Passion Reviews

I don’t know why I was expecting any different, but the NY Daily News, the New Yorker and Newsweek have already weighed in, claiming that The Passion is a profoundly anti-Semitic hackjob.
While the reviewers are welcome to their opinions, is it too much to ask for them to do a little research before shooting their mouths off? Gibson takes the Scriptures literally, as many Christians do. If one is to read the Gospel accounts of the 12 hours covered in The Passion, then one must allow that 1) the high-ranking officials associated with the Temple instigated the plot against Jesus and 2) the Romans carried out the execution.
However, the Newsweek piece, which was evidently the most well-researched one of the four I mentioned, takes a page directly out of the mainstream media playbook and acts as if controversial theories (many of which have been debunked by countless theologians) and acts as if they are given facts.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke appear to have drawn much of their material from eyewitness accounts and an earlier manuscript, dubbed “Q” by Biblical scholars. Luke’s account gives indication that it was written prior to the death of the apostle Paul (ca. 67 AD) and Matthew and Mark are both widely regarded to predate Luke. John’s account was most likely written later than all the others, perhaps even as late as 90 AD. Yet the author of the Newsweek piece blatantly insists that all reasonable people stipulate to the Gospels being written at least post-destruction of the Temple (70 AD) and that temporal removal and political considerations of early evangelists factor heavily into the tone of the Gospels (i.e., they were trying to curry favor with Rome and therefore placed the blame primarily with the Sanhedrin in order to reduce the culpability of the Romans).
Many of the piece’s author’s objections seem to arise from incredulity.

If Jesus is a severe enough threat to merit such attention and drastic action, where are his supporters?

Deserting Him, as He said they would. The people of Palestine at that time seemed to primarily be interested in Jesus’ miracles and, while some became devoted followers of His, most simply hung about, hoping to see cripples healed or demons cast out. Even Jesus’ disciples failed to understand His role here on Earth and were sorely confused and, yes, afraid for their lives when Jesus was captured by the temple guards. The fact that the Sanhedrin took their action at night shows that 1) they were afraid of the people’s immediate reaction and 2) were less fearful of their reactions if, by the time a new day dawned, most of their skullduggery was accomplished.

But the Bible can be a problematic source. Though countless believers take it as the immutable word of God, Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events; the Bible is the product of human authors who were writing in particular times and places with particular points to make and visions to advance.

And here we differ in opinion. Fundies like myself take the Bible to be the literal truth and this twerp dismisses out-of-hand (with zero supporting evidence) the accuracy of Biblical accounts, then, in the same breath, delivers an ad hominem attack on the Gospel writers. He offers no facts in support of his conjecture. He seems merely to assume that, were he in the same situation, he would be more concerned with saving his own hide than in spreading a Gospel he considered truth. How craven.

Now, four decades after the Second Vatican Council repudiated the idea that the Jewish people were guilty of “deicide,” many Jewish leaders and theologians fear the movie, with its portraits of the Jewish high priest Caiaphas leading an angry mob and of Pilate as a reluctant, sympathetic executioner, may slow or even reverse 40 years of work explaining the common bonds between Judaism and Christianity.

And these fears are based upon…? Oh yes, the hundreds of years the US has spent repressing Jews.
I guess the fears of a few are now enough to condemn a movie for all time. Unless, of course, the movie happens to be sacriligeous (i.e. Last Temptation of Christ), then, hey, what’s the problem?

The surprising alliance between Gibson, as a traditionalist Catholic, and evangelical Protestants seems born out of a common belief that the larger secular world—including the mainstream media—is essentially hostile to Christianity.

I wonder where we might get that from… Certainly not incompletely-researched hack pieces in Newsweek, no sir! Why, we’d need wholesale proof of the “mainstream” media’s dislike of Christians, their beliefs and their morals before we could believe such a nasty charge.
If one does not take the Scriptures literally, then all bets are off, of course.

To take the film’s account of the Passion literally will give most audiences a misleading picture of what probably happened in those epochal hours so long ago.

(emphasis mine)
Ahhh, so, since we don’t have any direct evidence to the contrary and we only have those notoriously inaccurate Scriptures to rely upon, we must instead rely upon the bleedin’ conjecture of a Newsweek staff writer.

The Jewish priests and their followers are the villains, demanding the death of Jesus again and again; Pilate is a malleable governor forced into handing down the death sentence.

So close, yet so far. Did he not get that Pilate’s unwillingness to take a stand, his proclivity to pass the buck and his unwillingness to risk a public fight with the religious leaders made him equally culpable? I don’t see how this is such a hard concept to get. Perhaps someone needs to explain to him the difference between sins of comission and sins of omission.

In fact, in the age of Roman domination, only Rome crucified. The crime was sedition, not blasphemy—a civil crime, not a religious one.

Duh. Do you think that’s why the “whole assembly” changed the charge to “subversion” once they reached Pilate?

The two earliest and most reliable extra-Biblical references to Jesus—those of the historians Josephus and Tacitus—say Jesus was executed by Pilate.

Again, the Jews of Palestine in the first century AD weren’t allowed to visit death sentences upon their criminals. Instead, its use was limited to the Roman for crimes against Rome. And yes, Jesus was executed by Pilate, at the behest of the temple officials. Pilate ordered the execution. He is as culpable as the Pharisees and priests.
I don’t think I can write any more on this for the moment. I’ll return to it this evening, perhaps with a fresh eye and a better attitude.