The moving picture,” said Alexander Kluge in Die Zeit, “has shrunk to a commodity whose essence lies in the announcement: Now comes the great, brutal, poignant, bold, never-before-attempted cinematic wonder, and then nothing comes.” But something came with the premiere of The Greatest Story Ever Told, and once more it was made plain that Hollywood can turn out films that do not need to pander to man’s innate depravity.

Producer-director George Stevens had the greatest possible person as a subject; he also had the most difficult job of filming that person’s life in such a way as to capture its meaning as well as to record the facts of history.

Everyone familiar with the life of Jesus Christ has inbuilt opinions and judgments that are religious in nature. Any effort by others to change these images meets resistance. Stevens manages to overcome such resistances, from those who think the person of Jesus Christ should not be depicted in a film to those who would allow trivialities to overshadow the substance.

Beginning with the prologue of John’s Gospel and the statement that Jesus Christ is God, the film moves from the birth of the Saviour to his ascension. The miraculous element is clearly portrayed in Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead, the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself, and the various incidental statements of his miracles such as changing water into wine, walking on water, and feeding the five thousand.

In a way that is generally faithful to the Scriptures, the main components of Jesus’ life are brought into focus: the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus’ precursor; Jesus’ baptism and temptation; his public ministry and sayings; his increasing involvement with the Jewish leaders and the government of Rome; his triumphal entry; his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

This 3½ hour film that uses Technicolor and an improved type of single-lens Cinerama has two highlights. The first is the scene in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. The second is the portrayal of the last days of Jesus’ life as he carries his cross over the stones of the Via Dolorosa to Calvary and there dies for the sins of men, to rise again the third day. The seven last words and the centurion’s cry, “This man is the Son of God,” etch their message into the memory, and the ideas of Sunday school days are forcefully recaptured. The closing scene of the nail-pierced hands of the Redeemer stretching beyond the earth and the heavens as he speaks the Great Commission climaxes the production. The words of John 3:16 are introduced aptly and strategically so that the meaning shows through and one can tell that this is more than a humanistic production; Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Saviour of the world.

There is nothing garish, nor does any untoward Hollywood-type scene mar the production. Even the episodes of John the Baptist’s death and the dancing of Herodias’ daughter are handled tastefully. Some Protestants will, no doubt, take exception to the treatment of Peter’s great confession and Jesus’ statement, “You are the Rock and on you I will build my church.” And there are some notable omissions: the annunciation, the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, his appearance in the Temple when he was twelve, the Transfiguration, the parables, the Olivet Discourse.

Swedish actor Max Von Sydow plays the role of Christ very commendably. Dorothy McGuire is Mary, the mother of Jesus; Charlton Heston, John the Baptist; David McCallum, Judas Iscariot; and Gary Raymond, Peter.


An appeals court in New York threw out an injunction obtained by the University of Notre Dame against the showing of the film John Goldfarb, Please Come. Home. University officials contend that the comedy damages their image.

Four armed men invaded the accounting office of New York’s Riverside Church and escaped with a $10,000 payroll after handcuffing three employees.

Evangelist Paul Hild won a million trading stamps in a drawing in Minneapolis and plans to use them to finance a crusade in Europe and the Holy Land. Hild, associated with the Assemblies of God, won the stamps in a promotion sponsored by a savings and loan association.

CBS radio network began a 25-minute weekly religious news program February 18. Veteran newsman Douglas Edwards is “anchorman” for the new series. Local broadcast times will vary.

The National Council of Churches’ Broadcasting and Film Commission chose Becket. Fate Is the Hunter, and Fail Safe for its first film merit awards. Possible awards for depiction of Christian family life and Christian ideals in the personality growth of children were withheld for lack of candidates.

Representatives of yearly Friends meetings in Kansas, Ohio. Oregon, and the Rocky Mountain area reached agreement last month on cooperative programs in missions, evangelism, church extension, publications, youth work, and education. The proposals, affecting a constituency of some 22,700, are being promoted through the newly organized Evangelical Friends Alliance.


Dr. Richard J. Stonesifer was appointed dean of the college of liberal arts at Drew University.

Dr. Samuel J. Mikolaski was appointed professor of theology at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Ruschlikon-Zurich, Switzerland.

Bishop Johannes Oskar Lauri is succeeding retiring Archbishop Johan Kopp as head of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Exile.

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