Ever since reading in "BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW" magazine a couple
years ago that Mel Gibson was making "THE PASSION" (since re-
titled "THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST") -- in Aramaic & Latin, no less --
I've been interested in seeing it.
This movie has been called "The Gospel According to Mel" -- and that
title is an apt one. This IS Mel's version of the Jesus story -- or,
of that part of the Jesus story that he was compelled to tell. And
it's telling that he bases it almost wholly on the four canonical
Gospels: he takes PREVIOUSLY-WRITTEN material, and then RE-SHAPES it
to suit his own religio-ideological agenda. And that is EXACTLY how
those original Gospels were written in the first place.
People who go to this movie, really, SHOULD have enough of a
familiarity with the story/stories of Jesus -- just as someone going
to "STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES" should have seen the 5 other
movies of the series, just to know what the hell is going on, story-
But the people going to see Mel's movie should also read a fantastic
book which, in my opinion, best encapsulates the process whereby the
four Gospels were written, and WHY they were written in the manner
they were: John Dominic Crossan's 1995 book "WHO KILLED JESUS?:
Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of The Death
No matter how often some Bible-Belt evangelist insists that the so-
called "Scriptures" are "inerrant", all it takes is printing out the
texts of the Gospels in side-by-side columns and comparing each to
the others to see that these 4 different books DO differ from each
other. Crossan's book expertly de-constructs the Gospels to show WHY
the Gospel of Matthew (for instance) and ONLY his Gospel, quotes "the
people as a whole" saying to Pontius Pilate: "His blood be on us and
on our children!" [Matt. 27:25]
You'll notice that it isn't just the Jewish High Priest who says
this, nor just a SINGLE Jew in the crowd who says this (as Mel
Gibson's movie has -- the only line of Aramaic dialogue which goes un-
subtitled, by the way), but Matthew's Gospel has "the people as a
whole" say it, as if they're a Greek drama's "chorus". Does anybody
in their right mind believe that a crowd of people IN UNISON would
chant out such a line of dialogue as Matthew puts into their
collective mouths? Well, historically-speaking, Jew-hating Christians
HAVE and DO believe this, and there's no telling how many Jews have
died at the hands of their Christian oppressors as a result of that
one line in Matthew -- so it's no wonder that this movie is
controversial from the get-go.
Crossan's book shows how the later-and-later written Gospels show an
increasingly anti-Semitic tone, and this happened because the people
who wrote those Gospels were losing out in the effort to win the
hearts and minds of fellow Jews during the turbulent decades leading
up to the Fall of Jerusalem. The followers of Jesus wanted other Jews
to adopt THEIR version of Judaism (Messianic Judaism), with Jesus as
their Messiah/Machiach/Christos/"Anointed One"... but since it was
Messianic Judaism -- in the form of the Zealot uprising, a 1st
Century equivalent to the Intifada of today's Palestinians -- that
got Rome to stomp the bejeezus outta Judea in the first place, it's
no wonder that MOST Jews distanced themselves from the failed modus
operandi of the Zealots and took to Pharisaic Judaism instead. The
once small group of Jesus-as-Messiah followers, when they couldn't
get other Jews to accept their doctrines, went out of their way to
portray Jews of Jesus' time AFTER-THE-FACT as more-and-more culpable
in his horrendous Scourging-&-Crucifixion.
Crossan shows that the earliest Gospel was one that didn't make it
into the New Testament -- it's a fragmentary work which is now known
as the Gospel of Peter. In that non-canonical gospel, Jesus is
crucified... but NOT by the Romans! The Jews themselves do it (a most
unhistorical detail)! But in that earliest gospel, the Jewish people,
after the supernatural earthquake and darkening-at-midday following
Jesus' death, REPENT of their rejection of him, and only the Jewish
leaders -- who MIS-LED them into killing him -- are seen as deserving
But the later-written canonical Gospels more accurately show the
Romans doing the Crucifixion... yet the Jewish people are NOT
portrayed as repentant afterwards; Matthew, instead, has the Jewish
people urge Pilate to have Jesus crucified, and for that GUILT to be
passed on to their own children!
Mel Gibson's movie is, as he says, based on the Gospels. It behooves
everybody to ask themselves: What were the Gospels based on? Were
they merely the 1st Century equivalent of Associated Press reports by
dispassionate newsmen? Only an IDIOT would think so! They were a form
of propaganda, containing SOME historical truth, yet embellished by
all sorts of ex post facto detail that could ONLY have appeared by
authorial intent. In Crossan's words, the Gospels are not "history
remembered" -- they are "prophecy historicized". The writers of the
Gospels culled from the Old Testament all sorts of details (some of
which was intended as prophecy, some of which was definitely NOT
meant as such) and injected them into the Jesus story, thereby
INVENTING the Jesus story. Each subsequent Gospel added more of such
details, even CHANGING the details of an earlier gospel as it suited
A scholarly examination of these man-made texts (such as Crossan's)
is sorely needed, especially when a NEW gospel is presented for
popular consumption: Mel Gibson's movie.
