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Is "The Passion" accurate to the Gospels?

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Is "The Passion" accurate to the Gospels?

Old 03-08-04, 01:13 PM
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Is "The Passion" accurate to the Gospels?

http://www.austinchronicle.com/issue...s_ventura.html

Letters at 3AM
Cross of wood or cross of faith?
BY MICHAEL VENTURA

Art about Jesus rivals and often overwhelms the Gospels as a source of Christian feeling and belief. The greatest example is what are commonly known as the "[14] Stations of the Cross," on which Mel Gibson bases crucial passages of The Passion of the Christ. Stations Two through Nine are: 2) Jesus receives the cross; 3) he falls; 4) he meets his mother; 5) Simon of Cyrene takes the cross because Jesus has fallen; 6) Jesus' face is wiped by Veronica; 7) he falls again (usually he's depicted as carrying his cross again by this point); 8) he tells the women not to weep for him; 9) he falls a third time. But did any of that happen? According to the Gospels, most of it didn't.

This is a question of some importance for a film that claims Gospel authenticity.

Most scholars, of all persuasions, date Mark as the earliest Gospel, written circa 65-70CE. Gibson's film spends a long time depicting what Mark covers in three sentences: "Then they led him out to be crucified. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha," (Mark 15:20-22, New International Version). In Mark, Simon is enlisted at the outset; Jesus never carries the cross and never falls; he speaks to no one; his mother isn't present. (The screaming crowds of Gibson's film are in no Gospel.)

Matthew, writing circa 75-85CE, agrees with Mark almost word for word: "Then they led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means the Place of the Skull)," (Matthew 27:31-33, NIV). Again: no Stations, no mother, no Gibson.

Luke (circa 80-90CE) adds more detail but is even more explicit that Jesus did not carry a cross: "As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him." The Eighth Station comes from Luke: Jesus speaks to the women for four verses (they don't speak to or touch him), then a verse mentions two men who'll be crucified, then: "When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him," (Luke 23:26-33, NIV). The other Stations are absent, as is Jesus' mother. In Luke, the "large number of people" who follow are, except for some women, quiet.

Most scholars (again of all persuasions) agree that the Gospel of John was written last. They date it anywhere from 100 to 125CE 70 years, perhaps even nearly a century, after Jesus was executed circa 30CE. John differs from the others in more ways than I have space to cite. Theologically and metaphysically, John is central in the faith of most Christians; historically he's the least useful, being farthest from the action. When Mark, Matthew, and Luke wrote, the Jesus movement was still largely Jewish; by John's time, it had become a separate religion, though the word "Christian" never appears in the Gospels. ("Christian" appears only three times in the New Testament: twice in Acts and once in 1 Peter a strong indication that most New Testament writers considered themselves Jews, as did Paul, who proudly speaks of his Jewishness. In Acts 23:6, NIV, Paul addresses the Sadducees, the Temple priestly elite: "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee." It's unlikely he'd have called them "brothers" if he thought they'd killed Jesus.) In any case, only in the less historically reliable John does Jesus carry his cross.

John makes a point of it, as though to push his version over the earlier Gospels: "Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him," (John 19:17-18, NIV). John never misses a chance to vilify "the Jews," as he called them, and surely if he knew of any scenes like Gibson's angry crowd he would have included them. In John, Jesus' mother is present at Golgotha; yet even in John, Stations Three through Nine are absent. There's no Simon of Cyrene, Jesus doesn't fall, etc.

In addition, Gibson shows Jewish priests and women in a Roman courtyard watching Jesus beaten, though no such scene appears in Mark, Matthew, or Luke, while John notes in 18:28-29 (NIV) that "to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace ... so Pilate came out to them." Again, Gibson goes against Scripture.

Newsweek said, "Gibson set out to stick to the Gospels." Clearly he hasn't. The pope is said to have said, on seeing Gibson's version, "It is as it was." Not according to the Gospels. Many historians feel that Mark, Matthew, and Luke are useful historically as long as one carefully sets them in a first-century context; many Christians feel that the Bible is impeccable, the word of God. Either way, according to the Gospels there is no basis for that passage of Gibson's film. Gibson has the right to believe, and make art of, whatever he likes; we all have the right to believe whatever serves us. But amidst the hullabaloo about this film, it's worth noting that this passage of The Passion of the Christ, and many others that I haven't space to cite, are the invention of Gibson or of other artists, mystics, and theologians, who lived long after Jesus. In fact, the Vatican-sanctioned Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that the Stations, as they now exist, were the invention of "16th-century devotional writers," 1,500 years after Jesus died. The Gospels, the prime and most reliable source, do not support much of the film.

