The Last Temptation of Christ: Blasphemous & Boring


Just how low can Hollywood go?

Not even all the controversy surrounding Martin Scorsese’s blasphemous 1988 film, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” could salvage it from being a disaster at the box office. In fact, the “Last Temptation” was so boring and so badly made that, far from making money, it actually lost money for Universal Pictures. It was a total financial failure.

Following in the Footsteps of Failure

Now after being rejected by film goers worldwide there is an attempt to import this morally repugnant example of just how low Hollywood can go to South Africa. Following in the footsteps of failure seems to be an obsession of some in our government. Old unsaleable pornographic rubbish that should have been pulped for recycling are now proudly displayed in SA sex shops; the outdated, proven failure that’s being abandoned by schools in America – Outcome Based Education (OBE) – is now being adopted by the SA Education Department; the reverse racism of Affirmative Action that is now being reversed overseas is being aggressively promoted here in SA; the disastrous gambling industry that further impoverishes the poor is being welcomed into our cities; and now this disgraceful distortion of history!

“How is it . . . that the King of the Universe can be subjected to such ignominy and disrespect?!” asked Dr. James Dobson, President of Focus on the Family.

“The most serious misuse of film craft in the history of film making,” was the verdict of Reverend Lloyd Ogilvie, of the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood.

“I have never come across a more blatant attack on Christianity,” was the opinion of Dr. Don Wildmon, Executive Director of the American Family Association.

“Absolutely the most blasphemous, degenerate, immoral depraved script and film that I believe it is possible to conceive,” concluded Bill Bright, President of Campus Crusade for Christ.

The movie, directed by Martin Scorsese and produced by Universal Pictures (whose parent company is MCA), is based on a novel of the same name written by Nikos Kazantzakis. A renegade member of the Greek Orthodox Church whose heretical and blasphemous writings led him into conflict with religious authorities in his native Greece, Kazantzakis was a Marxist-Leninist. His world travels included lengthy tours of both the Soviet Union and Red China. During his tenure as head of UNESCO’s department for the translation of classics, Kazantzakis helped spread the doctrine of World Government.

Kazantzakis summarized his religious philosophy in his book, Saviours of God: “It is not God who will save us – it is we who will save God, by battling, by creating and transmuting matter into spirit.” It was this philosophy that guided him in writing “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

A Humanist Portrayal of Jesus

The movie opens with “Jesus” writhing in agony, tormented by spiritual forces. This blurring of distinctions between God and Satan is a dominant theme of the movie.

Jesus is shown making a cross for someone else’s crucifixion, and it turns out that cross-making is his trade. The real hero of the movie makes his first appearance here. Judas berates Jesus for assisting in the torture of others by making crosses, and their dialogue establishes another dominant theme. The divinity of Jesus is denied Him; He is portrayed as just a man – and not a very good man at that. He is confused, bewildered, weak of spirit, unsure of mind, indecisive, devoid of true purpose – a typical anti-hero. Judas, on the other hand, is precisely the opposite – filled with a strong sense of purpose, strong-willed, and aware of the differences between God and Satan.

Several scenes later, Jesus enters the brothel of Mary Magdalene and watches as a roomful of customers take their turn at fornication with the naked harlot. After the other men have left, Jesus approaches and says to her: “I want you to forgive me. I’ve done a lot of wrong things . . . The worse things I’ve done are to you.” Later, Jesus intervenes to prevent a mob from stoning an adulteress, who turns out to be Mary Magdalene. It is significant that, after saving her physical life, Jesus makes no attempt to save her soul. He does not tell her to go and sin no more. This scene underscores one of the film’s central themes: that the one most in need of forgiveness and salvation is Jesus!

While in the desert, Jesus watches as two snakes appear and copulate in front of Him. One snake has the voice of Mary Magdalene. In conversation with an unidentified man, Jesus says: “I’m a liar,” He also says: “Lucifer is inside me. He tells me I am not a man, but the Son of Man, more the Son of God, more than that, God.”

Judas and Jesus

Judas quickly becomes Jesus’ most loyal and loved Disciple. Judas is the real leader of the pair, and Jesus follows Him. When confused, for instance, Jesus turns to Judas and says: “Help me. What should I do?” Judas says they should go and see John the Baptist, who can tell Jesus if he really is the Messiah.

The scene with John the Baptist is as perverted as the rest of the movie. John is seen surrounded by undulating and writhing people, and some of the gyrating women are naked. The journey, however, proves fruitless. John the Baptist does not know who Jesus is.

Jesus becomes totally confused. He does not know whether his mission is to save the world with love or to destroy it with the axe and the baptism of fire. At one point, he raises an army and leads his armed band in a march toward Jerusalem, intending to conquer with the sword. But he hesitates at the last moment, and the revolution is aborted.

