Dutch director Paul Verhoeven has found funding for a new movie that disputes the biblical account of Jesus by portraying him as a good politician who was conceived after his mother Mary was raped by a Roman soldier.
"If you look at the man, it's clear you have a person who was completely innovative in the field of ethics," says Verhoeven, who directed "Total Recall", "Robocop" and "Basic Instinct".
"My own passion for Jesus came when I started to realize that. It's not about miracles, it's about a new set of ethics, an openness towards the world, which was anathema in a Roman-dominated world.
"I believe he was crucified because they felt that politically, he was a dangerous person whose following was getting bigger and bigger. Jesus' ideals are about the utopia of human behaviour, about how we should treat each other, how we should step into the shoes of our enemy."
The movie, titled "Jesus of Nazareth", is based on Verhoeven's own 2010 book of the same name, which presents a pseudo-historical account of Christ's story that differs greatly from the accounts of Jesus presented in the Bible – mainly that Jesus was not the Son of God, but was born after his mother Mary was raped by a Roman soldier.
Although the independent movie, which does not yet have an expected release date and is being produced by Muse Productions, is likely to garner a lot of controversy over its portrayal of Jesus Christ, Verhoeven has said that his aim is to "explore the messages that Jesus preached and concentrate on how he was a radical prophet who revolutionised the field of ethics".
The book also apparently dismissed other biblical facts, like Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Jesus, which has prompted some Christian leaders, like Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, to criticise the claims made in Jesus of Nazareth.
"Here we go again with idle speculation grounded in absolutely nothing," Donohue told FOXNews.com when Verhoeven's book was released. "He has no empirical evidence to support his claim, which is why they say 'may have.''"
Movies focused explicitly on the life and death of Jesus Christ have reached various levels of success in Hollywood, but have almost always attracted significant controversy.
For example, Mel Gibson's 2004 epic "Passion of the Christ" focuses on the bloody and torturous final hours of Christ's life and follows the biblical accounts much more closely. While it stands today as the most successful religious movie ever made, grossing $611,899,420 worldwide at the box office, "Passion of the Christ" and its director have been accused of anti-Semitism for its portrayal of Jewish people.
Martin Scorsese's 1988 film, "The Last Temptation of Christ," which won him a nomination for Best Director and received wide critical acclaim, was also greatly controversial for its deviations from the Gospel accounts of Christ. While still depicting him as the Son of God who died on the cross for mankind, it shows Judas as a close friend of Christ who stood by his side and never betrayed him, and adds a sequence in which the devil temps Christ with an alternate reality where Jesus marries, raises a family and lives a normal life after denying the cross, although at the end Christ manages to resist the temptation and choose God's path for his life.
Verhoeven, who reportedly will have Roger Avary ("Beowulf") write the script for "Jesus of Nazareth," has been a longtime member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of more than 100 scholars and laymen that has challenged orthodox Christian teachings on Jesus and the Gospels.
New film to portray Jesus as product of rape
Published 28 June 2012