In the new movie, Exodus, director Ridley Scott decided to directly contravene possibly the most basic tenet of Judaism: that God is One and cannot be anthropomorphized. In the famous scene in which Moses stands near the burning bush and hears God talking to him, Scott decided to take liberties with the Biblical text and have an eleven-year-old boy, called Malak, stand near the bush and articulate the voice of God.
Scott’s excuse for violating the sacred text? As he said to The Hollywood Reporter: “Sacred texts give no specific depiction of God, so for centuries artists and filmmakers have had to choose their own visual depiction. Malak exudes innocence and purity, and those two qualities are extremely powerful.”
As Rabbi Akiva Tatz wrote in his brilliant book, WorldMask: “The sin of hagshama–attributing physical properties to Hashem (what religious Jews call God) is very serious indeed; one who prays to Hashem while picturing some image or form is transgressing this prohibition…”
Medieval Jewish scholars constantly testified to the fact that God should not be anthropomorphized; the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which stood on the Temple Mount, was famed for its utter lack of graven images. People came from across the known world to observe the wonder of a temple that eschewed images of a deity.
Scott is no stranger to attacking Judeo-Christian tradition. As the Washington Times wrote about Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven: “Christians clearly bear the brunt of Mr. Scott and Mr. Monahan’s anti-clericalism. Christian priests are depicted as doltish dogmatists, while the Kurdish warrior Saladin (played by Ghassan Massoud) is written as a sort of pluralist ahead of his time.”
Perhaps Scott, as a famous movie director, envisions himself as a Creator, too. No doubt his bare-faced insult to the core of Judaism and his treatment of Christianity will play well in the secularist circles in which he travels, but he may have another reception when he makes the ultimate trip.