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“A Polite Bribe”: Orlando’s Film Premiere

December 12, 2013

Rob Orlando’s film about the Apostle Paul, “A Polite Bribe: An Apostle’s Final Bid,” has its formal premiere in New York City on 19 December.  The news release is here.  I’ve mentioned the film in previous postings, having seen an earlier version of it in November 2012 (at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Chicago) and more recently an updated version.  The film’s web site is here.

As indicated in my previous posting here, I find the film effective in stimulating interest in Paul and potentially in generating productive discussion about him and his large project, “the Jerusalem collection” (a financial contribution for the Jerusalem church that he collected from his gentile churches).  The collection is often overlooked, even by Paul specialists (who tend to focus on Paul’s ideas and often neglect the other phenomena of his apostolic mission), and certainly deserves to be highlighted, as it is in the film.

I’ve also indicated some misgivings and some disagreements with some of the claims made in the film, and in the publicity promoting it.  I find it simplistic, for example, to repeat the old chestnut that Paul was the real founder of Christianity.  (But I guess that the complexity of history is just too much for cinema!)

So, if you take in the film (and I would encourage it), do so recognizing that it’s one guy’s (Orlando) effort to put into film his take on Paul, which reflects scholarly input, but various points of which would also be queried by various scholars.  The film’s main value (to my mind) will be that it should stimulate people to inquire further, to discuss and compare opinions, and to realize how extraordinary a figure Paul was.

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  1. Nicholas Anderson permalink

    Dear Professor Hurtado,

    I am not a scholar; having spent my live in pastoral ministry I would not presume that I had the knowledge base to pass intelligent or insightful comments on much of what you review. That said, I am deeply grateful for what you write on your blog, you have encouraged me to read more widely in the field of NT studies, and not to be mislead by the more popular stuff which is often so unsatisfactory.

    I wish you a very blessed Christmas.

    With kind regards,

    Nicholas Anderson

  2. Geoff Hudson permalink

    Larry, it may disappoint you to know that I believe that Paul was an extraordinary figure fabricated in someone’s imagination.

    • And it may disappoint you, Geoff, to realize that (with practically any scholar in ancient history) I think you’ve fabricated your view in your own imagination.

  3. Robert Orlando permalink


    Thank you very much!

    Very challenging to explain to a main stream audience the difference between “Paul as Founder” and “Paul as leading Apostle of Christian Gentile movement who, as result of cultural differences, and an identity-defining war, might have enabled the early movement to break off from its original roots, and survive as a new type of religion. ” I try by saying no Christianity without Jesus but no Christian (Gentile) religion without Paul. I also DO believe, thru ideas of Jewish Messiah and the coming Kingdom, that there is great continuity between Jesus and Paul. Yet some, if not many, of his understandings (improvisations?) were not accepted by Jesus’ original followers.

    Hope we can find a way to make Edinburgh work. First, The big show!!


    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Robert permalink

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the film will have much popular success because of the animation and spoken narrative format. Even I got a little bored at the length and started nitpicking and thinking it would be nice to have a transcript to point out a few spots where it seemed like the narrator was messing up Paul’s text a little. Not a movie, not even a film, just another exegetical exercise.

  5. Donald Jacobs permalink

    David Trobisch focuses heavily on Paul’s collection of money in his book “Paul’s Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins” as a major motivation for his letter writing.

  6. Thank you for this. I find it extraordinary that there have not been more films made about the Apostle Paul. When, some years ago, at a post-lecture dinner, at Warwick University, I challenged the film producer Lord Puttnam about this, he said, rather airily I thought, that it would be difficult to convey Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus. He just didn’t seem to take Paul seriously as the subject matter of cinema. Given Paul’s towering intellectual, spiritual and cultural significance, I find this widespread dismissive attitude staggering.

    • Yes, I rather suspect that Puttnam’s response only shows the limitations of his knowledge and imagination!

    • There was a Brazilian film about Paul/Acts released a few years ago called “Irmaos de Fe”. Have never quite been able to justify the £35 to buy it from Amazon…

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