Bible and Popular Culture

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for THEOREL 101.


Why is Jesus always played by white actors in Jesus movies? Why is the Bible so popular in contemporary advertising? Who is the new messiah – Harry Potter or LeBron James? Why do people get so worked up about Beyoncé posing as the Virgin Mary? Why are filmmakers so obsessed with the end of the world? What do Winston Peters and Donald Trump know about the Bible? And why should we care?

This course introduces you to the various ways that biblical themes, images and characters have an enduring presence and influence within contemporary popular culture. By learning to analyse religious and biblical references found in music, film, TV, art, advertising and the media, you will discover that, even in today’s increasingly secular world, the Bible continues to both influence and be influenced by our cultural, political and religious landscapes.

Some of the cultural texts we'll be studying will include:

  • Movies such as Samson and Delilah, Son of God, Exodus: God and Kings, 2012, and Harry Potter
  • Political rhetoric, including analysis of politicians such as Winston Peters, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump
  • Social media sites, including popular blogs, vlogs, Twitter and FB
  • Musicians and celebrities such as Harry Styles, Beyoncé and Bob Marley
  • TV shows such as The West Wing and Lucifer
  • Video games, including Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect and Bioshock
  • Visual arts and advertising images that depict biblical themes and characters

The class will interest you regardless of your knowledge of the Bible. Any student can study the Bible whether they are of the Jewish or Christian faith, another faith, or of no religious faith at all. The Bible is explored as a cultural text in this course and all we require from students is a desire to learn more about significance and influence of the Bible in contemporary cultures, both national and global. 

Learning outcomes

After finishing the course, you should:

  • Be familiar with the basic theories of analysing popular culture and be able to apply these to cultural texts, including those encountered in class
  • Be able to explain how the Bible influences popular culture and how popular culture influences interpretations of the biblical texts
  • Be familiar with the ways in which the Bible functions as a cultural resource (or "prop") in a wide variety of contemporary contexts and cultures, including political debates, social media engagement and social discourses of gender, sexuality, race and class
  • Be able to identify some significant Biblical themes and characters as they appear in popular culture texts, including film, music, art, advertising and television
  • Demonstrate the ability to research and write a short, well-written essay on a theme from the course that captures your imagination


Coursework + exam

View the course syllabus

Availability 2020

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Dr Caroline Blyth


THEOREL 101: 15 points


THEOLOGY 101, 101G