If Hollywood is right and this really is the Year of the Bible in movies, then it's not possible to talk about biblical films without highlighting the one movie that has impacted the world by changing the eternal destination of multiple millions.
The Jesus Film is considered by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the "Most Translated Film" in history. For over 35 years, billions – that's billions of people around the globe have seen the story of the most important, most controversial and most beloved person in history. The movie is currently available in more than 1,200 languages.
What makes the movie unique is that the dialogue is almost entirely from Scripture, with over 450 leaders and scholars reviewing the movie for biblical accuracy. To mark the 35th anniversary of The Jesus Film, the movie has been re-mastered in high definition with a new music score, each frame being re-touched and re-colored.
The Jesus Film project is a ministry of CRU, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. The original goal of the movie was to tell the world about Jesus, by taking His message around the globe through video. After viewing the original Jesus film, more than 200 million people have made decisions to follow Him.
Bill Bright, found of Campus Crusade for Christ, wanted to make a movie on the life of Jesus back in the 1940's shortly after he came to faith at the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood. Dr. Bright was so passionate about this project that he went to legendary director Cecil B. DeMille and asked if he would remake his silent movie, King of Kings. Demille declined.
Dr. Bright was not deterred and finally got the financial backing for the film in 1978. From the get-go, the goal of the movie was to tell Jesus' story by using Jesus' words, which is why the script was based on the Gospel of Luke. Historical accuracy was equally important. Filmed in Israel, the movie required some scenes to be reshot as they included eucalyptus trees which weren't introduced into the region until much later than the time of Christ.
I never grow tired of hearing the stories of what happens when The Jesus Film is shown. From movie theatres to open fields, the movie has been seen literally around the world. Missionaries have shown the movie using generators in places where there was no electricity. One remote village in South Africa ran the film for about 350 people who had never before seen a movie. Paul Eshleman, former director of the project, reports that when the people saw the serpent tempting Jesus, they physically jumped back. "When the soldiers whipped Jesus, you could hear grown adults crying." At the end of the movie, 145 people made the decision to follow Christ.
The world watched and waited when 33 Chilean miners were trapped under ground. Each one was given an MP3 player with the audio of the film and many made the decision to follow Jesus as a result. We won't fully know until we're in Glory how many lives have been transformed by The Jesus Film.
Hollywood movies about the Bible will come and go but The Jesus Film will long continue because it allows Jesus to tell his own story with His own words – and that will always change lives.