#Blessing (Adapting Genesis 12-50)

The narrative of Abraham and his descendants begins in earnest with a blessing from God:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)

Although the Abrahamic blessing is a popular topic in theological discussion and with regard to missions, it's easy for modern readers to miss the connection that these words have to the rest of the Book of Genesis. Apart from these words, the chronicle of the life of Abraham and his descendants might seem like a haphazard patchwork of unrelated episodes. Examined in light of this call, however, an overriding narrative thread emerges. Whereas ancient humanity's attempts at self-exaltation culminated in the curse of Babyl, the Genesis account documents how God's exaltation of Abraham and his descendants culminates in blessing for many nations.

Imagine you're watching a new Star Wars film and hear the Binary Sun Theme. Immediately, you're primed to expect a Force-related event is about to occur. Even though we may not even realize it, this memorable musical sequence encourages us to connect whatever is currently happening to a host of past events.

The question for Bible Artists is how to convey this overarching connection between the seemingly disparate episodes of Genesis 12-50. While the biblical narrative uses key words and other sophisticated literary techniques to suggest narrative and thematic unity, a motion-picture adaptation cannot rely solely on the same cues. Fortunately, visual adaptations have their set of techniques and cues that can accomplish a quite similar effect.


Music

Imagine you're watching a new Star Wars film and hear the Binary Sun Theme. Immediately, you're primed to expect a Force-related event is about to occur. Even though we may not even realize it, this memorable musical sequence encourages us to connect whatever is currently happening to a host of past events.

Just like Star Wars, an adaptation of the life of Abraham and his descendants could encourage audiences to make connections between seemingly separate events through a deft use of musical themes. In addition to a "Blessing of Abraham" theme that comes on whenever miraculous good comes to foreign people through the Abrahamic family, I imagine themes related to testing, failure/giving in, family conflict & reconciliation, divine judgment, and the presence of Yahweh would help audiences see connections between the various events taking place.


Setting

Modern readers are quick to breeze by the many place names mentioned in the Genesis account. For us, they're a meaningless blur of language. For ancient readers, however, the names in Genesis evoked distinct images and associations, just as if someone today mentioned New York City or Washington DC. Moreover, over the course of the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, certain locations get revisited multiple times, allowing careful readers to see the connection between different events.

Visual adaptations can recreate how the original Genesis account uses different settings to tie events together, but they have to be intentional about doing so. It's easy to be sloppy when it comes to doing the setting for a biblical story. Often, interchangeable desert set pieces end up portraying distinct locations that should have their own unique look and associations. However, by carefully selecting each of the key locations (e.g. Mamre, Bethel) and creating set pieces with distinct visual signifiers, an adaptation can help its audience see how events at these locations relate to one another.

Flashbacks

Certain key events in the life of Abraham have an outsized importance and deserve more attention from the audience. In the biblical narrative, this can be signaled by the use of poetry (e.g. the blessing above) or time dilation. In a motion picture adaptation, however, the importance of an event or line of dialogue is more often suggested by the use of visual or auditory flashbacks.


Consider how the conversation between Gandalf and Frodo about living in difficult times is brought by repeatedly in The Lord of the Rings films. It would be quite easy for this relatively brief bit of dialogue to pass by amidst the flurry of speeches and events that take place in the films. The repetition reminds us, however, that these words are critical for interpreting the events and themes that are unfolding before us.

Although one can easily over-use flashback in a way that's obnoxious, the judicious repetition of a handful of key lines, including the blessing above, used in combination with cues from music and setting could be quite effective in helping the audience develop a proper frame of reference for interpreting the events of Genesis 12-50.


8 views0 comments