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Bible Road Trip

Route 60: The Biblical Highway explicitly connects ancient Israel with the modern-day nation state, but the mixing of historical tourism and modern-day politicking makes for both a delightful aesthetic experience and a deeply reflective one.

David Friedman, former US Ambassador to Israel, and Mike Pompeo, former US Secretary of State, in "Route 60". (Image: Screen capture)

MPAA Rating: Unrated at the time of this review
CNS Rating: Unrated at the time of this review
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 reels

Most programs that bill themselves as a “journey through the Bible” work chronologically, beginning with the Exodus moving through the Kingdom, then finishing with the life of Jesus and travels of Paul.

Route 60 instead takes its itinerary from the famous Highway 60, a major road in Israel that runs north-south from Nazareth to Beersheba, right through the nation. This feels odd, as the documentary jumps backward and forward in time constantly. Yet, the distinction is important as the highway has not only biblical significance but cultural pride for modern-day Israelis, something like US-101 or the New Jersey Turnpike.

Thus, Route 60–with its political narrators–explicitly connects ancient Israel with the modern-day nation state. This mixing of historical tourism and modern-day politicking makes for both a delightful aesthetic experience and a deeply reflective one.

The hosts of this journey are not clergy, scholars, or archeologists, but diplomats. The Jewish voice is David Friedman, the former US Ambassador to Israel, while the Christian perspective is Mike Pompeo, the former US Secretary of State. They begin in the north at Nazareth, then gradually make their way down the highway, stopping at major points of significance along the way.

They spend a lot of time in Jerusalem but otherwise move at a quick pace, spending only minutes in places like Bethlehem, covering over twenty sites in just ninety minutes.

While the film does touch on theological ideas, the whole of the work is remarkably political in nature, especially focusing on biblical leadership. In Jerusalem, they comment on how David did not fight with his troops, which led to the Bathsheba scandal and eventual dynastic war. Yet his repentance and humility saved the kingdom and his lineage. Friedman and Pompeo are unapologetically pro-Israel, comparing the fight against Palestinian terrorism to an ancient fight against the Philistines.

I am not an expert in this area, but I am sure some Middle Eastern Catholics will have a different opinion. While not everyone will agree with their conclusions, I think it’s good that the film risks making these comparisons. So few leaders are willing to make an explicit connection between the Bible and world events, but such reflection can be very beneficial.

Route 60, shot in beautiful 4k high definition, is as close as many people will get experiencing the Holy Land in person. The cinematography is gorgeous and dynamic, from sweeping drone vistas high in sky, to closeups of the very land Jesus tread upon. At a time when the lives of humans are filtered endlessly through screens, it’s worth remembering that the heroes of Scripture lived in a physical place and time that is still accessible. Our faith is not first “of the heavens” but “of the Earth.” Jesus is the incarnate God who lived among us, not just people but rocks, trees, bugs, and sand.

Route 60 is a unique engagement not just with the Holy Land but the Lord Himself, reminding us that He is just as much at work today as in the past. The history of Israel is a potent reminder that when we have courage and are faithful to the Lord, He will support us. My only criticism is that I would like to see this as a series instead of just a film.

Route 60 is in theaters September 18th and 19th only.

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About Nick Olszyk 198 Articles
Nick Olszyk teaches theology at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. He was raised on bad science fiction movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online and listen to his podcast at "Catholic Cinema Crusade".

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