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A Polite Bribe

A Polite Bribe

INTERVIEW with the Director

The filmmaker Robert Orlando has been mesmerized by the Apostle Paul since reading the Bible as a youth.  But the later portrayals of Paul as greatest convert and church hero gave him reasons to be suspicious. And he is not alone, as a great cloud of more than 50 scholarly witnesses will attest to.  Orlando feels that the historical, the real, Paul has  yet to be fully exposed. His life should be not  only revealed on the printed page—such as his book, Apostle Paul, A Polite Bribe— but in a modern recreation as cinema!

Orlando’s fascination grew with time, and childhood wonder turned into critical investigation and a deeper understanding of the monumental role that Paul played in history and that continues until today.  Beyond Paul’s role as an often-quoted saint, the tempestuous flesh and blood Apostle, subject to the political and ethnic torrents of the ancient world, remains a mystery to most people. Some scholars have uncovered facts either unknown or ignored over the centuries, but that knowledge has not reached a wider public.  What Orlando does in his film trilogy is bring to vivid life Paul’s story in all its human complexities.

Orlando an independent scholar has read widely on the subjects  of early Christianity and of the Greco-Roman world Paul inhabited. Through his studies he became filmmaker turned historical detective, determined to parse what has come to be believed as official dogma and what can be proved as fact. The first film, A Polite Bribe zeroes in on the controversial subject of the collection, delving into the factions between Apostles Paul and James.  The second, Apostle Paul: The Final Verdict coming in Spring 2018 picks up where the first film left off taking viewers through the series of Roman court trials, culminating in Paul’s fatal confrontation with Nero. The third, and final, volume Apostle Paul: In His Own Words is the culmination of Orlando’s twenty year journey from faith to film.

  His films are on-the-ground reports about the little explored human dynamics,  such as the Roman honor code, ethnic strife, and the origins of fierce conflicts that were at the core of Christian history. What was the meaning of the collection and why in the end did James dismiss it?  How did the divergent views of ethnicity in the early Church shape Paul’s earthly fate? Orlando’s quest mirrors what Catholic Paul Johnson has said: “A Christian with faith has nothing to fear from the facts; a Christian historian who draws the line limiting the field of enquiry at any point whatsoever, is admitting the limits of his faith. ”  

Orlando’s trilogy is not about ignoring faith but of illuminating the reality of Paul’s life and influence, which has a resonance that has reverberated for two millennia. By being “suspicious,” by researching the works of  leading scholars and by providing critical details he offers a deeper understanding of Paul, not as an object of faith only nor mere hagiography, but as a man, He feels we better understand our past, our identities, ourselves. 

This interview will tell you more about Robert Orlando’s compelling storyteller’s approach to Paul and why he is convinced that this is a story that must be told! 


Before our recent screening of “A Polite Bribe” at Philadelphia’s Landmark Theater, amid the storm of Sandusky scandal, I was confronted again by the real differences between Protestant and Catholic perspectives.

Though “A Polite Bribe” is the story of how Paul founded Christianity and the “bribe” that…

Several times in Paul’s writings He was forced to exaggerate his role as Apostle; no better example exists than his claim to have been “taken to heaven” where he received his famous “Thorn in the Flesh.” “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations… Read on Huffington Post

Deep into the editing process of my film, “A Polite Bribe,” the story of how Paul became the Founder of Christianity, through his “Collection,” James Tabor sent me his latest Book, “Paul and Jesus.” Tabor is Chair of the UNC Charlotte, Religious Studies department, and well known… Read on Huffington Post
We see money in politics, in marriage and on the news, but it is still surprising that we find the suggestion so scandalous that there was money in early Christianity, something I suggest in my documentary “A Polite Bribe.” Most conservative scholars will view the money transaction through a…
How does a sickly, poorly spoken, religious man become one of the most influential figures in Western history? An outsider without crown or sword who decided how we should make love and war and believe in God? If you asked Paul the Apostle (A.D. 5-62),

Albert Schweitzer, winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, called “one of the greatest Christians of his time,” philosopher, physician, musician, clergyman, missionary, and theologian in his The Quest for the Historical Jesus and his Mysticism of Paul:

As an independent scholar and film maker I have been fascinated with the potential to reframe the story of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles and his relationship with the earliest Jewish Christian communities—especially that of Jerusalem.

To navigate the waters of Pauline New Testament studies has been both an adventure and cautionary tale. There is an abundance of material beginning with unknown NT sources, traditions, methodologies, points of departure, and terms that have come to define them: Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelical, New Paul Perspective, Paul and Empire, Post Colonial Studies, etc.

For those who are speaking or writing about our film A Polite Bribe without having viewed it, and who are looking to dismiss the film by assigning “bad or radical motives” to its creator (me), I suggest you please take a moment and read some of the quotes below. Not every Pauline scholar agrees on the validity of my narrative featuring the collection and the conflict between Paul and James, but generally speaking, a consensus of NT scholars does.

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Make a donation Dr. Witherington unexpectantly lost his daughter, Christy at the age of 32 this year. The Christy Ann Witherington Scholarship at Asbury Theological Seminary will support female students who are taking the M.A. in Biblical or Theological Studies, or the M. Div. or PhD in Biblical Studies. Please consider making a tax-deduxtible donation in support of this cause.

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