A friend who saw the long version of the trailer noticed multiple references to the Bible and sent me the link: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/yearone/site/ (Look for “video”)
One scene shows the Jack Black character picking a golden apple and chomping down.
Michael Cera’s character protests.
Cera: That’s the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Black: Got sort of a knowledge-y taste.
Cera: Yeah? Does it have a forbidden taste? Cuz that’s what it is.
In another scene, the two encounter the brothers Cain and Abel. Cain is a jerk. And when a priestess invites Black to enter the Holy of Holies, he of course takes it as a come-on.
I doubt this movie will offer any insight into the meaning of the Bible. But I do find fascinating the way that pop culture continues to presuppose some level of biblical literacy. Of course, the scenes shown in the trailer could make sense on their own, but they will get more laughs from those who know the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and the architectural layout of the First Temple.
For a long time, intellectuals have claimed that biblical literacy matters. English professors interviewed in the 2006 Biblical Literary Report: What University Professors Say Incoming Students Need to Know agreed that the Bible is indispensible for understanding world literature and culture, even more so than Greek and Roman mythology. But Jay Leno also has made a schtick out of laughing at people who don’t know key Bible stories. In a March 2007 segment of “Jay Walking,” he invites us to laugh along him at the young woman who thinks that Jesus helped build Noah’s ark, that Cain and Abel were friends of Jesus, and that there are 12 commandments. Her claim that Jesus lived 250 million years ago competes for smirks with the guy who suggests the much smaller figure of 400 years.
I wonder where this assumed biblical literacy will come from in the future, as fewer people join religious institutions and fewer within religious institutions systematically study the Bible. Every year that I teach, I face fewer seminary students who know the basic narratives of the Bible. Paradoxically, students are coming with stronger beliefs about what the Bible is while they know less and less about what it actually contains.
It’s my conviction that the Bible can and should be read within religious institutions and outside of them. That its value goes beyond its support of creeds and its cultural refences. Of course, reading the Bible helps you “get” movies, U2 lyrics, and Southpark references. But it can do a lot more than that. It can be the kind of rich and nuanced reading in which people can lose– and find–themselves. That’s where I find my interests currently headed: in helping people interact with the Bible in deeper and more meaningful ways.