The film is strictly based on just one of The Four Gospels, namely the Gospel of John. The events, structure, dialogue and narration are taken virtually word-for-word from John using the Good News Bible translation. No part of the text is skipped, unlike other Jesus films such as The Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings and Son of God which combine, condense and expand upon the accounts in the Gospels. As a result, it's three hours long.
Produced by Visual Bible International, which also released the similarly word-for-word The Visual Bible: Matthew and The Visual Bible: Acts in the 1990s, using a different cast and Bible translation.
See also Jesus, a 1979 film based word-for-word on the Gospel of Luke, which also uses the Good News Bible translation.
Tropes found in this work include:
- Adapted Out: Anything relating to Jesus that isn't in the Gospel of John, though it may be in the other three Gospels or elsewhere in the Bible, isn't shown. This includes key elements like the virgin birth of Jesus, and the offering of bread and wine during the Last Supper (aka the sacrament of the Eucharist or Holy Communion).
- Ascended Extra: The film has Mary Magdalene sit at table at the Last Supper and accompany Jesus and the Twelve apostles to the garden where he is arrested. The Gospel doesn't mention if Mary was there or not, and traditionally only men were present. This has theological/religious implications, as the Last Supper is understood to be the root of the modern Christian Mass, officiated by priests or ministers. Some Christian churches allow women in these roles, while some allow only men.
- Berserk Button: Do not turn the house of the Lord into a market, because that will set off Jesus' anger.
- Bible Times: Well, naturally.
- Catch Phrase: Jesus has: "I am telling you the truth!" This is the Good News Bible's rendering of the original Greek Amen amen lego hymin, which other translations render along the lines of "Amen, amen I say to you" or "Truly, truly, I say to you".
- Handwave: The Gospel of John is famous for its substantial differences with the other three Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are more similar to each other than with John and are called the "Synoptic" Gospels.note The narrator says that Jesus did a lot more stuff than is recorded in this account.
- Flash Back: Done in monochrome to augment some long speeches of Jesus.
- Flash Forward: When Jesus foretells Peter's death, there's a brief cut to Peter as an old man in jail.
- Messianic Archetype: Jesus Christ, of course.
- The Queen's Latin: Jesus has a British accent.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jesus delivers several verbal smackdowns to the Jewish authorities or sometimes just his Jewish audience in general... to the point of calling them children of the Devil.
- In fact the film opens with a disclaimer that Jesus was himself Jewish and the Gospel of John was written during a period of unprecedented tension and polemic between Christianity and Judaism, and the film just aims to be an accurate representation.
- Shown Their Work: In keeping with historical consensus, Jesus only carries a cross-bar instead of the whole cross and he is nailed to the cross through his wrists instead of his palms. Based on the latest reconstructions at the time, he is also nailed through his ankles, attaching his feet to the sides of the cross instead of the front.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Jesus pulls off one when the Jews pick up stones after His declaration of being the I AM and He is nowhere to be found.
- Third-Person Person: The narrator mentions "the disciple whom Jesus loved" throughout the story, and reveals that it was him all along, though he never switches to first-person.