Jesus (1979 movie)
Jesus is a motion picture released in 1979 depicting the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Luke in the Bible. The film was the brainchild of Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, who desired to present a biblically accurate retelling of the life of Jesus to people around the world in their own language.
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Ever since 1950, Bill Bright dreamed of producing a motion picture that converted the story of Jesus as recorded in the Bible into a visual and audio message that could be used for evangelism purposes around the world. In the mid-1970s, a team of 500 Christian scholars and leaders from various organizations began a five year project to create a film that was historically and theologically accurate, unbiased, appealing to all ages, easily translatable, and of theater viewing quality. Accuracy was a major concern – filming took place on location in Israel, and after every day, the film was sent to a panel of biblical scholars for review. And instead of building up a back story for the film, like other Christian epics (The Ten Commandments, for example), the producers of Jesus strove to make a literal adaptation of the biblical text, boasting that virtually every word spoken in the film comes directly from the gospel of Luke.
The film was produced in 1978, at a cost of $6 million, most of which was donated. It was produced by John Heyman, and the role of Jesus was played by the English actor Brian Deacon. Warner brothers released the film in U.S. theaters in 1979, where it earned a meager $4 million in the box office.
In 1981, Bill Bright organized the Jesus Film Project with the goal of dubbing the film into other languages and showing them around the world. The organization works with thousands of missionaries around the world to show the film in remote areas, often with audiences who have never previously seen a motion picture. Distribution in the United States is also a priority, as millions of unsolicited tapes have been sent to addresses around the country. And in 2004, the organization made the film available for viewing on its website in over 300 languages.
As of late 2004, the official (and debatable) statistics from the Jesus Film Project are:
- 5.2 billion viewings (including multiple viewings by the same person)
- 200 million decisions for Christ
- 50 million Jesus Film videocassettes and DVDs in circulation
- 858 languages with completed translations of the film
- 229 languages with film transaltions in progress
- 228 countries where the film has been shown