Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Nativity Story film review:

Enemy soldiers, a perilous journey, mass murder, and the King of the Universe breaking into this world – what more could you want from a film? Not much, this film is hard to beat.

General vibe of the film:

Overall I thought the film gave the watcher a good sense of living in 1st Century Israel. With only 2 chapters of the Bible to go on (Matthew 2 and Luke 2) the writers had to speculate a lot, but this speculation did not seem to be irreverent or to take the focus too much off the arrival of the Messiah on the earth.

I found the film exciting, and would recommend others to see it.

A Carpenter?

Joseph is portrayed as a wood carpenter, which is the traditional view and is quite possible, however it is also very possible that he was a stone mason. The Greek word tektoon is the word for a builder who uses wood or stone or metal, and as in that area there was more stone than wood, Joseph (and Jesus) may well have been stone masons. This is interesting because it suggests that Jesus was quite a bit tougher than he is often portrayed.

The Magi:

The Magi provide some humour in this film, enough to be enjoyable but not so much as to take away from the seriousness of the plot.

Fortunately in the film they are accurately portrayed as astrologers/wise men and not as Kings. Magi studied the stars and supposedly used both religious and secular knowledge in their studies. In the film they are studying a star and mention some prophecy about a star. I am not aware of any such prophecy in the Bible, but it is thought that in those times stars were seen to signal the births of important people.

We do not know how the Magi came to find out about this star, but God did say in Genesis regarding the creation of stars:

NAU Genesis 1:14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;

So we can see how God could allow Magi to understand somehow that this star was a sign.

Just like many Christmas cards the film portrays 3 Magi and gives them the traditional names. This information is not found in the Bible but this does not appear to be a big problem.

One complaint worth making however is that in the film the Magi decide to not go back to Herod; In the Bible this is because of a dream, but this is not shown in the film.

Roman Occupation:

I thought the film did a good job of showing what living in an occupied country would be like. The Roman soldiers turn up all over the place on their horses, either chasing enemies of the state or collecting taxes.

This was a good backdrop for showing the Messianic expectation of the Jewish people at that time.

Messianic Expectation:

Throughout the film you see people making references to the Messiah who they believe will save them soon. As far as we know there was a great deal of Messianic expectation at this time in history, and so this is a good portrayal of the Jewish people. Furthermore there were Jews who were genuine about their worship of God, which is refreshing from the often stereotyped view that every single Jew was a hypocrite.

What was really good was the fact that references were made to the prophecy of the Messiah coming from Bethlehem, we know from Matthew 2 that the chief priests and scribes knew about this and that they told Herod. This element of the film shows how Jesus’s birth was a fulfilment of ancient prophecy.

Tree crucifixions:

The fact that the film maker had consulted scholars about the cultural background of this film is clear from background scenes like people hanging crucified on trees. In those times a number of crucifixions were done this way.

It is worth noting that the well known New Testament scholar Darrell Bock was one of the experts consulted for this movie.

Animal sacrifice:

You will actually see one happen in the film, even with one bloke putting his hand on the animal as a symbol of their sins being transferred to the animal. If you want to read up on this then check out Exodus 29, and Leviticus 4 and 18.

This is a wonderful backdrop for the fact that Jesus is coming and at the end of this life, the sins of the world will be transferred onto him when he dies.


Joseph points out that the shepherd led lonely lives, which hopefully makes the watchers aware that they were not too high on the social strata in those days. Yet God still chose to reveal to them that the Messiah had come.

Sadly you do not get the multitude of angels praising God (Luke 2:13-14). This would have been great part to put in the film.

Also they put the Shepherds together with the Magi at the same time, when the Magi probably arrived a time after.

However it could be argued that this telescoping would not have been a problem to the Jews in those days. What I mean by that is that in ancient Semitic thought it would be okay to paint a picture of Tony Blair and Winston Churchill together in the same painting, both as fully grown men. Of course they would not suppose that the 2 men were around at the same time, but this would be acceptable as an artist’s portrayal. Perhaps therefore we should allow the film maker to portray the two separate visits as one.


The film is reasonably accurate. It is passionate, and I believe it glorifies the Messiah. It’s the best film I’ve seen this year, and it made me want to be even closer to Jesus. Please go and watch it!


  1. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Thanks for the review Dunk! I copied it over to www.crucifiedyouth.blogspot.com for the kids to read. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

  2. Anonymous1:39 AM

    Good stuff bruv, definitley makes me wanna see the film now.

  3. Cool, let me know what you think when you see it.