Jesus, the revised edition: Freshman seminar explores 2,000 years of interpretations

Elaine Pagels and students in a freshman seminar. Photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications.

What might American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, Russian-French painter Marc Chagall and English poet John Donne have in common? Plenty, if you are examining the life of Jesus.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, as 14 Princeton students settled around a long table in a room in McCormick Hall for the freshman seminar "Who Is — Or Was — Jesus?", a clip from Scorsese's 1988 film "The Last Temptation of Christ" was being projected against one wall. With a long scraggly beard, his bones practically poking through his tattered clothing, Willem Dafoe, the actor playing Jesus, was pressing mud on the closed eyes of one of his followers — healing his blindness.

The topic of the afternoon was "Miracles/Healings: Did miracles happen? Do they now?"

As an energetic discussion began about the readings for that class — starting with passages from the gospels according to Mark, Matthew, Luke and John — the students' questions careened around the table.

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