Finally convinced that his mission is to die on the cross, Jesus persuades Judas to turn him over to the authorities. Jesus explains that, as a traitor to the revolution against Rome, he deserves death. Judas concedes to his logic and reluctantly agrees to fulfill Jesus’ request. Judas tells Jesus: “But if you were me, could you betray your master?” Jesus answers: “No, but that’s why God gave me the easier job – to be crucified.” The loyal disciple thus arranges for the arrest of Jesus at Gethsemane.

During the scene of the Last Supper, Jesus offers bread and wine to the disciples, saying they represent his body and his blood. But the bread and wine transubstantiate into flesh and blood in their mouths. Peter – the rock upon which Jesus will build his church – is shown spitting the substance out of his mouth. Following his trial, Jesus is taken to the spot where he will be crucified. He sees his mother and says to her: “Forgive me for being a bad son.” In an earlier scene, he had met his mother on the road and had denied even knowing her!

The Hallucination Scene

The last half hour of the movie is devoted to a hallucination scene that is pregnant with symbolism and meaning. It begins when a beautiful child appears while Jesus is dying on the cross. She says she is his guardian angel, sent by God to save his life. She tells Jesus that God does not want him to die, but had been only testing his loyalty. Now that he has passed the test, he can come down from the cross. “You mean I’m not the Messiah?” Jesus asks. “No,” the angel responds.

This guardian angel leads Jesus to Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus marries. Jesus is shown making love with Mary, while the angel watches. Then Mary is shown partially naked at nearly full-term pregnancy. A blinding light appears and she is killed. The angel tells Jesus that God killed her. Next, the angel leads Jesus to Mary and Martha. Jesus marries Mary and commits adultery with Martha. They both bear his children.

Jesus then encounters Paul preaching the Gospel to the people. Paul is telling the world that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead three days later. By accepting Christ, Paul explains, man can be reconciled with God. Jesus angrily confronts Paul and calls him a “Liar!” Paul then explains that it is irrelevant whether the Gospel is true or false; the people like to hear the Good News, so he will continue to spread the Gospel.

Jesus is next shown as an old man, weak and bedridden. Some of his long-forgotten disciples pay him a visit. Judas is among them. He accuses Jesus of being a traitor, as well as a coward. Jesus attempts to defend himself by referring to his guardian angel, who still lives with him. Judas then forcefully points out that the guardian angel is actually Satan. The angel turns into a pillar of fire, the same pillar of fire that had tempted Jesus in the desert.

Jesus, totally surprised by this revelation, decides to reconcile himself with His heavenly Father. His hallucination ends and he is shown back on the cross. The movie thus ends with Jesus’ reconciliation with God, thanks to the leadership and clairvoyance of Judas, who alone was able to distinguish between Satan and an angel of God. Man has saved God!

Blasphemous and Unhistorical

“The Last Temptation of Christ” is clearly blasphemous and unhistorical. It contains a powerful message and has a distinct purpose. It turns all truth upside down: right becomes wrong, and wrong becomes right; evil becomes good, and good becomes evil. The betrayer of Jesus is the hero; worshipping the flesh is worshipping God; Satan is God; God is Satan; love is lust. The Saviour needs to be saved; the Forgiver needs forgiveness. There is only one word that can fully describe this movie and the true force behind it: Antichrist!

This film is offensive to the deeply held convictions of most South Africans who worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Even Muslims who revere Jesus as the Messiah and as one of the greatest prophets will be highly offended by the “Last Temptation.”

Christians who pray the Lord’s Prayer “ . . . hallowed be Thy Name . . .” need to stand up and oppose this blatant assault on our Saviour and Lord.

South Africans who want God to bless South Africa know that we cannot expect His blessings if we blaspheme His Name.

† Write to your elected representative at parliament to protest against the unbanning and release of this offensive film. We have laws against slander, libel and verbal assault. How can the only pure and holy person who ever lived be subjected to such a slanderous attack?

† Alert your church about this blasphemous attack on our Lord. Mobilise your prayer fellowship to intercede for God to have mercy upon our land and to bring those responsible for this outrage to reprentance or judgement.

† Speak to your local video store manager and try to persuade him not to screen or to stock such a disgraceful and offensive film as the “Last Temptation.”

† For more information on how to mobilise Christians in your community for prayer and action for the Lord’s honour and glory contact UCA and order a copy of the Christian Action Starters Pack (at R10 each).

† Please make copies of this article and circulate it as widely as possible at your church, workplace or school.

“Who will rise up for Me against the wicked?
Who will make a stand for Me against the workers of iniquity?” Psalm 94:16

Dr. Peter Hammond

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