The Last Temptation of Christ

From Academic Kids

The Last Temptation of Christ is a novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis, first published in December 1960. It has been the subject of a great deal of controversy due to its subject matter: it tells a fictional version of the life of Jesus, told from his point of view. The central thesis of the book is that Jesus, while free from sin, was still subject to every form of temptation that humans face, including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance, and lust. By facing and conquering all of man's weaknesses, Kazantzakis argues, Christ became the perfect model for our lives: A Savior who sacrificed not only on the cross, but every day of his life as he struggled to do the will of his Father and eventually emerged having never strayed from his path and having never once given into the temptation of the flesh. The book regularly appears on lists of banned books.

Martin Scorsese directed a film of the same title, based on that book and released by Universal Pictures in 1988. It stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus, Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot, and Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene. David Bowie and Harry Dean Stanton also appear as Pontius Pilate and Paul, respectively. Most of the film was shot in Morocco.

Scorsese was raised Roman Catholic and no longer practices that religion; nevertheless, he maintains a traditionally Christian faith in Christ. He had been wanting to make a film version of Jesus' life for many years. He first attempted to make one in the early 1980s, but the project had to be placed on hold. Finally in 1988, The Last Temptation of Christ was completed and released to theaters.

Protests against the movie from the religious community began before the film had even finished production. The studio was expecting a backlash due to the controversies revolving around any media treatment of Christ (see dramatic portrayals of Jesus Christ), but the protests accompanying Last Temptation were unprecedented. Major religious leaders in the United States blasted the film in fiery sermons, and condemned its subject matter as pornographic.

The movie adds a fictitious element to Jesus' life before his role as a preacher, taking liberties with the historical accounts of the Gospels concerning Jesus' life. In the beginning of the movie, Jesus is constructing crosses for the Romans and being tormented by the voice of God, though this is not listed in the Scriptures. However, the movie does include a disclaimer explaining that these departures from the commonly-accepted historical portrayal of Jesus' life are a fictional creation, and the movie is not intended to be an exact recreation of the events of the Scriptures.

The main source of controversy stemmed from a scene near the end of the movie in which Jesus is portrayed marrying Magdalene instead of dying on the cross (see Crucifixion). A brief scene of the married couple making love is shown in the film, sparking the anger of many protesters.

What these controversial scenes portray is Satan’s tempting of Christ with the life of a normal man, a man with everyday desires and concerns, free from the burden of being crucified and being the salvation of mankind. In the guise of a beautiful angel, Satan deceptively brings Christ down from the cross in a dream sequence and gives him the life he has desired.

Under Satan’s sham, Jesus marries and raises a family. However, as he is nearing the end of his life, his most devoted disciple, Judas Iscariot, awakens him to the truth of what is happening. As Judas calls him a traitor, Jesus finally realizes he has abandoned his duty: to be crucified and to be the salvation of mankind. Seeing this, that he has been tempted into living a man’s life and dying a peaceful death, Jesus crawls out into the streets of Jerusalem as it burns with the fires of the Jewish Rebellion, and begs God to return him to his crucifixion, finally rejecting Satan’s offering. At that point, he is returned to the cross, awakening from his dream. Jesus has now been tempted as a man, and having survived the real temptations of a man, Jesus says his dying words, “It is accomplished.”

The film has been supported by scholars, film critics, and some religious leaders. In his defense of the movie, noted critic (and friend of Scorsese) Roger Ebert wrote that Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader "paid Christ the compliment of taking him and his message seriously, and they have made a film that does not turn him into a garish, emasculated image from a religious postcard. Here he is flesh and blood, struggling, questioning, asking himself and his father which is the right way, and finally, after great suffering, earning the right to say, on the cross, 'It is accomplished.'"

In recent years, the film has been cast in a more positive light within the Christian community. Some conservative Christians groups (many who initially attacked the film) have reexamined the film and found it an acceptable hypothesis on what it might have been like for Christ to be both fully human (subject to all of man's weaknesses) and fully God (total perfection and omnipotence). Some Christian scholars admit that maintaining equilibrium between these two contrasting natures might have been as difficult as The Last Temptation of Christ speculates, a notion that is even suggested in the Gospel of John when Christ admits, "I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (chapter 6). In the case of Kazantzaki's and Scorsese's Christ, there is a notable difference between Christ's will and the will of his Father; yet driven by his love for mankind and his devotion to his Father, Christ constantly denies his own will in order to fulfill his divine mission as Savior. Promise Keepers is the most notable conservative Christian group to recently come out and defend this interpretation of Christ, and an acceptance of The Last Temptation of Christ seems to be on the general move in many Christian communities and organizations.

The film's musical soundtrack was composed by Peter Gabriel and was released on CD with the title Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ. The film's score itself has been widely acclaimed as a landmark in the popularization of world music. Gabriel compiled additional material by various musicians as Passion - Sources.

External link

de:Die letzte Versuchung Christi


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