At first I was trying to make parallels to the biblical Eli (whose name in Hebrew means literally "My God") who trained and mentored the prophet Samuel, but I had trouble making any connection. This was problematic for several reasons, not the least of which being that the movie's Eli died an honorable and idyllic death, whereas the Bible's Eli died in a not so picturesque way. Although they were both blind at their death, the biblical account tells us that Eli died because he fell backwards out of his chair and his overweight body caused his neck to break. You can read the account here.
The one thing that bothered me about the movie was at the end when Eli recited for record the King James Bible while someone wrote down what he remembered - which happened to be everything, word for word. The idea of orally passing along the story of the Bible seemed very cool to me at first. But, while recalling the story, it became static and empty very quickly when Eli also recalled the verse and chapter numbers.
Driving home after the movie, two scenes really stuck with me, the one mentioned above and the finished KJV printed and bound being placed on the bookshelf in between the Tanak, Torah, and Quran (and mentioned was Shakespeare). After wrestling with the importance of these two scenes in relation to the overall message of the movie, I came to a conclusion: The movie really has nothing to do with the "word of God" (sorry Bible nerds and Christian's looking for a "feel good" movie moment). Instead, what I got from the movie was that the story was about preserving the King James Bible (1611), not the Bible per se.
And why not? The literary document has been integral to the art, science, and philosophy of the modern Western world. Wasn't that the point of the movie - to reacquaint the struggling people with the major cultural influences that were backbone of everything people once knew in order to rebuild society in the shadow of what was lost?
Keeping in mind the dichotomy I found this movie placed between the KJV and the Bible as the inspired word of God, the Book of Eli should allow us to ask the serious question:
Hasn't the Bible been misused and abused by enough people in powerful authoritative positions (think Eli's nemesis) that we now more than ever should rethink the cultural value we've placed upon it and, instead, start to focus more on its actual message for humanity and all of creation?