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The Passion of Christ
A Review of the movie "The Passion of Christ "
The Passion of Christ
Roy Blizzard III © 2012
Many of you don't know me, but I just wanted you to know that as a scholar, after seeing the Passion of Christ, I felt I needed to communicate to you my feelings and observations in order to assist those of you who would be unable to understand some of the intricacies involved. I truly believe that while it did have patently anti-Semitic overtones due to Mel’s background as a Ultra orthodox Catholic, one has to see the film for what Mel was trying to get across, which was not a movie about anti-Semitism towards the Jews, but a movie about the love that Jesus had for us all and the suffering that he went through as a result. I can’t fault him for that.
However, from a Biblical standpoint or as a historical piece it was totally in error, but so have every one of the films about Jesus been; but as a colleague of mine said, “In six months no one will remember all the problems, but they will remember the impact on their spirit”. Since I am both a film maker and a Biblical scholar I tend to see things in a rather critical eye and sometimes my wife gets after me for that, but I am hoping that as a result of this film that I can help others who want to continue to learn about Jesus and will begin to ask questions, and that I can help supply them with the correct answers from a Biblical point of view.
I don’t desire to appear as if I am trying to trash the film, but just do like Jesus said that He came to do,” I didn’t come to destroy the law, but to fill it full of meaning.” (correct reading here) I will discuss in my analysis of some of the legend and lore and Catholic stuff in it that Mel slips in on the unlearned audiences.
What is amazing to me is how utterly uneducated the audiences are. Most don’t even care, i.e. “Well I didn’t see it in the film so what does it matter”. This is scary for the reason that if someone is willing to be duped, it may be easier and easier to dupe them into greater inaccuracies. Many of the people we know who have seen the film really believe it to be an accurate portrayal of the last few hours of Jesus' life. Other than the brutality of the Romans and the fact that Jesus was crucified, those are just about the only two "factual" points in the whole movie. What is a shame is that if the people could understand the behind the scenes information of what is being accomplished and the way it is being accomplished the story would make so much more of an impact on their lives for the good.
Here are some items about the film for you to ponder.
Beginning in the Garden scene, Jesus says “…take this chalice from me”. This imagery is directly from the Middle Ages idea of the Holy Grail and means little to a believer because the wording is not as it was in the reference in the New Testament to the prophetic Cup of Redemption in the Bible. In fact one could misunderstand it to mean that the “Chalice” is a search for the meaning of truth or healing, but I don’t think hardly anyone will equate it with the cup of redemption, unless they have a strong Biblical understanding. What you can equate it with is the Crusades against the Jews.
You then have Jesus praying and Satan is there tempting Him. I just see no scripture backing this up. The battle Jesus was having wasn’t against Satan at this point, but against his feeling “For” his friends and family and having to be separated from them in life here and accept what he knew was going to happen in the flesh. This is really where we see the overwhelming love of Jesus for his earthly being. He enjoyed life here on this earth and He loved and enjoyed His family and friends. Now we can see where Paul says we have to “die daily”, overcoming this type of physical love for a greater good on a Spiritual level.
When Satan sends out a snake, for what purpose I couldn’t tell you, except as attempting to show the snake that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden was now killed by Jesus stomping its head and killing it in the flesh. This is not the same prophetic illusion as Jesus, when resurrected, literally giving the death blow to Satan himself, the real “nachash or enchanter. Satan was not some “snake” in the Garden of Eden.
When Jesus is arrested, we see Him being beaten by the guards and thrown off a bridge. Again there is no scriptural basis for these actions. These images come from the vision of the nuns in the books Mel read. When Jesus gets to the Sanhedrin, the full Sanhedrin would have been there, since they all lived within a few blocks of the Temple and it was Passover anyway. The text says that the Sanhedrin tried to find witnesses to testify against Jesus but was unable to do so until two came forward who lied about what they heard Jesus say.
The Bible says that Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin for Blasphemy, and although the Chief Priests and Elders buffeted Him and spat on him, the text said that “others were slapping Him”. This would have been the Temple Guard. The Chief Priests and Elders would not have risked being contaminated by touching a blood covered man before Passover. We do have to understand however, that all these Temple Guards are Levites and hit Jesus on the leaders’ orders. This would still fit with the Biblical prophecies.
By the time Jesus leaves the Sanhedrin in the movie He has already been beaten very badly. The text doesn’t intimate this. The real beatings and scourging come later. Mel had some demons appear in the movie. Why is it that the only people to be portrayed as being inhabited by the demons were Jews, especially the children? This could give the false impression and belief that Jewish children were demons or filled with demons, the spawn of Satan. This exact belief goes back to the Middle Ages anti-Jewish beliefs of the seeds of Satan being the Jewish children.
Mary, the mother of Jesus was only called mother in the film. This an obvious Catholic reference, as nowhere have I been able to find references that in the first century Jews called anyone other than their mothers, Mother. As a courtesy others would probably addressed Mary or Miriam in Hebrew by her first name.
