Unlike previous Jesus films like The Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings and Jesus of Nazareth which take an Adaptation Distillation or Adaptation Expansion approach to all The Four Gospels, the film is based on the Gospel of Luke. The events, structure, dialogue and narration are taken virtually word-for-word from Luke using the Good News Bible translation, also known as Today's English Version.
Allegedly the most-watched and most-translated film of all time, due largely to its global translation and distribution by Christian missionaries. Indeed, it was intended as a Christian missionary tool from the start. But because missionaries usually show the film to people free of charge, accurate figures for total viewings are pretty much impossible to come by, so don't expect to see the film on "Most Watched Films" lists alongside Gone with the Wind and Avatar any time soon.
Tropes found in this work include:
- Adaptation Distillation: Of the Gospel of Luke.
- Adapted Out:
- Since the film focuses on Luke, details only found in the other Gospels in the Bible are omitted. This includes the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) following Jesus's birth and the crown of thorns Jesus wore at his crucifixion. Bits do creep in like Levi the tax collector being identified as the apostle Matthew (only in the Gospel of Matthew).
- Not everything from Luke is shown, like the genealogy of Jesus. The Visual Bible: Matthew and The Gospel of John are later, similar films which do show every bit of a particular Gospel, also to the point of omitting details from elsewhere.
- Bible Times: Well, of course.
- Crucified Hero Shot: A Foregone Conclusion.
- The Film of the Book: Of The Gospel of Luke.
- Informed Ability: Pontius Pilate is said to be a vicious governor but he seems more perplexed than vicious.
- Messianic Archetype: Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ.
- Passion Play: As a direct adaptation of one of the Four Gospels, the film ends with an account of Jesus's crucifixion.
- The Queen's Latin: The film used British actors for the main roles and recruited extras on location but dubbed their voices over with British people.
- Re-Cut: A rarely screened 4-hour version of the film does exist (copyrighted 1976 instead of 1979), where the actors are dubbed in period languages like The Passion of the Christ decades later, yet almost always overdubbed by a narrator reading the King James Version (instead of Today's English Version) throughout the entire thing. Both versions are officially available for streaming elsewhere.
- Same Language Dub: See above. Brian Deacon is reportedly the only actor in the movie to speak in his own voice. This is apparently due to the producer not liking the high-pitched Israeli accents of the local actors hired for small parts and as extras.
- Secondhand Storytelling: After Jesus comes Back from the Dead, some of his appearances are mentioned but not depicted: the appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, which the Gospel relates as it happens, and the appearance to the apostle Simon (Peter), which the Gospel doesn't.
- Separate Scene Storytelling: The parable of the Good Samaritan.
- Shown Their Work: As he is led to be crucified, Jesus only carries the cross beam not the whole cross, and later the nails are driven into his wrists, not literally his hands. This is considered to be more historically accurate than traditional Christian iconography of the sequence.
- Time Skip: Jesus is shown at 12 years of age in the Temple and then it transitions to Jesus getting baptized at around 30.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Judas Iscariot disappears after he betrays Jesus. This is accurate to the Gospel of Luke, but its sequel Acts of the Apostles says he died in a fall, spilling his guts. (The Gospel of Matthew however says he hanged himself.)note
- You Just Ruined the Shot: Some missionaries told the story of one screening for a remote jungle tribe that was still somewhat new to the concept of movies. The film had to be halted temporarily at a climactic moment when the tribesmen, shocked by the crucifixion scene, began shooting blowgun darts at the screen in an attempt to kill the Roman soldiers and prevent Jesus from being crucified.