T Nation



Saw the movie on Ash Wednesday. I'm posting some thoughts/observations for those of you on the fence about seeing it, or for those who saw it and wish to comment as well.
It was a very good film for the most part, with some tremendous actors. My main complaint about it is that it was way too bloody, much more than necessary. It actually made me feel uncomfortable, enough to look away once in a while. The focus was too much on the actual physical pain, and left the other big parts, Jesus' teaching and The Resurrection, almost completely unexplored. There should have been a stronger focus on his teachings, which would have balanced the film out. There's a short piece at the end, obviously, where its apparent he has been resurrected, but its quite short.
I think this even as a Roman Catholic, a religion that does not hide the physical side of Jesus' suffering in its art and writing (unlike the Protestant churches) and also has a ceremony replicating the suffering Jesus underwent.

Does it make the Jews look bad? Well, that depends. The Bible says they pushed for his crucifixion, and Pontius Pilate agreed after initially refusing. That's what the movie shows. The Jewish priests were afraid of his heretical teachings and growing popularity-this part I felt could have been explained a bit better, for those not familiar with the history. But it also makes the Romans look just as bad, maybe even worse- sadistic, vicious people who whip Jesus for close to 30 min of the whole film and ultimately crucify him with glee. (BTW, the film was shot in italy w/ mostly Italian actors, and so far no complaints from Italians. Of course, Judaism is still a distinct religion while Italians are not exactly Romans anymore). Really, the whole argument over who was responsible for Christ's crucifixion is something that will be debated forever (or at least until the final judgement). THere is never going to be a straight answer.

Another thing I didn't like was the portrayal of Pontius pilate as a rational man intent only on doing what was appropriate, and doing it only after serious thought. In reality Pilate was a vicious commander and probably not a sensitive soul.

I would recommend it, if only to see the portrayal of one of the most (if not THE most),important historical events ever. For those who were not history majors such as myself or don't read a lot of history, it should open your eyes and help illustrate why this event was so important and is so controversial.


good review.
i'm going to see it tomorrow.
you have not idea if pontius pilot was a rational man or not. Although he has been depicted as "evil", reality is that people are rarely that 1 dimension. I really appreciate movies that depict "bad" people as a human being with complex personalities as we actually are. Each person had the potential for making choices and films that depict "evil" people as only wanting to do evil things are very unrealistic.
well, my 2 cents.
looking forward to seeing it.


Yea it was ok, but they basically just beat the shit out of Him for two hours.


All of the movies depicting the crucifixtion of Christ have been sugar coated. Mel wanted to show the real deal. I am anticipating seeing this film to understand what Jesus endured for all of mankind. No holds barred...just like this here magazine....


I saw this movie. It is a brutal and bloody film, depicting the reality of this whole deal. Jesus' life was "R" rated. Like it said at the beginning of the movie..."by his stripes were are healed."

He took all that pain for us. He, being without sin, was a perfect human sacrifice to God.

Jesus said it himself, " I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me." Jesus is the real deal fellas.


The movie was brutal and bloody because according to any credible writings that's the way it was. Scourging and crucifixion would make any normal person uncomfortable in the very least. I guess that's the point of the movie.

Like Saving Private Ryan, the violence and discomfort gives you perspective that our predigested, softened, suburban reality lacks.

I'm glad it made you uncomfortable. I'd worry if it didn't.


Pontius Pilate was a mass murderer who killed 1000s, was so cruel he gave the Emperor Tiberius pause, and was enventually removed from his proconsulship. The Gospels do not contradict this, or offer apologism, (I think Luke says he mixed the blood of Gailileans with the Roman sacrifices) this but Mel Gibson's portrayal is a glossing over of Pilate's cruel and murderous character. Pontius Pilate was not an instrument of Caiphius (in reality, the priests were probably appointed by Pilate)! I personally think that minimizing the Roman participation and motives does shift a lot of the blame over to Jews for being the instrument of Jesus' death. Letting Rome off the hook is a kind of de facto antisemitism.

And there is blame not in the Gospels shoved on to the Jews and off the Romans. The Bible does not say that Jewish jailers beat Jesus before he was handed over to the Romans, that he was lassoed with a chain and thrown over a wall. The Bible also does not say that a Centurion interfered because Jesus was beaten too savagely according to Roman law. Plus, he could have included lines from the Gospel more sympathetic to the Jews without ruining his dramatic pitch.

Also, there are MANY other ways Gibson was not faithful to the accounts of the Gospels. The Bible says Jesus suffered on the Christ but does not say he was extensively beaten and whipped before this occured. In real life, a person would have carried the crossbeam, not the whole cross. For all Gibson's talk about the "original languages," the Roman soldiers would be speaking Greek, not Church Latin.