All the lead women wore these outfits which were obviously similar to nun’s outfits, black hoods over white hoods. The outfits were not even the correct color schemes used in the day much less the styles. I expected to see rosaries around their necks and a chorus of The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music to break out.
Jesus was not portrayed as a Jewish Rabbi, which the text says He was. No side curls. No talits. No phylacteries. He was dressed in the movie in the usual non-Jewish clothing. We know that Jesus wore side curls, talits, and phylacteries due to writings which described the styles certain groups wore which Jesus was affiliated with in the first century.
Jesus was beaten and scourged, we know that, but this movie portrayal seemed to me to be a bit excessive, given fairly strict laws governing such things back then and the fact that Mel's account doesn’t fit with scripture. We also see a dove hovering during the scourging symbolizing the Holy Spirit, but this was not here, but when He was baptized.
The dove symbolized the Hebrew letter “Kaph”, which was in the shape of a backwards “C” and was the abbreviation for the Hebrew word “Kosher” or in English “acceptable”. God had already approved Him once; He didn’t have to do it twice.
Pilate’s wife was seen giving white linen cloth to Mary to do something with. We see Mary use these cloth rags to wipe up the Blood of Jesus after He was scourged. By Jewish Law, Mary would not have been allowed to do this. What was strange was at the end when you see Jesus resurrected, he is all healed of all scarring of the scourging except he still has holes in his hands and feet???? I guess God couldn't heal that sort of thing.
Also he was seen wrapped in some shroud – probably the one of Turin I suppose even though it was not proper burial wrappings for Jews in the 1st century. The way Jesus is portrayed nailed to the cross was wrong. We have known for thirty years or more that it is not through the palms of his hands, but sure enough the catholic tradition wins out here since to do it correctly would force them to deal with all sorts of theological problems they don't want to touch such as the "saints" and icons, etc., that bleed from holes in their palms.
The languages spoken added a great touch, but the fact that it is done in Aramaic was such a let down, because it is another anti-Semitic error. It’s just another way of saying that the real language of Jesus was not a Jewish thing, Mishnaic Hebrew, but a foreign language closer to an Arabic thing. The fact that Aramaic was spoken at Babylon also makes it seem more evil since man rebelled against God in Babylon and if the Jews spoke the language of that area they must be rebellious also. That's why they killed Jesus. This is another strike at the legitimacy of the Jews as the real inheritors of the promises of God and to the land of Israel.
Another problem was that although we know that much of the Sanhedrin of Jesus day was very corrupt, we see very little of the popularity of Jesus. Only with few exceptions, everyone in the film wanted him dead. We see a few tidbits of scripture or teachings of Jesus thrown in to deflect criticism of the movie, such as love those that persecute you, etc., with out any real knowledge of what Jesus was actually saying there on the hillside. The word Enemy has references to the book of Sanhedrin in the Talmud and also to a Greek Grammaticus of the 1st century that confirms it as speaking of a brother who has been alienated due to enmity, not a blood enemy. This meant you could not sit in Judgement for or against that brother. See my article on “Who is Your Enemy? A Short Commentary on Matthew 5:43”
The Passover was shown without any frame of reference or significance. Also, while we know Jesus was a carpenter by trade, Jesus is shown inventing a Table??? What is this about????? It is about Michelangelo and The Last Supper. Jesus was seated at a high table in the movie as in Leonardo's painting, not reclining on the floor as he should have been.
We don't see him engaging in the years of Biblical study it took him to be a rabbi; he is just teaching to a few select disciples, another way of showing that the masses, i.e. read Jews, rejected him. You hear only from Mark where Jesus says to the high priest that "Yes, I am the Messiah". But he actually said what was in the Lukan account, "You have said it". This is how a Rabbi would have answered. Mark is a mirror account of Luke with different wordings so you get strange renderings that don't make sense in Hebrew or Judaism unless you know how to backtrack.
You see Jesus carrying a full cross, but the other criminals get to only carry a cross beam??? This would have been impossible given the scourging I saw in Mel's movie. A crow flys over and plucks one of the criminal’s eyes out, a reference to Proverbs 30:17. While he praying in a garden setting full of huge trees, when he is crucified the hills are as devoid of trees as the arctic tundra??? When Jesus dies we see an earthquake and there is some altar split in half and the floor opens up but where is this? The text doesn't say any altar was split. It says that the veil of the Holy of Holies was split. So I was a little lost there.
Some other items for consideration, St. Veronica blots the face of Jesus. The sign above the cross - no YHWH abbreviation as recorded in the text, only Jesus the king of the Jews in Latin or Aramaic. The rain drop falling and thunder beginning recalls Zeus throwing thunder from heaven. Satan was both male and female and baby-anti Christ looking like an old midget is reminiscent of the middle age theory that dwarves are bad or evil offspring of Satan. We also see snake bashing in the garden of Gethsemane and the Pieta at the end.
I hope you can see by now that while the movie was basically good cinematically on one level, as far as being Biblically accurate; it fell far short in my book. But, irregardless of the Biblical inaccuracies, what lasting impact does the movie make on your life when you watch it?
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