Where Gibson is probably right is that the scourging of Jesus was vicious, extensive, and injurious which is probably why Jesus couldn't (in three Gospels) carry his cross. That Jesus was badly weakened by his scourging is supported indirectly by Mark 15:44 (NIV) when describing the crucifixion: "Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead." Crucifixion was a Roman penalty reserved for rebels and seditionists. (The word for the two crucified with Jesus is usually translated as "thieves," but many Greek experts teach that its primary definition was "rebels.") Death by crucifixion was designed to take a long time; sometimes it took days. Thus Pilate's surprise that Jesus died (according to the Gospels) in six hours. Jesus likely died of internal bleeding from an unusually severe scourging. Which, I hasten to add, doesn't make his ordeal any the less terrible.

Where almost all historians agree that the Gospels are not only wrong but intentionally wrong is in their treatment of Romans in general and of Pilate especially. Every Roman with a speaking part comes off well in the Gospels, and Pilate is exonerated of ordering Jesus' execution. Gibson goes even further: The Temple priests and the Jewish crowd laugh at Pilate, and Pilate fears the priests will start a rebellion. This is nonsense. And this is why:

1) As first-century accounts prove, the Temple priests were under Pilate's direct orders. In fact, Judea's Roman governors even kept possession of the priests' most sacred vestments, without which Temple rituals could not be performed; the priests were granted those vestments when needed if they behaved. 2) Romans crucified many thousands of Jews; no act or appearance of rebellion went unpunished. 3) When in 66-70CE the Jewish people finally revolted against both Rome and their own exploitative aristocracy, it was the Temple priests who tried to convince them not to for which the priests were killed, by their own people. 4) Many historical sources of the era reveal Pilate to be an especially tough and feared governor no crowd could afford to laugh at him. He'd executed many for less. In fact, Pilate was so brutal that even the emperor got sick of his ways and recalled him, accusing him of excessive violence. 5) The Gospel writers lived in a Roman world that was beginning to systematically persecute Christians; they intentionally placated the Romans, and were certainly not going to put anything in writing that could get them, or their converts, crucified. They had to blame somebody, so they blamed the Temple hierarchy. But Jesus was convicted of a political crime, as the sign on his cross said: claiming to be "king of the Jews." If he is king, then Herod and Rome are not. That's what they killed people for: questioning their authority.


Before Jesus ever reached Jerusalem he told his followers, "Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me," (Matthew 10:38, NIV). In a world of everyday Roman crucifixion, everyone understood his metaphor: He was emphasizing the great risks that he and his people were taking. In that sense, he carried his cross with incredible courage. But that was a cross made of faith, not of wood. A cross of wood you carry, if you can, for a few steps; a cross of faith you carry all your life. In emphasizing the wood over the faith, The Passion of the Christ simply, and at great expense, misses the point. And ignores the Gospels.

---

What do the educated Christians have to say to this?

Last edited by Jepthah; 03-08-04 at 02:26 PM.
Old 03-08-04, 01:29 PM
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we need some bolds on the important statements there.
Old 03-08-04, 01:31 PM
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Kvrdave rarley comes to Movie Talk though.
Old 03-08-04, 01:36 PM
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The movie is less accurate to the Gospels and more in line with the book "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ" written by Sister Anne Emmerich.

She was supposed to have had stigmata (acquiring the wounds of Jesus Christ) and told prophecies. Her book is actually a dictation of the visions said to have been given to her by God detailing the last hours of Jesus before the resurrection, and the way she told it was as if she was actually there witnessing the tragic event.

