Wait For It…

I just finished the First Book of Maccabees, which chronicles the revolt against the Seleucid kings who persecuted the Jews about 200 years before Christ.  My understanding is that neither Jews nor Protestants consider the two books of Maccabees inspired Scripture, but we Catholics do based on apostolic tradition.  The Jews and Protestants – the poor goofs – are missing out: the books of Maccabees are exciting and chock full of not only vivid personalities (e.g. Judas “The Hammer” Maccabeus) but more good killin’ than a Sam Peckinpah western.  Why a movie or miniseries hasn’t been made of the story confounds me.  Check out this scene (1 Maccabees 15:28):

The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices.  Many of Israel joined them, but Mattathias and his sons gathered as a group apart.  Then the officers of the king addressed Mattathias: “You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city, supported by sons and kinsmen.  Come now, be the first to obey the king’s command as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those who are left in Jerusalem have done.  Then you and your sons will be numbered among the King’s Friends, and shall be enriched with silver and gold and many gifts.  But Mattathias answered in a loud voice: “Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him…yet I and my sons and my kinsmen will keep to the covenant of our fathers.  God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments.  We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.  As he finished saying these words, a certain Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice according to the king’s order.  When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal; his heart was moved and his just fury was aroused: he sprang forward and killed him upon the altar.  At the same time, he also killed the messenger of the king who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar…then Mattathias went through the city shouting, “Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!”  Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons, leaving behind in the city all their possessions.”

Would that be great cinema or what?  How would we cast this movie?  First, who else to play Mattathias Maccabeus than Liam Neeson?  At 59 he’s the perfect age, and can you picture the statuesque Neeson and hear his magnificent Aslan the Lion baritone proclaiming “Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!”  I know I would be following, not even thinking about swinging by the house for my toothbrush.  James Cosmo (Brendan Gleeson’s dad in “Braveheart”) or Brian Blessed (Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen in “Flash Gordon”) would have been good choices, but are probably too old now.  The only choice for the apostate Jew who gets his just desserts would be Quentin Tarantino – not because he’s any kind of actor, but just because I loathe Quentin Tarantino and would thoroughly enjoy watching Liam Neeson or James Cosmo – or even Michael J. Fox – run a sword through him.  For the great hero Judas Maccabeus I’m thinking Eric Bana (loved his work in “Blackhawk Down” and “Troy”, and he can be Jewish (see “Munich”), but an intense young hunk like Michael Fassbender would work too.  The Russell Crowe of “Gladiator” would be a great fit, but he’s looking lumpy these days and would probably be a headache on the set.  It absolutely could not be that pasty guy from the Twilight movies.  But what a great casting job it would be with all the sons of Jewish liberty, and the Seleucid emperors and their many generals that took on the rebellion and failed, along with all the betrayals and ambushes that entwine through the story.  We have to get a few Brits in there, because they add that touch of class to any period piece.  Too bad Peter Cushing has passed on:  I could see him as a Seleucid general standing beside a big catapult exhorting his troops “This Death-pult is now the greatest power in Judea!”

The key element that would be missing from 1 Maccabeus is the romantic element: chicks are definitely in the background.  But in true Hollywood style we could easily cook something up, like two of the sons of Mattathias – Judas and Jonathon perhaps – in a triangle with the love interest left back in Modein while they camp in the mountains a la “Red Dawn”.  Renee Zellweger in all the chipmunk-cheeked glory she displayed in “Appaloosa” destroys this movie.  Sofie Vergara of “Modern Family” would be my first choice, as the she’s the hottest tamale walking around on two legs at the moment.  What of her accent you say?  Pish posh I say: Sean Connery’s played every nationality you can name with the same Scottish accent, and we’ve loved every performance…well, I’ve loved every performance.

So there you have it: read the Bible every day.  Sure you have your genealogies and your painfully intricate rules of Jewish worship, but you have long stretches of hard fightin’ and hot lovin’ that are as good as any beach read you can find.  And it’s the revealed Word of God.  ‘Nuf said.

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