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Favorite Movies (or How I Teach Bible)

I went crazy over all the films on this page from the very first viewing, and I use them every week teaching Bible/English. Lucky me.

1. Gospel of John (word-for-word, simple translation)

Minor quibbles: Mary Magdalene showing up so much, I don't think the music was right for the ending, the tone of voice in which he often insists "I'm telling you the truth", but so far this is my favorite "word for word" (albeit a very simple) version.

It all depends on the individual's English level and motive as to how I teach these DVDs. To give you four random examples:

One 12-year-old boy I study with reads the story directly out of the Bible in Chinese, then he reads it in English, then we put the movie on and he reads the English subtitles sentence by sentence, then I replay the section in normal speed.

I am teaching a girl who is in university who is happy to watch straight through the movie with Chinese subtitles. If she later wants to re-watch the movie with English subtitles I'll be happy to do that too but it will be a little bit each time in addition to all the other interesting Bible stuff we want to read or see together.

A 9-year-old brother and sister who already know all the stories do 20 min of reading and writing each English subtitle.

Two ladies are writing down the English subtitles sentence by sentence (comparing it with what is written in the Bible) which gives us lots of opportunities to discuss the implications of everything Jesus said and how he is the only way, but they've already seen the whole movie in Chinese, and I already took them through the rest of the Bible. We are also doing Jule Miller's pictorial overview of the Bible, which I like more for the wealth of comments and Bible knowledge my dad brings to the study, than for the material itself.

In every class, regardless of age or Bible knowledge, we ALWAYS do:

* scripture memorization (slowly getting these all memorized)

* and a page out of homemade transcripts of Wesley Simon's Denominational Doctrines series (watch it online!), first reading the Chinese and then the English.

Once they know who Jesus is, then we start back at the beginning of the Bible to see where it all came from. When showing these, I mostly fast-forward any scenes that aren't in the Bible and we always read the story directly out of the Bible as well:

I adore the Testament Bible In Animation series. Each of the 9 animations appears to have been done by a different artist, with different music. The slightly English accent, clear diction and expressive inflection are a delight to teach English with. Each animation is 30 min long. My set of DVDS has Chinese/English options in both subtitles AND audio.

I love some of the Bible Collection movies, especially Abraham (Richard Harris!) and Moses (Ben Kingsley!) . Jeremiah is good. Jacob and Esther are good/ok. My set has non-removable Chinese-only subtitles. When showing these, I mostly fast-forward any scenes that aren't in the Bible.

The rest of the Bible Collection movies are a waste of time (Paul, Samson and Delilah, etc) but I have a special beef with their version of David (not shown).

As much as I hyperventilate over Nathaniel Parker playing David, the movie unnecessarily goes out of its way to mess up a good story. In places where the factual Bible account is naturally exciting, the movie gratuitously changes scenes to something boring that didn't even happen. For example, David is suddenly confronted with Goliath alone in the wilderness with only two other people peeking out from behind a bush; the onlooking Philistine and Israeli armies are completely missing. It does this kind of thing throughout the movie. I was going to cut and splice the more accurate sections but it wouldn't have left enough to make a coherent film. Testament:Bible in Animation: David & Saul (shown) on the other hand, rocks!

Here are the individual films I show, with tons of actual Bible reading after each:

2. Testament: The Bible in Animation - Creation and the Flood

See Shazbazzar's review of this video at
Sometimes I do skip this one, because of the way they take liberties with what God said to Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit, and other places in the cartoon. Otherwise very neat film.

3. The World That Perished

It's basic and it must have been filmed 20 years ago, but it works. Not a movie or a lecture but every point translated visually and concisely, it touches on the logistics and science behind Noah's Flood.

4. The Bible Collection: Abraham
(Richard Harris!)

5. The Bible Collection: Jacob

I like the first half of this movie with its great Laban but for the second half of this Bible story, I prefer the accuracy (and beautiful Rachel) of Genesis Project's word-for-word The Bible on Video: Genesis: Isaac, Esau and Jacob (not shown) using actors on location speaking Hebrew with an English Bible narration overlay, but unfortunately I don't have it on DVD and our video is no longer viewable.

6. Testament: The Bible in Animation - Joseph

7. The Bible Collection: Moses (Ben Kingsley!)

8. The Exodus Revealed: Search For the Red Sea Crossing

9. Testament: The Bible In Animation - Ruth

The cover doesn't begin to show the alluring femininity of Ruth in this claymation. (By comparison, the Esther movie mentioned below falls flat for me. Somehow Louise Lombard's version of Esther's submisiveness is only convincing if you think Mary Tyler Moore was showing true respect in The Dick Van Dyke Show - which, however, was able to be brilliantly funny without resorting to sex, violence, or profanity.)

10. Testament: The Bible In Animation - David (See comments above.)

11. Testament: The Bible in Animation - Elijah

12. Testament: The Bible in Animation - Jonah

13. Bible Collection: Jeremiah

14. Bible Collection: Esther

I do break down and show the Esther movie. Despite my tepid reaction to Louise Lombard's portrayal of Esther (see comments on Ruth), and a wimpy movie version of Xerxes compared to the brutally ruthless Xerxes of history, it's got a great Mordecai.

Other films I show where appropriate:

Martin Luther

I shiver. What a guy! At least, ahem, what a guy Joseph Fiennes is when playing someone with backbone.

It is also a great step-off to discussing where denominations came from, and the difference between denominations and the church of the first century.

The Milky Way and Beyond (one of the Journeys to the Edge of Creation duo).

I like to be blown away and this showcases the power of the Creator in the immense size of the universe. Toward the end they take you on an imaginary journey to bring this point home and polish it off with Bible verses about the awesomeness of God side-by-side with his personal loving care.

Pam Stenzel's Sex, Love, and Relationships. A sheer joy of watching her speak film. A nurse and long-time counseler/lecturer, Pam Stenzel has the cutest in-your-face, telling-it-like-it-is style of speaking.

If you know of any movies that are better than the ones listed above, let me know.
Note: With all these films, we always end up reading the story directly from the Bible, and if someone is denominational and already knows the Bible very well I do not show them these videos. We watch (or read transcripts of) Wesley Simons' Denominational Doctrines series instead.

1 comment:

  1. Your students must have a really fun time learning the Bible!!!!!



No profanity, please, "... but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Eph 4:29)

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