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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Jesus Bar-Joseph

The Young Messiah (2016) on IMDb

Plot Overview

After some background trumpeting, we're informed this movie is: "Inspired by scripture and rooted in history", mention is made of the Magi (i.e. three wise men) who visited King Herod seeking the new­born Jewish Messiah, and a quotation is given, (Matt. 2:13) "And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him."

The movie proper opens in Alexandria with a little girl drawing a camel in the dust while her young cousin Jesus (Adam Greaves–Neal) ignores her ("You're not watching") in order to observe a disquiet in the crowd. A bully taunts him saying he "plays with girls" then knocks him down. The girl beats the bully with a stick until he turns to pursue her. Jesus tells him, "Stop, don't touch her." A cloaked man-demon puzzled by this "angel-boy" full of good works trips the bully ("He's dead") then whispers blame on Jesus ("He did it.") The crowd accuses Jesus ("You killed him") who calls for help ("Mother, come"), tries to explain the cause ("There was a man"), and is led inside for refuge ("James, close the door.")

The crowd complains ("He cursed him, and now he's dead") to his father, but Joseph (Vincent Walsh) being a just man (a tzaddik) passes it off as, "It's envy. We've got the jobs they wanted." The girl whispers to Jesus, "Do what you did before, like to the dead bird." Jesus pays a surrep­titious house call on the dead lad, and inside our circling camera does what he did to the bird. The kid's family wonders, "Where did you learn medicine?" The incensed crowd suggests to Joseph that he, "Go back to Galilee. Take your tools and your women, and your bewitched children." Joseph concedes that he was already planning on "going back to Galilee" because he had a dream that Herod is dead. So they hit the road along with Jesus's Uncle Cleopas (Christian McKay) and other kin. Other travellers on the way learn that Jesus age seven had been born in Bethlehem.

Royal Palace, Jerusalem. Hoity-toity King Herod Jr. (Jonathan Bailey) is informed by Roman centurion Severus (Sean Bean) that there are rumors of a miracle-working survivor of the first Herod's slaughter of the innocents, but not to worry, the Jews tend to see a Messiah under every rock. This crazed Herod replies sarcastic­ally, "I'm [part-]Jewish! Do I have the madness?" He tells Severus, "You served my father. You have your assignment." Severus passes on the word with­out creating a panic ("A few officers know. We'll keep watch for him.") He has his goal ("The boy must die.") Mean­while Jesus continues to perform the odd miracle ("Did you see that? He's a healer, that little boy") unaware of the potential problem this may cause ("There are witnesses"), because his parents have been a little lax with his home schooling concerning his Messiahship.


According to the Gospel, John 2:11, Jesus didn't perform any miracles until he'd started his adult public ministry. The child­hood miracle-worker of the movie, there­fore, is a product of artistic license for the sake of intro­ducing tension and drama into an other­wise unremark­able period of the young Messiah's life. First, there is the uninformed Jesus's burning inquisitiveness ("He's bursting with questions.") Mary will eventually explain the facts of life to him: "I was 14 when you were born, a girl really. I was a good girl, strictly raised and betrothed to Joseph." Then she tells him of an angelic visitation: "The angel said I would give birth to a holy child. God is your father." Jesus replies, "But all children of God." Mary again, "But you're begotten." Right!

1 Corinthians 7As Jesus born of Mary was entirely human, we may relate to him here in our own human inquisi­tive­ness. As Mary's forth­coming holy off­spring was enough to satisfy Joseph to proceed to marry her, one of us may find him­self in a quandary of being a Christian and wanting to marry some­one who is not. As all children are of God, in the ordinary sense, is that enough to proceed? Paul in addressing some questions of the Corinthians, tells them the holy off­spring of such an alliance would sanctify it (1Cor. 7:14). His answer appears to be in the past tense, what to do about an existing marriage to an unbeliever, but he allows it and other worldly matters to apply to a future arrangement as well, (1Cor. 3:21-22) "For all things are yours; Whether … the world, or … things present, or things to come; all are your's."

