Who knew? Last week the Tivoli Theater in Kansas City, MO hosted a screening of Robert Orlando’s A Polite Bribe, an animated documentary on the Apostle Paul that tries to place Paul’s letters and life in a chronological narrative. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people in attendance—more than 150 people showed up to learn more about the man responsible for writing a sizable chunk of the canonical New Testament.

Central Baptist Theological Seminary professor David May has written a two-part review of the film (see Part I and Part II), and Bill Tammaus, former faith columnist for the Kansas City Star, also posted his thoughts about the movie in a brief blog. Andy Johnson, Professor of New Testament Studies at Nazarene Theological Seminary, should also be reviewing the film for NTS’s blog soon as well. I’ll pass it along when it becomes available.

The film did an excellent job of creating a narrative framework for the life and writings of Paul, which is very helpful in clearing up some of the reverential fog that surrounds the Apostle to the Gentiles. There were a few minor problems with the film, however, which May points out in his posts linked above. For the most part, the movie offered a great opportunity for discussion about a topic that is often dismissed as uninteresting for casual conversation. Conservative Christians often equate the words of Paul on the same level as the words of Christ (or the words the Gospels attribute to Christ), while liberal Christians often swing the opposite direction and dismiss Paul as a hack who was the originator of Christianity as a faith of patriarchy, misogyny, and homophobia. A Polite Bribe cuts at both views equally: Paul was a real human being, with all the complexity that accompanies being human.

I highly recommend the film. Even if you don’t agree with Orlando’s thesis, it is exciting to see that he has begun a conversation centered on the question, “Who was Paul of Tarsus?” It is a question not often considered by people who don’t spend their time holed up in academic libraries, and it is refreshing to see a popular-level film aimed at generating interest in the subject of Paul.