Here is the link of the whole text:
http://www.emmerich1.com/DOLOROUS_PA...SUS_CHRIST.htm

Reading it is as close to watching Mel Gibson's movie. Someone said that if The Passion were to win a screenplay award, it would certainly go to Sister Emmerich.
Old 03-08-04, 04:21 PM
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You've also got to remember that Mel Gibson is a very strict pre-Vatican II Catholic. He's presenting the story in a traditional Catholic way. There are a number of beliefs about various events in the Catholic faith that are interpreted differently by Protestants and are not clearly evident in the Bible (or even there at all on some things).
Old 03-08-04, 04:50 PM
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Other than Pontius being a wimp, one other thing was satan tempting Jesus in the garden at the beggining. I remember that it was on the mountain a while before that when he fasted for 40 days.
Old 03-08-04, 05:09 PM
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Originally posted by al_bundy
Other than Pontius being a wimp, one other thing was satan tempting Jesus in the garden at the beggining. I remember that it was on the mountain a while before that when he fasted for 40 days.
That was a whole other session.
Old 03-08-04, 05:26 PM
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Well when Satan tempted Jesus on the mountain is one time that is recorded, but he wasn't combining the two. In keeping with Biblical tradition, you know that Satan had to be whispering in Jesus' ear quite a bit throughout his life trying to get him to slip up just once. I had never really thought about Satan being present during the last 12 hours of Christ's life, but you know that he had to have been there the whole time.
Old 03-08-04, 06:03 PM
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After seeing the film, I went and read the gospels in the bible. The scenes in the film were very accurate to the descriptions in the bible.
Old 03-08-04, 10:21 PM
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Originally posted by QuikSilver
After seeing the film, I went and read the gospels in the bible. The scenes in the film were very accurate to the descriptions in the bible.
Maybe you should see the film again?

Great post Jepthah, this is the stuff I have been posting for quite awhile now. There are just so many points in this film that are based on Mel's interpretation (read: pre-Vatican II, Sister Emmerich influences). That Mel can portray things the way he wants to is not a problem, but sell it as that. Of course Mel is smart enough to not market this movie honestly, for several reasons. First, it is not always easy to sell a movie that is based on the writings and visions of a well-known anti-semitic who lived over a thousand years after Jesus. Second, Mel has an agenda with this movie, that is to refute the last 40 years of teachings by the current Vatican (throwing away 40 years of bridge building and healing between Jews and Catholics) and to communicate to people his version of the 'truth' (once again, not a problem if that is what he is claiming to do, unfortunately he is claiming something quite different).

This is the biggest travesty about this movie, in my mind. This movie is purporting to be something it is not. But, this was Mel's agenda from the beginning, and it appears that he has succeeded in duping a lot of people in a masterful way. I can't tell you how many people I talk to who speak of how accurate this movie is, but don't even understand their own faith enough to know how this movie contradicts with their faith (in fact, I don't know many people who follow the sect of Catholicism that Mel does).

Well done Mel, well done, your father would be proud...

*DISCLAIMER(okay, before you jump on me about this post, I realize it is sarcastic and quite cynical, but I couldn't resist. When I refer to people who don't understand their own religion, I am not talking about YOU, so leave me alone. I am sorry if this post is somehow offensive to you and insults your 'holier than thou' perception of Saint Mel...oooh...there I go again, bad, bad, bad, I am certainly going to hell in Mel's mind now...oooh more sarcasm...someone stop me before its too late!)

Last edited by dave-o; 03-08-04 at 10:23 PM.
Old 03-08-04, 11:10 PM
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Originally posted by Cardiac161
The movie is less accurate to the Gospels and more in line with the book "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ" written by Sister Anne Emmerich.

She was supposed to have had stigmata (acquiring the wounds of Jesus Christ) and told prophecies. Her book is actually a dictation of the visions said to have been given to her by God detailing the last hours of Jesus before the resurrection, and the way she told it was as if she was actually there witnessing the tragic event.

Here is the link of the whole text:
http://www.emmerich1.com/DOLOROUS_PA...SUS_CHRIST.htm

Reading it is as close to watching Mel Gibson's movie. Someone said that if The Passion were to win a screenplay award, it would certainly go to Sister Emmerich.
I can't imagine reading this whole thing but I read or skimmed several sections dealing with the scourging, carrying the cross and falling. Gibson really did crib from this. The film is much more faithful to these "visions" than it is to Matthew, Mark, Luke and/or John.

And Jepthah: great article.
Old 03-08-04, 11:31 PM
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I have not yet seen the film. One day I will and as a fan of motion pictures, a human being, and one who happens to be Jewish, I will make up my own mind once I do.

