The stoning in LIFE OF BRIAN (dir. Terry Jones, 1979)

Religions, or should we say religious people, are often known for taking their religion (and themselves) very seriously. Thus, the meaning of the adverb “religiously.” This, of course, sets them up as prime targets for the comic’s arrows, because having the “sacred precincts” punctured or violated is an incongruous act in and of itself. Perhaps the most entertaining shots at the Sacred in the 20th century were fired by the Monty Python comedy troupe in their television sketches and movies.

This scene is from the 1979 Life of Brian film, about the boy who was born in the stall next to Jesus and leads a parallel life in Roman-occupied Israel. The “Jehovah” scene’s premise (which is not historical) is that the High Priest and the Jewish elders take their religious codes so seriously that they stone to death anyone who even utters the word “Jehovah” in their effort to protect the sanctity of the divine name. The poor chap to be stoned is the most likable of the entire scene, even jolly at times, while the High Priest is insufferably pompous and serious. In the end, the comedy resolves in poetic justice: the blasphemer is alive and the High Priest is prostrate on the ground, not before his “Jehovah” but under a boulder.

–James Bowley