When JESUS Film producer John Heyman passed along the full Biblical text of the New Testament Gospel of Luke to his screenwriter, Barnet Fishbein, he said, "Here is the dialogue and all of the action. Your job is to put it into scene form." And so began the tireless effort to ensure that every detail of JESUS was authentic—from the text to the locations and all elements of each scene.
The Gospel of Luke was chosen as the basis for the film by the scholars, researchers and religious advisers working on it, for two fundamental reasons: First, they believe it to be the most complete narrative Gospel, from Annunciation to Ascension, of all the four Gospels, and the one which contains the most events of Christ's life. Secondly, it was written for a specific group of people: the masses.
Matthew wrote for the Jews, showing Jesus as King-a royal Jesus. In Mark's Gospel, written for the Romans, Jesus is shown as servant. John wrote for the universal church of the first century and proclaimed Jesus as God. But Luke wrote an international Gospel for Gentiles and shows Jesus as the Son of Man as well as the Son of God. He wrote as a journalist and penned his story in purely journalistic fashion.
In describing the overall sense of the entire film, John Heyman stated, "We are making a First Century docudrama. It is realistic and it is dirty. Unlike other film versions of the story, our temple has donkey dung and garbage in the courtyard. Because that is the way it was. It was not the picture-postcard world that the Renaissance painters have made of it."