Since I still teach a variety of Bible classes, as well as have significant personal interest, I see most movies that are about the Bible and/or Christianity. Some are better than others, and some are simply bad — not just filling in details absent in the biblical account, but contradicting what is there. My take on “Paul, Apostle of Christ” is that it is pretty good.
The New Testament book of Acts ends with Paul waiting in Rome for two years for a hearing before Caesar (Acts 28:30 and 31). Primarily following reliable tradition, the movie picks up where the New Testament account ends and tells the story of the Apostle Paul from there through his martyrdom.
The tradition is that Paul was released at the end of the two years, did more evangelism and ministry, and was arrested again when persecution of Christians intensified under Nero. The movie is set during the time when Christians in Rome are being persecuted because Nero blamed them for the great fire in Rome (which most people thought Nero set himself).
In addition to Paul, key characters in the movie that are in the New Testament are Luke and the husband and wife team of Aquila and Priscilla. In the Bible Luke was a physician, a traveling companion with Paul in his ministry, and the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The movie gets it right in terms of Luke, except we do not know from the Bible if Luke visited Paul in prison as the movie depicts. Aquila and Priscilla are also in the New Testament book of Acts, and in the movie are the leaders of Christians in Rome staying out of sight so as not to be killed.
There are three key players in the movie’s story that are not mentioned in Acts or in tradition. A key figure is Mauritius, the overseer of the prison in which Paul and other Christians are being held, and his wife and daughter are also important to the story.
As would be necessary and expected in any biblically based film, some of the characters and story are no doubt fictional. While Aquila and Priscilla were certainly real in the book of Acts, we do not know if they had a role during Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome. In the movie their leadership with the Christians in hiding is creative and contributes to the story.
The situation of Mauritius and his family also makes a significant contribution to the story being told. I won’t say more about the situation so as not to ruin it for readers who want to see the movie, but it is not hard to imagine something taking place like the movie shows.
If you are inclined to see “Paul, Apostle of Christ” I encourage you to do so. I think you will enjoy it as well as be challenged and encouraged. Remember, a lot of the movie is fiction, but a lot of it also is biblical and based on reliable tradition. At first I was disappointed because my expectations were too high, but I did enjoy it and am glad I went.
Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.