The Old Testament: The Book of Ezekiel I – 25:17, Pulp Fiction, and Liberties with the Bible

Do you read the Bible, Brett? I got this passage memorize, that sort of fits this occasion; Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.” And then Jules unleashes his vengeance on Brett. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2WK_eWihdU)

So ends the first scene in Tarantino’s epic film Pulp Fiction.  This film changed my life.  I watched it three nights in a row when it hit theaters in 1994.  This film made me want to be a writer.  I was won over by, among other elements, the film’s unconventional narrative structure, the snappy dialogue, the unusual content, and, if you probed deep enough, the message of the film: what was in that briefcase? Was it Marcellus’ soul?

This first scene set the tone for what follows  This scene, which is brilliant in so many ways, struck a nerve with me because, among other things, it made the Bible sound really dark and, frankly, bad ass.  I had no clue as to the context of the passage, but mixed with the violence of the film, there had to be some connection (right?). Even better: if someone mentioned the Bible, I could say I was familiar with at least one passage.

This is part of why I couldn’t wait to read The Book of Ezekiel.  Finally I would learn the context and determine the degree to which this would enhance my understanding of the film.

Unfortunately, the movie misquotes this book. It’s not even close. The first half of the second to last line is correct. As is the last line.  Everything else is invented.

Don’t get me wrong.  This book of the bible is dark. It’s full of dark visions (1-2), the bleak future in store for Jerusalem (4-7), various allegories (Israel’s fall explained through story of two prostitutes (23:4-5), for example) and a parable of a cooking pot to explain how, like the remnants of a good meal that refuse to be burned off, Israel will rise again (24:12). As usual, the Lord is conveying to the people, through Ezekiel, just how pissed he is, reminding them in the process of all that they have done wrong (sins including worshipping the wrong/false idols). And of course, as the bearer of bad news, Ezekiel is punished. This punishment, however, is nothing compared to what awaits Israel’s enemies (35:10). The book ends on a note of hope, as Ezekiel presents a layout of the new Temple.

But why would Tarantino, who wrote the script, so boldly invent a Bible passage? Especially when it would be so easily checked?

Well, perhaps Tarantino was taking some artistic license. It’s the spirit of the book I was using, right? Okay. And perhaps even better: do you think the people who really know the Bible will check and the people who don’t will bother looking it up?

I can’t speak for those who know the Bible so well and saw the film. But I can say that I was lazy enough not to care. I believed that, as a writer, and responsible person, why would he distort the Bible? Turns out people do this all the time, which is why, in light of June 26th’s Supreme court decision that struck down DOMA and California’s Prop 8, I can wait to read the New testament and hear what Jesus has to say about homosexuality, to confirm Mike Huckabee’s pronouncement that, upon hearing the verdict, Jesus wept. Something tells me this is a major distortion as well.

The even sadder part is that the people who feel they have some familiarity with the Bible won’t check Huckabee’s comment and the people who are unfamiliar with the Bible will just take the man’s word for it. After all, he’s a man of god, right? It’s not like he would take license with the good book in order to serve his own conservative agenda, right?


 

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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