Q. We’ve seen a spate of biblically themed movies in theatres lately: Son of God, Noah (starring Russell Crowe), and now Exodus: Gods and Kings (featuring Christian Bale of Batman fame). Why do you think this is?
A. Very often, movies are adapted from bestselling books. The Bible is the bestselling book of all time, so it only seems natural that biblical films would be made – there is always a high degree of interest. Of course, the reason that the Bible’s message is so perennially popular is that it reveals the truth to humanity – the truth about God, and about ourselves: why we are here, and what we were created for. Most people wander through their lives without any idea of their true purpose, or their need for salvation. Familiarity with the scriptures is a key to understanding life. It’s also essential for being an effective Catholic, for, as St Jerome once famously said, “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ”.
Q. The film Exodus: Gods and Kings is obviously about the biblical book of Exodus, and about Moses. Can you speak a bit about parallels between Moses and Christ?
A. Moses, although vitally important in his own right for God’s overall salvation plan, is also what scholars call a “type” of Jesus Christ. What does this mean? God writes history (“His story”) the way human beings write with words. Just as a human writer can use a device like foreshadowing to tip off a reader about future events in his story, God uses actual people, places, and things in history to foreshadow greater people, places, and things to come later on in salvation history, especially at the time of Christ.
Q. What are some of the parallels between Jesus and Moses?
A. Despotic rulers attempted to murder both of them in their infancy (Pharaoh and Herod the Great, respectively). They both procured deliverance for their people: Moses delivered the Israelites from the tyranny of Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt, while Jesus delivered his followers from the slavery of sin, death and the despotic control of Satan. Jesus is the true Passover lamb, leading us out of spiritual bondage. And just as the Israelites had to eat the lamb of the Passover, we must consume the Eucharist. One of the plagues God sends on the Egyptians was turning the water of the Nile into blood. Jesus turns water into wine at Cana, and later, when instituting the Eucharist, turns wine into his Blood.
Just as the Israelites pass through the Red Sea, Jesus passes through the waters of baptism, and, like Israel, enters into a period of wilderness temptation. Unlike Israel, Jesus passes the test. Just as Moses ascended Mount Sinai and returned with the 10 Commandments, Jesus ascended the Mount of Beatitudes and delivered the 10 Beatitudes to his people (and, yes, there are 10, not 8, Beatitudes – look closely at Matthew 5:3-12). Moses’ face shone, reflecting the glory of God’s presence. Jesus, as God himself, radiates his unveiled glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. God fed his people Israel with the manna, the miracle bread from heaven, in their wilderness wanderings. In our sojourn in the wilderness of life on earth, en route to the promised land of heaven, Jesus feeds us with the miracle of the Eucharist, turning ordinary bread into his Body.
This is only a sampling of the many parallels between Moses and Jesus. It speaks of how God works in similar ways in different epochs of salvation history to rescue his people (although, obviously, the salvation Jesus wrought is much greater in kind). One is reminded of the words of Mark Twain, who famously said that “history may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme!” This is the essence of biblical typology. “The New Testament is in the Old, concealed; the Old Testament is in the New, revealed” (St Augustine).