Jesus Christ Superstar - Is the rock opera biblical?
The rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice, and the movie of the same name, directed by Norman Jewison, may seem to be biblical on the surface, but upon closer inspection they have many theological flaws and stray from the true biblical account of who Jesus is and what He came to do.
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Jesus Christ Superstar has many portions that are in line with the Bible. Jesus is a kind and loving man who heals diseases and performs miracles, and who is mistaken as a political Messiah who will deliver the people from oppression. Jesus plans to sacrifice Himself, and at the end is crucified on a cross. Some of the people in the opera are true to life in both name and character: Jesus' disciples, the priests Caiaphas and Annas (who are plotting to get rid of Jesus), Pontius Pilate.
However, there are several theologically incorrect elements sprinkled throughout the movie, and indeed, the main message itself seems twisted. Although many of the movie-Jesus' characteristics are correct, He does not seem to have the goal of sacrificing Himself for the sins of the world (see John 3:14–15; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:1–3). Instead, one feels that He does not understand His purpose beyond that of speaking passionately to the crowds about the kind of people they should be. He wants to know that His life matters, but does not seem to know His reason for existence. In addition, there is a scene where the people asking for help and healing overwhelm Jesus, and He yells out, "Leave me alone!"
Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:14–16), is one of the main characters and is portrayed as a conflicted man who deep down only wants the best for Jesus. He does betray Jesus, but says he does it for Jesus' own good; he believes Jesus has unknowingly stumbled on dangerous ground by inciting the crowd against the Romans. He takes the blood money with much hesitation, and afterward rages at God for choosing him for "His crime."
Another piece of the story that strays from the Bible is the romantic love Mary Magdalene has for Jesus. In the ballad, "I Don't Know How to Love Him," Mary confesses her love and bemoans the fact that she has fallen for "just a man." Since the Bible does not say anything about Mary loving Jesus romantically, this is conjecture on the writers' part and is a man-made addition to what we know of Jesus' life.
In the end, Jesus Christ Superstar does not wholly follow the Gospels and makes many additions and changes to the true life of Jesus. Throughout the movie, characters insist that Jesus was "just a man," and even Jesus Himself does not claim to be more than that—the real Jesus was both fully man and fully God (John 1:1, 14; 10:30; Colossians 2:9). Even though there are many true-to-life elements in the movie, the half-truths and inaccuracies mean this movie is not biblical.
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