April 7th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Free trade agreements leave us even more dependent on China

EDITORIAL Why Russia re-elected Vladimir Putin

CANBERRA OBSERVED Empty seat last vestige of minor parties' party

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Liberals take power but plan for none for SA

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Sexual exploitation at Oxfam symptom of culture of death

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM General protection gives a false sense of security

PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE On celestial politics

GENDER POLITICS Trans ideology awash with big money from big biomed and big pharma

REGIONAL AFFAIRS Taiwan stands up to Beijing's bullyboy tactics

CINEMA Outstanding film follows St Paul to his death in Rome

HUMOUR An Appetite for Diamonds: Porphyry Volpone investigates

MUSIC Power playing: Technique v musicality

CINEMA Peter Rabbit: More Bugs than Beatrix, but lots of fun

BOOK REVIEW We're doomed; but we're not alone

BOOK REVIEW Subcontinent set for Asian century


NATIONAL AFFAIRS The deeper causes of Australia's social malaise

GENDER POLITICS Queensland proposes transgender birth certificates

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Outstanding film follows St Paul to his death in Rome

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, April 7, 2018

Paul: Apostle of Christ is a dramatisation of the final years of the life of St Paul the Apostle, who died around 67 AD in Rome.

Jim Caviezel, left, as St Luke
and James Faulkner as St Paul.

The movie situates Paul’s presence in Rome in the period following the Great Fire of Rome, which took place in mid-summer in 64 AD, when Rome was ruled by the tyrannical emperor, Nero. No contemporary Christian account of these times has survived.

But the historical background to these events was given by pagan Roman historian Tacitus, who grew up in Rome at about the time of the fire.

Tacitus, no friend of the Christians, wrote in his Annals, a history of the Roman emperors: “Nero fastened the guilt [for the fire] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.

“Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and the most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

“Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”

Tacitus continued: “Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

“Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.

“Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”


It is in this environment of terrible persecution that the film portrays the evangelist St Luke visiting Paul in Rome, and bringing a donation from other Christians to assist their persecuted brethren.

Paul is under arrest and being held in the infamous Mamertine Prison, the place where people were sent before execution.

The movie has an interesting subplot, in which Paul and Luke are interrogated by the prison military governor, and Luke heals the governor’s daughter. This has parallels in the Gospel account of Jesus’ healing of the Centurion’s daughter, and of Paul’s conversion of the prison governor in Malta.

Luke visits Paul in the Mamertine, and while there, implores Paul for advice on whether the persecuted Christians should leave the devastated city of Rome or stay to help those who remained.

Paul’s answer is equivocal, saying that each person should make up his or her mind. The community is divided, and some escape while others remain.

In the movie, Luke then implores Paul to dictate his story, what we know now as the Acts of the Apostles. This is not strictly historical, because Acts was clearly written before the Great Fire of Rome, as it ends with Paul living under house arrest in Rome, but not in a time of persecution, probably in 60-63 AD.

However, within a few years, the savage persecution of Christians in Rome had begun, and in the movie, Paul asks Luke to send a letter to his companion, Timothy. This is the famous letter in which Paul writes: “I am on the point of being sacrificed: the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

This letter has been described as Paul’s last will and testament.

If Paul’s second letter to Timothy was written in Rome, as the movie (and many historians) agree, it is interesting that it makes no reference to St Peter, who had ministered in Rome for years.

A possible explanation is that Peter had already been executed in the first wave of persecutions after the fire and, as this fact was well known at the time, there was no reason for Paul to refer to it.

The movie shows Paul making many of his familiar professions of faith, and is completely in accord with the writings of Paul, as recorded in Scripture, and what Luke said of him.

The final scenes in the movie show a group of Christians being herded into an amphitheatre to face death, and then Paul being led out of Rome for his own execution.

It ends with a most beautiful scene in which Paul, after his death, is met by the same group of Christians who had been killed in the amphitheatre, and in the distance is the risen Jesus whom Paul has faithfully served.

This is a very powerful film that accurately and convincingly conveys the distinctly different faith of the Christians, and the victory of Paul and the early Roman Christians over persecution and death.

Paul: Apostle of Christ opens in theatres on March 29, 2018.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm