Sunday Matinee #25 Pulp Fiction
"You read the Bible?" "Not regularly..."
Good morning! R-Rated Movie Club returns to your inbox and I’m glad to have you aboard, thank you! We’ve been growing this year because of word of mouth from readers like you. If you have friends or colleagues who would get something out of this newsletter, please share it with them!
Earlier this month, I ended up losing drafts of the posts for all of June and some of July. Checked the cloud, checked the hard drive, checked the jump drive, to no avail. Unfortunately, it’s also proven a busy month, so that’s put me behind here at RRMC. I hope to get caught up soon, thank you for your patience. In the meantime, let’s move on to today’s Quotes with Notes, featuring one of my favorite movies paired with a scripture reading that can be pretty challenging.
R-Rated Movie Club is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Quotes With Notes
Full Text: Genesis 22:1-14 (Revised Common Lectionary)
5th Sunday after Pentecost (July 2, 2023)
Sign up for a free course at EnterTheBible.org to learn more.
Context: Abraham has been obedient to God their entire relationship. Now, God has seemingly told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. It appears Abraham is going to go through with it, but at the last moment, Abraham is told not to do it.
12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Pulp Fiction | 1994 A Band Apart, Miramax | IMDB
Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer
Written by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery | Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Context: A pair of lovers turned gas station robbers (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) decide on the spur of the moment to rob a restaurant. While they hold everyone at gunpoint, they don’t realize that two mob henchmen, Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) are there. When “Pumpkin” (Tim Roth) tries to take the case Jules has, Jules pulls a gun on him, makes him fish his wallet out of his bag, and open it.
Jules: That's my bad motherfucker. Now open it up and take out the cash. How much is there?
Pumpkin: About fifteen hundred dollars.
Jules: Put it in your pocket, it's yours. Now with the rest of them wallets and the register, that makes this a pretty successful little score.
Vincent: Jules, if you give this nimrod fifteen hundred buck, I'm gonna shoot 'em on general principle.
Jules: You ain't gonna do a goddamn thing, now hang back and shut the fuck up. Besides, I ain't givin' it to him. I'm buyin' somethin' for my money. Wanna know what I'm buyin' Ringo?
Jules: Your life. I'm givin' you that money so I don't hafta kill your ass. You read the Bible?
Pumpkin: Not regularly.
Jules: There's a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man…”
I’ll leave the Bible quote from Jules there, though I’d be curious what you think when you go to Ezekiel 25, if you haven’t already (take a look). It’s one of the more famous quotes from Pulp Fiction, but it’s not our focus today. No, we’re talking about buying a life.
There is so much back and forth about Abraham and Isaac. Did God really want Abraham to sacrifice his son?! What kind of God is that?! It’s one of the stories I hear about when people say they wrestle with believing in a loving, benevolent God, or when people say we have a nice, loving God over there in the New Testament and an old, vengeful God over there in the Old Testament. To be honest, I’m pretty much over these kind of conversations. What is this story really about?
Modern Bibles have chapter and verse numbers - something that didn’t appear in the original writings. Many, though not all, also have headings before pericopes (fancy Bible word for “sections”) to help readers find the stories they’re looking to read. While chapter and verse numbers are relatively consistent across translations, the headings are not. Here are just a few headings used to describe this story:
The Command to Sacrifice Isaac - New Revised Standard Version NRSV
Abraham Tested - New International Version NIV
Binding of Isaac - Common English Bible CEB
The Offering of Isaac - New American Standard Bible NASB
Abraham’s Faith Confirmed - New King James Version NKJV
Each of these headings has a different focus. One is about God’s commandment, another about Abraham being tested, two more about Isaac being bound and offering, and another about Abraham’s faith confirmed as a strong, dedicated faith. They all put it a certain way, offering a form of editorial comment to the story. One says, this story is about God and God’s commandment for obedience. Another says, Isaac is the center of the story and the actions taken upon him. Still others say, Abraham is the center, and it’s about his faith. Which is the right one? The answer, of course, is “yes.”
If I could, I might rename the heading to “God doesn’t want human sacrifice.” Or “God makes a new way.” Or “God and Abraham change the world.” This story is less about whether God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, or about Abraham’s obedience to God. This story is about God saying no, don’t do that. It’s not what I want. I never want that. Many people believe in different gods, and some of them “require” human sacrifice. But not me. Believe in me, the God, and realize I will never ask you to sacrifice another life to prove you love me. God is doing a new thing.
Jule is doing a new thing. We’ve already seen him shoot and kill three people in cold blood. We know what he’s capable of here. Pumpkin and Honey Bunny don’t, and they picked the wrong restaurant to rob. They’re lucky to get out of this alive, because as Jules says, “Normally, both your asses would be dead as fuckin’ fried chicken, but you happened to pull this shit while I’m in a transitional period and I don’t wanna kill ya, I wanna help ya.”
He is moving on from a life of crime and murder to a life of peace. He’s now in the business of saving life, not taking it. He has the power to end Pumpkin’s life, some may say it would be the best move because of the risk he poses to society. But Jules relents, says I don’t want that anymore. I don’t “require” human sacrifice. I’m transitioning into doing a new thing. We know Vincent never does this, and he pays a price for it.
As for this scene and it’s heading? How about “Jules buys Pumpkin’s life”? Or “The Testing of Jules”? I think my favorite is this: “Jules becomes the shepherd.”
Have an excellent day Dear Reader. May your life’s journey meet the heart of God in ways you can recognize and that are meaningful. I’m looking forward to playing a little catch-up here at R-Rated Movie Club and again, thank you for your patience. And to today’s preachers, may worship be a blessing for you personally and may your sermon and prayers remind everyone that God loves all people. God’s peace and good movies to you!
Thank you for being an R-Rated Movie Club reader. Subscribers receive weekly entries plus the monthly Feature Presentation. Paid subscribers get monthly Bonus Content including bonus essays, early previews and podcast audio, the ability to leave comments, and more. Take your subscription to the next level today.