Pulp Fiction at 25: About that Ezekiel Bible verse…

Pulp Fiction debuted at the Cannes Film Festival 25 years ago Tuesday, but does a famous Ezekiel 25:17 speech in the film quote a real Bible verse?

On May 21, 1994, Pulp Fiction was unveiled to the world at the Cannes Film Festival. Known for a non-linear narrative style, one particular swear word in incredibly high volume, starting Samuel L. Jackson on a star track and making John Travolta cool again, the film was nominated for seven Oscars and won the award for Best Screenplay.

Jackson and Travolta play hitmen Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega in the movie, and Winnfield quotes scripture just before he kills someone. The speech surely sounds like it could come from the Bible, with words like “path”, “shepherds”, righteous”, “good will”, “tyranny”, “finder”, “lost”, “valley of darkness” , “brother’s keeper”, “charity”, “blessed”, and of course “the Lord.”

Jules says it’s the verse Ezekiel 25:17, and here’s the speech in full, via an NSFW video:

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.

Jules goes existential on his speech toward the end of the film, wonder what words fit where as symbols.

But, is the Ezekiel 25:17 speech a full, accurate rendition of the actual Bible verse? Turns out, co-writer/director Quentin Tarantino took a good bit of creative liberty.

Ezekiel 25:17, via a New Living Translation of the Bible:

“I will execute terrible vengeance against them to punish them for what they have done. And when I have inflicted my revenge, they will know that I am the Lord.”

Another translation has the verse as this: ” I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I take vengeance on them.'”

So while it’s one of Pulp Fiction’s most memorable quotes, the Ezekiel 25:17 speech is an inspired bit of dramatic fiction. On the 25th anniversary of the film’s world debut, a re-watch may be in order.