Author Archives: fepeters

Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, History and Religion, New York University

The Magic Man

The damp room inside the Jerusalem Temple was lit only by a small window high up on the stone wall and by an oil lamp on the desk at which sat a small man in full priestly raiment. “I am Meleager,” he began, “priest interrogator of the Third Course…” “Congratulations! And I am Simon Magus, […]

Holy War, Holy Terror

The New York Times lies before me. Thin wisps of smoke rise from its front page with its vivid accounts of murder and mayhem committed in the name of Allah. The Children of Abraham explains that Allah is one and the same deity as the Yahweh worshipped by the Jews and the God the Father […]

Mini-Movies: Brief Encounter

Celia: Do you come here often? Trevor: You mean to the third class lounge of the discontinued Grumbling to Firth of Forth line? Celia: The one where they forgot to lock the bar? Trevor: Hush, Madam. Don’t want to spoil a good thing. Celia: Rather! Trevor: you talk ever so strangely. Are you English then? […]

Mini-Movie: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(The opening credits roll over the first strains of the Morricone score, a suite for whistle, flute and tom-tom.). A two minute tight close-up of Eli Wallach’s eyes. A one minute tight close-up of Eli Wallach’s mouthful of ugly gold teeth, followed by another even tighter two minute closeup of Wallach’s eyes, with deafening flute, […]

Mini-Movie: La Dolce Vita

Fellini: Anita, Marcello, this is a crucial scene in the film and it must be played exactly. When you, Marcello go off getting milk for the kitten, I want you, Anita, to climb, come fa niente, into the Trevi Fountain. Ekberg: What? That wasn’t in the script! Fellini: It is now. We did a rewrite […]

Mini-Movie: Song of Bernadette

Jennifer Jones (as Bernadette Soubirous, kneeling on studio grass in front of a rear projection of a Kentucky cave) “This hurts. Can I get a pillow here?” Asst. Director (shouting) “Somebody! A pillow for Jennifer.” Jennifer; “How old is this person supposed to be?” Henry King (Director): “Holy Mary? I don’t know. 30, 40. Doesn’t […]

Mini-Movie: Lawrence of Arabia

Lean: Action! Lauruns: The Arabs were once a great people, Hussein; Yeth, I often dream of the gardens of Andaluth Lauruns: Yeth, but Andaluth is far from Damathcus David Lean: Hold on! Cut! Alex, lose the lisp. You’re not Olivier and this isn’t Khartoum. Guiness: Olivier is a poof hack. Lean: And you Peter, what […]

Magic Man

The damp room inside the Jerusalem Temple was lit only by a small window high up on the stone wall and by an oil lamp on the desk at which sat a small man in full priestly raiment. “I am Meleager,” he began, “priest interrogator of the Third Course…” “Congratulations! And I am Simon Magus, […]

Mini Movies: That Hamilton Woman

Enter left Lord Olivier as Lord Nelson into his sumptuous cabin on the poop deck of his flagship, HMS Crown Victoria. Lord Nelson looks shit-awful: he has what is obviously a transparent eyepatch on his right eye and has apparently – it’s called acting – lost an arm. And he has also acquired a curious […]

What we must think about before we think about Jesus

When we try to glimpse figures from the past, even the most recent past, we are constrained to view them through one or more filters. These filters, our informants, whether eye-witnesses or the subject him or herself, are all tinted with reflection, forgetfulness, a disheartening range of ideologies and either an overdose of good will […]