Directors have been fascinated with the stories of the Bible since Hollywood first started making films.

From films depicting the life of Christ to Moses and the Ten Commandments, the silver screen has recreated some of the Bible's most significant stories for mass commercial consumption.

With Easter fast approaching, Birmingham University theologian Robert Beckford has been examining the ways in which these stories have been portrayed in films.

The lecturer has been chosen to narrate The Passion: Film, Faith and Fury, which looks at the way in which biblical stories have reflected the social and political thinking of the time.

The two-hour special, which be screened on Channel 4 at 7pm on March 14, will explore the 90-year history of Hollywood's fascination with the Bible.

Dr Beckford, who lectures in African Diasporan religions and cultures, said: "It is a kind of theological Film 2006 with an historical perspective.

"The central focus is that these films tell us more about the times in which we live than they do about Jesus and

the Bible stories. All of the films are influenced by the political world in which they were made.

"In the remake of The Ten Commandments, the filmmaker explores the tense relationship between America and Russia, while the underlying theme of The Children of Israel is the tyranny of the Communist Iron Curtain in which the American values of freedom and democracy prevail."

"It was a fascinating programme to make because we filmed in Hollywood as well as in Morocco, where most of the biblical film epics were filmed. It is more pop culture than my usual polemical style."

T he programme will include a number of clips from films including Manger to the Cross, which was the first feature film made in 1912 about the life of Christ. It will also look at the 1960s musical Jesus Christ Superstar and Mel Gibson's blockbuster,The Passion of the Christ.

Dr Beckford is making a sequel to the programme exploring how 20th century music has engaged with Christian religious themes, from the blues to Sinead O'Connor and Michael Jackson.