As a work of cinematic art, I have to give him high marks. The
cinematography is far better than any previously-made movie about
Jesus. The music is highly effective, at times reminiscent of
Scorcese's movie "THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST", with its "middle-
eastern" feel to it, rather than a Hollywoodized orchestral score.
I do have various quibbles regarding some of its details. Jesus, if
he did exist and was crucified, would most assuredly have been nailed
through the wrists, and NOT through the palms of his hands -- but Mel
goes with the palms, since most people are familiar with art
(paintings and sculptures) incorrectly depicting it this way -- the
way the Church has it in their "Stations of the Cross", for instance.
Also, Mel has the two other crucified guys strapped to their crosses
with ropes -- though it's highly doubtful that the Romans would've
neglected to hammer nails through their limbs. Mel, by having ONLY
Jesus being nailed to his cross, in a way is implying that he got
worse treatment than any other victim of Roman punishment. In a
comedy like "THE LIFE OF BRIAN", it's okay to have Brian and the
others strapped to crosses by rope (it IS a comedy, after all), but
in what purports to be a "historically accurate" film showing a Roman
crucifixion, this is highly unhistorical, even downright insulting to
the memories of all those other THOUSANDS of Jews (and others, like
Spartacus' army) who suffered the same fate of crucifixion; the two
shmucks who got crucified along with Jesus would undoubtedly have
been NAILED to their crosses... but Mel doesn't have it that way.
Another somewhat unsettling detail in Mel's movie: the demon-
possessed children who hound Judas to his suicide. This detail is not
taken from any of the canonical Gospels (and I'm not aware of it
being in any non-canonical one, either), so why does Mel insert this
into HIS filmic gospel? No Roman is portrayed as demon-possessed...
but a bunch of Jewish children are; could this be reminiscent of that
horrible verse from Matthew ["His blood be on us AND ON OUR
CHILDREN!"], and with the way Passion Plays from Medieval times would
portray Jews as diabolical blood-thirsty villains?
In fact, the Gospel of John (13:21-28) has this to say about Judas'
betrayal of Jesus:
When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and
testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.
One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast
so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom
So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord,
who is it?"
Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I
have dipped it."
So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of
Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to
him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.
In other words, according to John's gospel, Jesus was betrayed by
SATAN, and NOT by Judas! Satan had entered into Judas' body, and when
Jesus handed the morsel SPECIFICALLY to him, he "knew" (because he's
not just a Man, but the Son of Man, the Word, etc) that he was
handing the morsel to SATAN. When it says "Jesus said to HIM, "What
YOU are going to do, do quickly", the HIM and the "YOU" both have to
refer to the being who is in possession of Judas' body: and that
being is NOT Judas Iscariot -- it is SATAN. And John's gospel (unlike
the others) does not say that Judas went and committed suicide --
rather, Jesus tells those who came to arrest him ("the band of
soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews" -- John
18:12), "I told you that I am he [Jesus of Nazareth]; so, if you seek
me, let THESE MEN go." This was to fulfil the word which he had
spoken, "Of those whom thou gavest me I lost NOT ONE." -- John 18:8-9.
What does all of this mean? It means that, for example, ONE of the
gospels (John) portrays SATAN as the betrayer -- acting through the
body of Judas which is demon-possessed -- and NOT Judas himself. And
it also suggests that NOT EVEN JUDAS (who was one of the Twelve) was
lost. "Of those whom thou [God the Father] gavest me [Jesus] I lost
not one," he says. Not ONE of the TWELVE. Not even Judas, his
betrayer, since the GUILT of the betrayal -- according to John -- was
wholly on SATAN's head, since he was possessing Judas' body, and ONLY
after Jesus had purposely handed the morsel of food to Judas, whom he
INTENDED to be the one to suffer demonic possession in order to
accomplish the betrayal in the first place.
Mel Gibson does NOT portray Judas this way, as one who is possessed
by a demon [Satan]; rather, he portrays his oppressors as demon-
possessed Jewish children... and THAT little detail is somewhat
disturbing from a propagandistic standpoint. Mel's movie IS a type of
propaganda: a work of art intended to convey a RELIGIOUS and even a
POLITICAL agenda. Mel pick-and-chooses which detail from which Gospel
source, and HIS CHOICES tell us a hell of a lot more about HIM than
about the historical Jesus.
With all the financial success he's having with this movie, he should
also have to bear the brunt of the well-deserved de-constructive
criticism that the film's content demands -- just as do the Gospels,
both the canonical ones and the non-canonical ones.
