Today was the final day of the semester and we finished watching our sixth and final film, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973). This was the only musical (actually, “rock opera”) we watched and it was my first time watching the film all the way through. I was surprised to find that, unlike most musicals, there was no dialogue in between musical numbers. The dialogue throughout the entire movie consisted of sung lyrics. Though there are appearances and songs by Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter, it was interesting to see the lyrical dialogue and dramatic tension revolve primarily around the relationship between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. The entire conflict is seen through the eyes of a clearly troubled Judas. Halfway through the film I found myself thinking about other presentations of Judas’s role in the Jesus story including The Passover Plot and the Gospel of Judas. The next time I teach this course I will probably include those readings along with the module for this film.
As I have mentioned throughout this series of posts, we began the semester with an exercise we called, “Problematizing Chalcedon.” We wanted to help students think through the complicated matters associated with the human/divine relationship that is such a key component to orthodox expressions of Christian doctrine. I thought this film, more than the others, beautifully captured that concern in the lyrics to Mary Magdalene’s big number, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” (which Judas reprises near the end as he expresses regret for betraying Jesus). The next time I teach this course, I may have students reflect on the lyrics to this song (see clip below) and have them write an essay on how this song takes seriously the Chalcedonian tension.