The tension and drama surrounding the miracle-working young Messiah migrate to the rest of Jesus's extended family who are impacted by their hasty moves. His older cuz James complains, "Every big decision this family has made in the last eight years is because of Jesus." This complaint is echoed in Paul's instruction to the widow concerning remarriage, that she must decide about it with Jesus as the focus of her deliberations, (1Cor. 7:39) "if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."

The tension and drama in the movie then spread to the Roman military charged with stamping out such a young Messiah as a threat of future insurrection. Severus boasts that he has a miracle of his own up his sleeve: "Roman steel." When he tries to match "miracles" with the young Messiah in the temple, though, he's like to cause the uprising he wanted to prevent. The Jews have strict rules about excluding pagans from their sacred domain. This is reflected later in Paul's admonition not to mix forms of worship: (2Cor. 6:14) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ..." A reading of the Greek and the context shows this to be addressing unadulterated Christian service and worship.

A preceding verse more or less explains this movie, (2Cor. 6:12) "Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels." It's not the Gospel writers' account that puts the young Messiah in such straits that he was running out of options where to live ("The Essenes will help us. We'll find a way"), but our own bowels; we movie-goers want to be enter­tained. A factual account of these "early years" is not likely to be a commercial success. But lest we Christians be too critical of the movie industry, we should consider: Paul was pretty laissez faire regarding marriage. While he did prohibit fornication and forbade Christians divorcing each other, beyond that he let them do what they wanted w.r.t. marriage—but not with­out his advice. Many Christians and churches, though, have distorted Paul's teaching in the passages we looked at above to restrict a Christian from marrying a non-believer. For the Christian who for some reason wants to, this will produce some drama. And while drama in a movie doesn't hurt anyone—it's just a movie—this drama in real life can cause people to get hurt.

Production Values

This film offering, "" (2016) was directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh. Its screen­play was written by Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh and Cyrus Nowrasteh as an adap­tation of Anne Rice's 2005 novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. It stars Adam Greaves-Neal, Vincent Walsh, and Sara Lazzaro playing the holy family. Sara Lazzaro is spot on as Mary. Sean Bean excels as Severus. Adam Greaves-Neal punctiliously crafts a compelling Christ child.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for some violence and thematic elements. It was filmed in Italy emulating a beautiful biblical back­drop. Old Testament scriptures were quoted from the King James Version. The camera uses a lot of facial close-ups, the actors responding with telling looks. The cinema­tog­raphy and editing is very professional.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This gonzo gospel prelude mixes the cultures of first century Palestine, Egypt and Rome, with a military intrusion and a Jewish pushback, shot through contemporary Western eyes, employing actors with British accents. That makes it hard to describe, so I shall give you a comparison with a walk in the park—every­body knows Jesus survives to adulthood—from author John Shannon: (102–3)

Here was Professor Hollister's laboratory of immigration, he thought. He tried to imagine being stuck with a group of Americans displaced to some far corner of China. He decided he'd probably feel hope­less about learning to fit in. How could any­one expect grown people to give up a life­time of their culture?

A young Chinese couple in jeans strolled into the park with a lively boy hand in hand between them. The boy was maybe eight, and they all skipped happily to a swing set in a sand­box. Immediately they took up their gender roles—the woman and child sitting in swings to be pushed alter­nately by the man. Nothing about their manner suggested Asia to Jack Liffey.

The grizzled game board players laughed abruptly, and an old man covered his eyes and ran off. Sore loser. Another old man took his place.

The gangly little boy shouted something as he ran out onto the grass. He glanced back and pointed at his mom. She jumped off her swing and ran after him with the kind of tiny mincing steps Asian women often favored, twisting and turning to pretend to elude her son's lunges. The boy finally poked his mother's thigh, and the woman reverted instantly to a full-stretch Western run as she chased after her husband.

Okay, Jack Liffey said to himself. The cultural gap can be very complicated.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Predictable. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quotations were from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Shannon, John. The Chinese Beverly Hills. Isle of Man: MP Pub., 2014. Print.