P.S. Imagine what would've happened if that prankster would've
dressed himself up as Jesus! It's a shame that it was HE that was
kicked outta the movie, rather than the jerks who pelted him with
gummi bears and dumped soda pop on him. It just goes to show that
when Christians can't have a goddamned sense of humor, they tend to
act out their own so-called "righteous" anger. Didn't their precious
scriptures say "Vengeance is MINE, sayeth the Lord?" Didn't Jesus
tell 'em to "turn the other cheek" rather than to strike back at an
attacker? Why is the theater catering to a bunch of religious
hypocrites, rather than to the prankster who did NOTHING but wear a
silly costume? His costume is no more silly than the get-up worn by
the Pope, in my opinion; Jesus never wore such extravagant garb -- at
least, he's never been portrayed wearing such stuff in Christian art.
I admit, there was a moment during Mel's version of the Crucifixion
when I could hear Sam Kinison [imagining a weeping apostle at the
scene] saying: "It's a shame that [snif!] he has to die!"... and
Jesus, up on the Cross, saying: "Well maybe I wouldn't HAVE to! Would
somebody get a ladder and a pair of pliers?!!!" Had I said that
during the movie, I have no doubt whatsoever that I would've been
crucified by the Christians in that theater! Just as I would've been
crucified had I told them that "the Christ" [a title] literally
means "the Lubricated One". The anointing oil used for the kings,
prophets, and priests of the Israelites is a lubricant, after all.
But no Christian church is likely any time soon to preach that Jesus
is "the Lubricated One" to their congregations; the hoi polloi would
definitely get the wrong impression, I think...
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Scott Ramsay"
> I suppose I better set my stall out from the start. Give you an
idea of where I sit religiously. It's quite simple, I don't sit
anywhere. I was born into a Protestant family, but not a big
practising one. My only experiences with church was (and still is)
weddings, funerals and christenings. Every time I step into one of
those buildings I feel like a ridiculous hypocrite, I refuse to sing
the hymns and I never join in with the prayers. In short, I don't
believe an any sort of higher power, God or Jesus (and I have seen
enough on a personal level in the past 2 years to solidify my stance).
> So, what did I think of the latest controversy courting film? It
was alright I suppose.
> From a pure filmmaking point of view it's competently filmed and
reasonably well acted. From a storyline point of view the film is
lacking. Director Mel Gibson assumes a certain familiarity with the
subject matter of the viewer. Although some flashbacks are used
to 'fill in the gaps' it isn't really enough for the non-bible reader
to get an idea of why this is happening to this man.
> Gibson's direction is decent, but I got tired of slo-mo shots and
pov shots. I guess since he is so close to the material that he
couldn't step back and realise that all this fancy camera work
distances the viewer from the story (well, it did for me anyway.
Especially in the early scenes. Why all the slo-mo torch waving?)
> The acting ranges from the excellent (Jim Cavaziel, the guy playing
Pilate and the woman playing Mary) to the downright amateurish (all
the disciples, in particular Peter and the guy who helps Jesus carry
his cross). The use of ancient Aramaic didn't bother me, in-fact at
points I wished that Gibson had stuck to his guns and not used
subtitles, I think that the film could easily have worked without
> The film looks really good at least. Nice cinematography throughout
and the music is fittingly 'stirring' at the right moments. I guess
it was just hard to get excited about a film that had little or no
discernable story and surrounded a subject matter that I have zero
> I'm also baffled by people saying that the film is 'the most
violent they have ever seen'. Rubbish. I've seen a lot worse in many
other films. Sure, it's pretty graphic, and certainly more realistic
than you'd get in your standard slasher flick, but it didn't make me
wince once. He gets whipped, scourged, gets a thorn crown put on him,
whipped some more, crucified and, erm, that's it. No big thing in my
book from a movie violence outlook.
> Another argument the film is inviting is the old anti-Semitic one.
I didn't see it I'm afraid. Sure the head Jew guy comes off as a bit
off an ass, but he's hardly a spokesman for the entire Jewish people
is he? It's like saying Die Hard is anti-German because Hans Gruber
is the bad guy. Uh-huh, because the entire German people are lunatic
terrorists who like to take over unfinished LA skyscrapers. Well, no
more than the entire Jewish people are asshole clerics who want to
crucify some guy who says he's the son of God.
> If you ask me this film isn't worth getting worked up about. My non-
religious nature means that the film didn't speak to me on that
level. On a purely artistic level the film is flawed, but none the
less vaguely enjoyable. I would recommend if only to see what all the
fuss is about, or if you are a deeply religious person. I guess you
could take something from it.
> 4/10 for The Passion of the Christ.
> "That ain't a kid. It's a tiny little man! And he's got knives!"
> Owen Wilson as Ken Hutchinson in Starsky & Hutch, (2004).
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