theories that attempt to explain the origins of both man and the universe without a Creator God. And now, in the 21st century, man is closer to self-destruction than he was at creation. The Bible contains the words that show us something is desperately missing in man’s existence.
• Despite man’s confusion and destruction, the Bible also reveals that his ultimate destiny is incredibly bright! Human beings are destined to have an opportunity to become a part of the very family of God, to be changed from mortal to immortal, to be spirit beings, to travel at the speed of thought, to go where no man has gone before!
• The reality of a different world will begin to happen at the end of this present age, at the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. At that time God will reestablish His literal government on this earth, with Jesus Christ sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
• Those who have responded to the opportunity to become converted will have their physical bodies changed into immortal spirit bodies at Christ’s return and will assist Him in governing the world (Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
American King James Version×).
• Together the divine family will rebuild this world and ultimately the entire universe through education, service and godly leadership (Isaiah 9:7 Isaiah 9:7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
American King James Version×). These events will begin with the 1,000-year (millennial) rule of Jesus Christ, in which all of God’s people will serve with Him in establishing God’s government on earth to last for all eternity! VT