LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – Biblical fiction is sometimes controversial among evangelicals and conservative Christians, but Cyrus Nowrasteh – the writer and director of The Young Messiah, which was released on DVD this week – believes it can play a positive role in the believer's life.
The film tells the story of Jesus as a 7-year-old child, weaving in what little the Bible has to say about the boy Jesus with a fictional account that makes every effort to be orthodox.
"I do believe that biblical fiction can have a positive impact because it sparks conversation and debate, and exploration," Nowrasteh told the Christian Examiner. "What's wrong with that?"
Nowrasteh's film, though, should not be mentioned in the same breath as Noah, the 2014 movie that went so far outside the pages of Scripture that some said the story was no longer recognizable. Although The Young Messiah was based loosely on Anne Rice's book Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the story was changed to ensure that the child Jesus acts like the adult Jesus. For example, the Jesus in The Young Messiah never sins.
"Many changes are naturally made whenever one is adapting a novel to film," Nowrasteh said. "Novels are internal, and movies are external. This adaptation was made more complicated by the exploration of a period of Jesus' life that almost nothing is known about. So we did confer with theologians and biblical experts to help guide our way."
Among the endorsers of the film are Kevin Palau, president of the Luis Palau Association, and Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., who formerly served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Moviegoers gave their approval of the movie in the CinemaScore exit poll, grading it an A-.
"I think it's a good idea to take a look at fresh new stories about Jesus as long as they convey the character of Jesus consistent with as He's revealed in the Bible," Nowrasteh said. "And as long as the message is consistent. Alternately, I guess we could go on making the exact same movies that have already been made about Jesus -- but I feel as long as one is reverent and respectful, that we should explore what we don't know."
Wingclips has released a church study guide for The Young Messiah. It is available to pastors and church leaders.
Michael Foust has covered the entertainment industry for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelFoust