Marcellus Gallio’s Defense Before Caligula, From “The Robe” (1953)

For years, I had seen a movie advertised and sold  every year around Easter.  “The Robe”, starring Richard Burton, was released in 1953 and presented a very interesting story.  The devil may care tribune, Marcellus Gallio, son of a senator, angers his Emperor and is sent to Palestine.  Before he is recalled to Rome, Pontius Pilate has him lead the detail that crucified Christ.  Marcellus is haunted by dreams of the deed he has done, so under cover, he returns to Palestine to learn the whereabouts of his runaway slave and the Robe that Christ wore that allegedly bewitched him and drove him to madness.  In Cana, he meets a number of Jesus’s followers.  They are good, peaceable people.  He learns of the Jesus and eventually becomes a follower himself.

He is forced to live as a fugitive, and eventually is captured as he covers the escape of his former slave, now friend, and the woman that he loves.  When he appears before Caligula, the following scene played out, containing one of the finest comments I have ever seen in any film about the nature of Jesus.

Caligula:  Tell me tribune, do you expect us to believe these stories, that this Jesus could heal by the touch of his hand, make the crippled walk, and the blind see again?

Marcellus: It makes no difference whether you believe them or not, sire.  All that matters is that there’s no story that he ever made anyone blind, there’s  no story that he made anyone a cripple, or ever raised his hand except to heal.

I watched that, then had to watch it over several times to let the speech sink in.

In the film where Jesus is entering Jerusalem, or where he is carrying his cross, or when he is on the cross, we never see his face, perhaps reinforcing the fact that when Jesus was alive, Marcellus paid him no mind, that he was just another Jewish troublemaker in a backwater corner of the empire.  For him to give such an impassioned defense of his faith was so refreshing.

Of course, nothing like this would ever be made today, at least not with A-list actors and a big epic budget.  That’s OK.  We have classics that will be around for a very long time to appreciate.  And while this movie script is certainly not from an inspired text, it was indeed inspiring, and contained deep truth.

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One Response to Marcellus Gallio’s Defense Before Caligula, From “The Robe” (1953)

  1. Pingback: A Pause to Reflect on Reaching 100 Posts | the trail is the thing

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