I do feel however that people should recognize that a film based on 'true' events, no matter how sincere or how well-crafted, will always be a photocopy of a photocopy and sometimes many generations more down the line. This goes not only for biblical stories but for any genre, any story.

Films are not truth. They are signifiers. The signified in the case of The Passion Of The Christ seems to be one's own personal religious experience, whatever that may be.
Old 03-09-04, 04:46 AM
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A two-hour filmed based upon biblical passages that last approximately ten sentences in length is likely to do some heavy-duty interpolation. With Gibson's Catholic faith, it isn't surprising that he's used traditional Catholic texts as aids.

This film, btw, is not a "photocopy" of history, but a work of art. If you look to art for literal truth, you're missing the point.
Old 03-09-04, 11:12 AM
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Originally posted by veritasredux
This film, btw, is not a "photocopy" of history, but a work of art. If you look to art for literal truth, you're missing the point.
I completely agree with you, however, there are many people who are viewing this film as 'truth' and not art, including Mel (remember, for Gibson, this film is not art, it is THE truth!).
Old 03-09-04, 11:32 AM
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Originally posted by dave-o
I completely agree with you, however, there are many people who are viewing this film as 'truth' and not art, including Mel (remember, for Gibson, this film is not art, it is THE truth!).
And again, you approach the subject with a built in bias, just as supporters of Mel's vision do.

I cannot think of any point where Mel Gibson has said this is TRUTH. He has said that he believes this to be the most accurate video portrait of the Passion. I tend to agree as even the minor issues I've seen do not, as a whole, undermine the reliability of the film in my eyes.

Again remember, a person of faith approaching the film starts with the presupposition that the recorded word in the Bible is accurate despite claims for potential contrary historical evidence.

As to respond to some of the particulars. The issue of whether Jesus carried His own cross at least part of the time is to me a non-question. John clearly states that Jesus carries His cross while the language in Matthew, Mark and Luke does not preclude Jesus carrying His cross for part of the time. In fact, all three use the very similar and indefinite language "As they went out" prior to introducing the figure of Simon of Cyrene. Most textual scholars agree that the original language as translated can have various meanings with one acceptable meaning being that Jesus was carrying the cross as "they went out" only to have Simon come on the scene and bear the burden when Jesus became too weak. Likewise, the absence of Simon in the John narrative does not mean it never happened, just that John does not report it.

Overall, I believe that Mel's picture is in keeping with both the Word and Christian tradition. I do agree that many points of the film draw directly from the Catholic traditions to which Mel's particular brand of Christianity subscribes. While I may not agree to the accuracy of these events (for instance the whole St. Veronica montage), there is nothing scriptually that would preclude such an event. Thus, I will allow some license for sae of making a viable piece of motion picture art.... However, after reviewing the entire Passion narrative in each gospel and comparing the Biblical accounts to the film (which I have seen 3 times), I find the Biblical accuracy of The Passion of The Christ to be in general very high.

Last edited by wlmowery; 03-09-04 at 11:36 AM.
Old 03-09-04, 11:32 AM
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Well, it's Mel's truth. But truth depends on one's point of view...
Old 03-09-04, 11:34 AM
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Originally posted by Patman
But truth depends on one's point of view...
Thanks, Obi-Wan.
Old 03-09-04, 02:29 PM
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Originally posted by Milton Berle
Thanks, Obi-Wan.
Thanks, Uncle Miltie.

What's up wth that?
Old 03-09-04, 03:46 PM
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The stations of the cross is definitely a Catholic belief.



Note: I'm a non-denominational Protestant Christian.
Old 03-09-04, 03:59 PM
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It's as faithful to the gospels as The Last Temptation of Christ. Both are based on books that are based on people's beliefs of what is in the gospels.

I'm reading the book now. It's in the public domain and available free on the internet. If Mel Gibson filmed all the scenes described in it and did the CGI for them, then the directors cut of Passion will be very very nice.

