An old man is about to be executed in ancient Rome, but is “translated” in time to contemporary Rome, Oregon. He is now homeless and a young truck driver picks him up. The truck driver is amazed to find out the old man claims to be the Apostle Paul. Paul observes the American Christian churches and offers his constructive criticism.
Translated is a light slap on the wrist of modern-day Christianity, believable for anybody who also is a fan of Back to the Future or Miracle on 34th Street. It poses the question: What would the apostle Paul, who labored so faithfully in helping to establish the church, think of what it has become 20 centuries down the road from the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, its Founder?
The movie takes us from just before the moment of Paul’s beheading in dusty first-century Rome (as legend has it) to modern-day Rome, Oregon, where he shows up out of nowhere on the side of a road—wearing a sackcloth robe, smelling as if he had not bathed in nearly 2,000 years, and able to speak only ancient Hebrew and Greek. He is as much a fish out of water as Jed Clampett’s family was in The Beverly Hillbillies. The apparently homeless old man is instantly befriended and taken in by a young truck driver/former youth pastor named Tim, which should be taken as an instant hint that the rest of the movie will try to parallel the first-century life of the apostle who wrote half the New Testament, including two epistles to a young protege named Timothy.
Tim takes him to the other side of the state, to Eugene, where Paul becomes remarkably proficient in English in a matter of months, and begins addressing the reason for his time travel. His central message is about unity — Paul is distressed that modern-day Christians are so fragmented, and does all he can in his short visit to the future to correct this. Paul starts experiencing some of the same things he did in his first-century missionary journeys — opposition from religious leaders, is briefly imprisoned by a jailer he later wins over, and even works a miracle. He quickly makes believers of his skeptics, even going so far as to show them the stripes on his back from the floggings he endured in the first century to prove his identity.
The movie doesn’t go very far geographically, doctrinally or into any of the myriad issues that might grieve Paul concerning the church’s impact in the world today. Paul’s visit is relatively brief, and just as quickly as he appears, he is taken back to heaven in a whirlwind (shades of Elijah), having made a life-changing impact on Tim and the few Oregonians he met.
The movie has a strong faith message and as such it earns the Dove Approval for All Ages.
The Dove Take
Translated is lightly funny, the acting and dialogue are charming. Even the adversaries Paul encounters don’t seem to have their hearts set on opposing him. The photography does as much to promote the natural beauty of Oregon as it does its central message concerning unity in the church.