Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)

Module THEO50630: The Bible in the Cinema

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO50630: The Bible in the Cinema

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module is designed to explore the representation and use of the Bible in the cinema, with special reference to the biblical epic and the Christ film. It seeks to analyse the narrative and stylistic characteristics of the films under study, to evaluate the significance of the relation between these films and their sources, and to examine some questions of religious, ethnic and sexual identity that they raise.


  • The first part of the course introduces students to the nature and role of religion, the Bible and theology in film, and discusses the various critical methods and approaches that are taken to the subject. The second and third parts examine the portrayal of Jesus (in both Christ and Christ-figure films) and other biblical characters (Jesus and women, Jews and Judaism, Peter and Judas, John the Baptist, Satan) in film, while the fourth part considers cinematic reconstructions of ritual and the sacraments (baptism, passover, the last supper). Each of these studies involves the critical examination of selected biblical epics or Christ films.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • a knowledge of the nature and significance of the Bible’s influence in popular culture, as it relates to film.
  • a knowledge of the specific films under consideration, in relation to the aesthetic, narrative, intertextual, contextual, theological and other issues that they raise.
  • a knowledge of the results of modern scholarship on the subject matter, especially in relation to contemporary film,cultural, biblical and theological studies.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • an ability to analyse selected films using the tools of modern film, biblical and theological studies.
  • an ability to conduct intertextual comparison between the films under consideration and their biblical precursors.
Key Skills:
  • an ability to analyse cinematic texts
  • an ability to conduct intertextual analysis An ability to relate cultural products (in this case films) to their social and ideological contexts

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The cinematic texts chosen for study in this module are chosen with a view to encouraging the student to work independently, and to bring to the regular seminars the product of such independent study. In addition to the input of the module leader, the seminars will give an opportunity for an examination of particular films and film sequences, as well as discussion of their treatment of the biblical text. Tutorials (on a plenary or one-to-one basis) will offer an opportunity for feedback on assigned work. Regular film showings will offer students the opportunity to see the selected films in their entirety.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Fortnightly 1 hour 10
Tutorials 1 1 per term 1 hour 2
Seminars 10 Fortnightly 1 hour 10
Film showings 9 Fortnightly c. 2 hours 18
Preparation and Reading 260
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 5000 word essay.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University