Ezekiel 25:17 in Pulp Fiction  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Ezekiel 25:17

Jules Winnfield ritually recites what he describes as a biblical passage, Ezekiel 25:17, before he executes someone. We hear the passage three times—in the introductory sequence in which Jules and Vincent reclaim Marsellus's briefcase from the doomed Brett; that same recitation a second time, at the beginning of "The Bonnie Situation", which overlaps the end of the earlier sequence; and in the epilogue at the diner. The first version of the passage is as follows:

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of 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 my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

The second version, from the diner scene, is identical except for the final line: "And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you."

While the final two sentences of Jules's speech are similar to the actual cited passage, the first two are fabricated from various biblical phrases. The text of Ezekiel 25 preceding verse 17 indicates that God's wrath is retribution for the hostility of the Philistines. In the King James version from which Jules's speech is adapted, Ezekiel 25:17 reads in its entirety, "And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them." Tarantino's primary inspiration for the speech was the work of Japanese martial arts star Sonny Chiba. Its text derives from an almost identical creed used in either or both the Chiba movies Bodigaado Kiba (Bodyguard Kiba or The Bodyguard; 1973) and Karate Kiba (The Bodyguard; 1976). In the 1980s television series Kage no Gundan (Shadow Warriors), Chiba's character would lecture the villain-of-the-week about how the world must be rid of evil before killing him. A killer delivers a similar biblical rant in Modesty Blaise, the hardback but pulp-style novel Vincent is shown with in two scenes.

Two critics who have analyzed the role of the speech find different ties between Jules's transformation and the issue of postmodernity. Gormley argues that unlike the film's other major characters—Marsellus aside—Jules is

linked to a "thing" beyond postmodern simulation.... [T]his is perhaps most marked when he moves on from being a simulation of a Baptist preacher, spouting Ezekiel because it was "just a cool thing to say...." In his conversion, Jules is shown to be cognizant of a place beyond this simulation, which, in this case, the film constructs as God.

Adele Reinhartz writes that the "depth of Jules's transformation" is indicated by the difference in his two deliveries of the passage: "In the first, he is a majestic and awe-inspiring figure, proclaiming the prophecy with fury and self-righteousness.... In the second...he appears to be a different sort of man altogether.... [I]n true postmodern fashion, [he] reflects on the meaning of his speech and provides several different ways that it might pertain to his current situation." Similar to Gormley, Conard argues that as Jules reflects on the passage, it dawns on him "that it refers to an objective framework of value and meaning that is absent from his life"; to Conard, this contrasts with the film's prevalent representation of a nihilistic culture. Rosenbaum finds much less in Jules's revelation: "[T]he spiritual awakening at the end of Pulp Fiction, which Jackson performs beautifully, is a piece of jive avowedly inspired by kung-fu movies. It may make you feel good, but it certainly doesn't leave you any wiser."



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ezekiel 25:17 in Pulp Fiction" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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