Baker Academic

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Richard Burridge on Life of Brian--Chris Keith

Today The Telegraph has a great interview with Richard Burridge concerning Monty Python's Life of Brian.  I love this movie, and any serious student of Jesus should as well.  Even better, any serious student of ancient Greek or Latin should love the scene where the centurion corrects Brian's command for the Romans to go home.  It's comedic gold for those of us who are nerdy enough to get it.  The movie was initially castigated by those in positions of religious authority in the UK for making a mockery of Jesus' life.  That discussion also, in my opinion, demonstrates just how bright and thoughtful the Pythons are, particularly on some of these issues.  (We should also draw attention to the hilarious spoof of this interview by Not the Nine O'Clock News concerning Python worshippers.)  I'm very grateful to read Burridge's interview.  I think that Burridge is correct that those original castigations failed not only to seize on an opportunity to discuss Jesus in public discourse but also failed to note that the film didn't actually make light of Jesus himself.  I recommend reading the interview.  Also, as a bit of a side note, I increasingly think it's weird that in the part of the world where I'm from, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was the more famous of their movies.  It's funny, but I don't think it can hold a candle to Life of Brian.  I'm also going to take this opportunity to plug the forthcoming public talk on Life of Brian at King's College, London, which will feature an absolute all-star cast of Jesus scholars, including Burridge, Ehrman, Bond, Crossley, Fredriksen, Levine et al.:  "Jesus and Brian--Or, What Have the Pythons Done For Us?"  I'm looking forward to that conference, but until then:  ROMANES EUNT DOMUS.


  1. Thank you for this generous blog, Chris. I appreciate your reactions very much, and I am grateful for all the links - not least the wonderful second-form Latin lesson (which is exactly what I was doing as a Classics school-teacher when the Life of Brian first came out in 1979!). I know from yesterday's interview on Radio 4 that John Cleese and Michael Palin were disappointed not to have some proper discussion at the time - so let's hope we can give them some this year with the 02 Reunion and the King's Conference on Jesus and Brian. And thank you for all your contributions to our work together on Biblical Studies in London - it is good to have you involved with it all!

    1. You are most welcome, Richard. And thanks for your kind words. I very much look forward to the conference.

  2. I reckon the first 3/4 of the movie is comedy gold, with some incredibly insightful swipes at religiosity, some brands of Christianity, pomposity, and just some general lunacy.

    However, when we get to the crucifixion, I just can't find it funny and the replacement of hope with "life's a piece of shit, when you look at it," ceases to be funny and often becomes a spit in the eye of fate/life/God. The "Crucifixion? - doddle" joke calls for a down grading of event to the level of easy farce.

    These two elements mean that I tend to turn the movie off before the end. (except i will skip forward to the suicide squad).