The Jesus film and tradition: A hermeneutical reflection

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Through a dialogue between the philosophical hermeneutics of Gadamer and selected Jesus films this article explores the place of film within tradition as a mode of representation and interpretation. After discussing how film illustrates Gadamer's concepts of «play» and mediation (Vermittlung), the issue of filmic interpretation and temporal distance is explored in light of how filmmakers often seek to construct historically accurate portraits of Jesus. The author then deals with film as an expression of effective history (Wirkungsgeschichte). Gadamer invites us to see tradition as a liberating process of finding meaning through interpretation. This article reflects, in particular, on how Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to Saint Matthew and Denys Arcand's Jesus of Montreal form critical, inter-textual discourses on tradition. It concludes by discussing how film mediates the «claim» of tradition, thus emphasizing its role as a possible medium of transformation and meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-140
Number of pages22
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Biblical interpretation
  • Jesus in film
  • Philosophical hermeneutics
  • Theological aesthetics
  • Theological hermeneutics
  • Theology and film
  • Tradition


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