The Jesus Film: Between Global Christianization and World Christianity

  • Author(s): Colin H. Yuckman
  • When: 2015-12
  • Where: First Fruits
  • Tough the impact of translated written material in the spread of Christianity has been analyzed at length, less consideration has been given to the more recent turn to evangelistic non-literate media. Evangelistic flms, for instance, have become common missionary tools, especially in places which lack technological infrastructure. Teir success depends on efective translation so that indigenous communities, in the spirit of Pentecost, might hear the good news in their native tongue. A prominent test case for the vernacular principle is the JESUS flm (Sykes/Krish, 1979), which has been translated into over 1300 languages and has reportedly led to more conversions than any other evangelistic tool in history. Its statistical success, however, tends to defect questions of worth as a medium of vernacular translation. Based on a critical analysis of its content and ambiguous examples of its use internationally, this paper argues that in spite of its success and the ongoing translation of its script into local languages, the flm’s untranslated visual dynamics—sustained by competing tendencies to universalize and particularize—may potentially perpetuate a Christendom ethos. Te paper concludes by drawing attention to an indigenous Indian Jesus flm (Karunamayudu, 1978), suggesting a path for the future of visual media in the vernacular spread of world Christianity.

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