Episode 80: The Last Temptation of Christ

5 Mar


In this episode, Tyler and Josh discuss Martin Scorsese’s controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ.

00:00:44- Intro, The Walking Dead, MTOL Store
00:05:10- The Last Temptation of Christ; controversy, plot, acting
01:07:50- Musical excerpt from the film
01:12:20- The end of the film
01:39:00- Who is Jesus?
01:50:22- Episode wrap-up, more music from the film

3 Responses to “Episode 80: The Last Temptation of Christ”

  1. Bob K March 5, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Great show as always. Very thought-provoking and celebratory of both Christ and cinema. As proof, here are some thoughts that were provoked:

    Firstly, you’ve probably looked this up by now but the story with the hanging is “Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, which has been adapted several times, most famously on _Alfred Hitchcock Presents_, and is considered seminal to a lot of movies that it would be a spoiler to list.

    Second, a big question I think of when I see an “Owl Creek” story is “How much does this experience matter?” The rope is going to pull taught regardless of what the hanged man does, after all. In _Last Temptation_, however, there’s not only the fact that he could walk off the cross at any point (which this film illustrates so vividly), there’s also the metaphysical point that if God has a dream, is that less real then our reality? When Willem-Jesus changes his mind on his death bed, is he really just changing his mind back on the cross or is he actually re-writing the whole story? In which case the Paul we see isn’t just a supposition, he’s a real man who plants a seed of doubt (or is it faith?) that literally changes the world. I don’t think there’s an answer to that, but I think the question is there.

    Third, I can’t think of that section of _Last Temptation_ anymore without thinking of _Donnie Darko_. Just a fact.

    Fourth, and this one is less related, I love how the “angel devil” illustrates that, once you start accepting convenient logical arguments without properly examining them, you can stray further and further from yourself, as Willem-Jesus does when he starts sleeping with his wife’s sister. If anyone’s wife or partner suspects them of adultery in their heart, I strongly suggest trying out the “There are not many women…there is one woman, with many faces” line if you’d like to get a truly righteous punch in the face.

    Last, I need to see the film again to be sure, but I think that the city which is burning is Jerusalem, as it did historically about that time. This by the way is described excellently in the fascinating book _Rome Vs. Jerusalem_, which explores how the antipathy of pagan Rome for the Jews was replaced by an opposite but strangely equal one on the part of Papal Rome.

    That’s it. Found myself agreeing with you guys more than usual. Though I think, whatever else you say about Keitel’s performance, that wig was an enormous mistake.

  2. Nathan Johnson March 8, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    “I think my faith is strong enough to withstand some sacrilege.”

    I like that courageous attitude. I wish more would adopt it. In my case, it was difficult for me to step outside of a fundamentalist mindset—and I didn’t choose to watch R-rated movies until I was 23. The Last Temptation of Christ, which I found both engaging and spiritually enriching upon that initial viewing, was one of the first among those movies.

    With regard the discussion about Biblical authenticity, in the same way, I wish more Christians would not only read their Bibles from beginning to end (in my experience, very few have); but more importantly, I wish more would take the time to examine the cultural and historical context under which it was written. For example, understanding Yahweh’s roots in Caananite polytheism provides some perspective as to this deity’s violent and jealous nature in the Old Testament. In the case of The Last Temptation of Christ, it’s helpful to understand the varying perspectives of the Gospel writers. Intentional or not, I can’t help but feel that Martin Scorsese portrayed the Jesus of Mark—a decidedly human Jesus struggling with his own humanity—as opposed to the Messianic Jesus of Matthew, the prophetic Jesus of Luke, or the man-God of John.

  3. Josh L. May 23, 2014 at 4:03 pm #


    Great episode. I just recently found your podcast and have been thoroughly impressed. This was the first episode I listened to and have revisited it several times. Like you I had grown up hearing how sacrilegious and erroneous this film was. I happened to catch it when I was in college and found it thought provoking and incredibly engaging. The Jesus they presented was thought provoking a man with a destiny who struggled with doubt and temptation.
    In the Biblical story in Luke it says that after the temptation in the wilderness Satan left him “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Hebrews affirms that Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are. I think where many Christians get confused is in mixing up temptation and sin. You can be tempted and not give in, you can be tempted and resist. Jesus was perfect and sinless, but he was tempted. He was God and Man, God in the flesh. Jesus on this Earth laughed, cried, became angry and yes was even tempted. What this film shows is that he overcame those temptations and experienced his ultimate victory. I hope more Christians will revisit this film in the future because its portrayal of our Savior is quite powerful.
    On a side note…for those who were interested in this film I would recommend of course the novel but also another novel called Road to Cana. The novel is by Anne Rice of Vampire Novels fame (and while I don’t like those books myself) this novel is well written and portrays a Jesus in Nazareth before his baptism, temptation and his first miracle in Cana. The book (which is a work of fiction) is quite powerful and well written. It covers similar themes displayed in the film Last Temptation of Christ.
    Anyway wanted to thank you guys again for a very insightful and fun look at this sometimes overlooked film. Thanks for all the work you do.

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