Last edited by al_bundy; 03-09-04 at 04:28 PM.
Old 03-09-04, 05:18 PM
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Originally posted by al_bundy
It's as faithful to the gospels as The Last Temptation of Christ. Both are based on books that are based on people's beliefs of what is in the gospels.
I don't think that that is a fair comparision. The Passion Of The Christ is a movie based off of the Bible, but filling in details that are not addressed in the Bible using a combination of sources, including records of the visions of both St. Anne Catherine Emmerich and Mary of Agreda and historical research. The Last Temptation Of Christ is a movie based on a book that is based off of the ideas (not beliefs . . . it was a fictional extrapolation) of the author.

I agree with wlmowery's and veritasredux's analyses. There would not be nearly enough information in the Bible to make a feature-length film on the Passion and, as such, Gibson had to fill in the details from somewhere. He made it a close to the accounts in the Bible as possible turned to historical and religious references as support for those details. Nothing that he included contradicts anything that was stated in the Bible. Including the stations of the cross is a perfectly valid way of filling in the details of the movie and only makes sense, given his religious affiliation.


Now for a few disclaimers that seem to be neccessary in threads like this:
- I am Protestant Christian.
- I have seen both The Passion Of The Christ and The Last Temptation Of Christ and think that they are both excellent movies (although I got more out of TPOTC).
Old 03-09-04, 10:42 PM
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Originally posted by wlmowery
And again, you approach the subject with a built in bias, just as supporters of Mel's vision do.
We all have a built in bias, otherwise known as our subjective experience, this is assumed. However, this does not really have anything to do with my comments about Mel's true agenda and his false marketing of this movie. If somone sells something and claims it to be something it is not, no amount of bias will make this right in my mind.

Originally posted by wlmowery
I cannot think of any point where Mel Gibson has said this is TRUTH. He has said that he believes this to be the most accurate video portrait of the Passion.
Mel has claimed (as you point out) that this movie will be the most accurate telling of the Gospels, but he has taken this statement futher during several interviews. He has stated that he will "set the record straight" and has on many occassion made references to spreading the truth.


Originally posted by wlmowery
Again remember, a person of faith approaching the film starts with the presupposition that the recorded word in the Bible is accurate despite claims for potential contrary historical evidence.
This is very true, to many people the Bible and the Gospels are the TRUTH, but Mel's movie is not the Bible, it his interpretation of some of the events in the Gospels (again I must state that this is in no way wrong, if this is what is the movie were being sold as).


Originally posted by wlmowery
I do agree that many points of the film draw directly from the Catholic traditions to which Mel's particular brand of Christianity subscribes. While I may not agree to the accuracy of these events (for instance the whole St. Veronica montage), there is nothing scriptually that would preclude such an event.
There is also nothing scriptually that would preclude many things that could be added to this story, but that doesn't make it right to do so if you are claiming to tell the most accurate account of the Gospels. (in fact there are some scriptual writings that would preclude some of the liberties Mel took with his portrayal of the Jews).


Originally posted by wlmowery
However, after reviewing the entire Passion narrative in each gospel and comparing the Biblical accounts to the film (which I have seen 3 times), I find the Biblical accuracy of The Passion of The Christ to be in general very high.
I actually agree with you on this, when looking at the film as a whole, it is pretty accurate. But even if it is 80 or 90 percent accurate, there is still a significant portion that is not accurate (and even the accurate stuff is still his interpretation of the writings, in fact how accurate this thing is, is probably pretty subjective like most of these discussions here...). What worries me, is the agenda that has been woven into this movie and the fact that many of the inaccuracies (even if there are not an alarming amount) consistently seem to push the ideas that Mel's brand of Catholicism ascribe to (mainly the negative perecption of Jews that seems to pervade the beliefs of many people who follow this sect of the Catholic faith).
Old 03-09-04, 10:53 PM
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Originally posted by dave-o
(remember, for Gibson, this film is not art, it is THE truth!).
I have heard him state exactly the opposite. Many times, in fact.
Old 03-09-04, 11:09 PM
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Originally posted by taa455
I have heard him state exactly the opposite. Many times, in fact.
Spin control? He has changed his tune considerably since he began marketing this film...
Old 03-09-04, 11:47 PM
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Now that the bootlegs are out in Asia, $1.50 US, the film is being seen and discussed by Muslims who look to the Koran verses that say "They did not kill him, and they did not crucify him, it only appeared to them so." There is a lot of debate about what that means but it is generally accepted that the Jews were not responsible for whatever happened if it happened. It was either an illusion or God's will.

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