Theologically, there is something screwed up about this movie. Other people (and many Jews) suffered tremendously on the way to the cross and then nailed to it (in the wrists, not the palms, Mr. Gibson). I guarantee you that we can find throughout history or devise fictionally on film greater tortures than seem to be inflicted on Jim Caveziel's body. The whole point of Jesus' suffering and death is his psychological awareness of his voluntary sacrifice and his tearful (but, according to faith, temporary) alienation from his people, from mankind and from this world.

from www.andrewsullivan.com:
"In the crucifixion scene, the Gospels do not say that in hoisting the cross, it fell down by accident so that Jesus was pinned headfirst between the cross and the earth, his crown of thorns thrust even deeper into his skull. Again, that's Gibson's interpolation. It's as if Gibson's saying that being crucified isn't bad enough - you've got be crushed face down by timber first if you are going to save all mankind."

Now the appeal of this movie is a much more scary inter-Christian issue. The movie is un-Protestant but the evangelicals love it. It comes from this Opus Dei stuff, Franco-fascist-Christianity stuff, but the Catholic Church loves it. Conservatives love it because "religion" is fighting back against the secular world Tarentino style.


Jewish perspective here!

I'm not surprised by the whole "anti-Jewish" aspect of the film...it's quite consistent with age-old Christian theology. Also, Mel Gibson is a dubious character (with fantastic movie-making talent) on the world stage, but more on that later...

Basically, early Christians...who were all Jews...had to separate themselves from mainstream Judaism, which rejected Jesus as the promised King (Messiah just means "anointed" as in "anointed King"). At the same time, early Christians had to survive persecution by pagan Romans. How did they do this? Hmmm...they blood-libeled the mainstream Jews (whom Rome already hated) as being responsible for the murder of Jesus (deicide) and sugar-coat the Roman involvement in the crucifixion to make it look like the despised Jews were to blame, with Rome's only sin being a weakness to stand against the powerful Jewish hordes, and perhaps the unfortunate brutality of a few pagan soldiers.

Uhh...sounds like meticulously crafted "let's scapegoat the Jews" doctrine to me! Indeed, Christianity used it as such for most of its official history. Many Christians...Mel Gibson's father included, no doubt...still believe it to be true.

Reality check folks: Rome was the most powerful Empire of the time, and history records that Rome slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout their (pagan) occupation of Judea. Jesus wasn't the only Jew to die by crucifixion or torture (do a search on Rabbi Akiva or Ben-Kosiba)! Bottom line: Rome wanted Jesus to die, just the same as they wanted all potential Jewish rebels dead. Rome wanted control, and rebels threaten that. As far as the Gibson portrayl of "blood-thirsty" Jewish crowds in Jerusalem, let's remember that this was during Passover, which celebrates Jewish liberation and God's redemption for the Jews...in other words, I think the crowd (who suffered under the Roman yoke) would have chosen to piss off the Romans by freeing the rebel Jesus, rather than choose a common thief and viscously call for Jewish blood of any sort! And why, pray tell, would the crowd of Jews want Jesus dead, unless he wasn't really as popular a messenger of God as the Gospels would have us believe...which contradicts the reason for why Jewish priests supposedly wanting him dead in the first case? Sounds like the Gospels are "creative" history to me, but then again, I'm not religiously dependant on it, so I guess I can read it more critically than most Christians can...or do.

In the end, this was a movie by Christians, for Christians. From the Jewish perspective, it just pissed me off...because all it does is open up this 2000 year-old can of worms again. I'm basing this on reviews of the film by Christians, film critics and Jews who saw it, as well as Gibson's recount of the film in his interviews and the Gospels.

That's my 2 cents worth...


"Also, there are MANY other ways Gibson was not faithful to the accounts of the Gospels"

When did Gibson ever say he was making this movie to please the Gospels?


CC, he says that his main objective was to tell the story as it really happened, (for him) as it appeared in the Gospels. And if anybody says anything is insensitive in his movie, he counters, "their problem is with the Gospels."

LittleJay, I am sympathetic to your opinion and to all historical evidence bearing light on the situation. However, I am going to try to confine my discussion to the Gospels themselves, history that helps contextualize the Gospels without contradicting them, and the choices that one confront one as an adaptor of the Gospel narratives. If Gibson says that this movie is direct from the Gospels, we have to examine whether that is true, what he leaves out from the Gospels, and what comes from his own mind.

You could make a whole case about Gibson's alleged antisemitism or extreme insensitivity to Jews based on stuff he has said, the way he helped promote the film, and his various associations, but I think that's getting off the movie itself. I will say however that he told Jewish groups that he was taking the "blood upon our heads and our children" scene out, and then left it in as a point of honor (!), just taking out the subtitles, which will surely be restored in Russia, Poland, France, the entire Middle East, including Syria (where they actually do still speak a bit of Aramaic).


CC wrote:

CC...Gibson states in his interviews, as well as the offical website for the movie...that the screenplay is based on a compilation of the 4 Gospels.

So, I guess the real question is whether-or-not one agrees with his interpretation of the Gospels, as he clearly did use them as his source.


Haven't seen it yet; the wife won't go, so I'll have to make some time myself.

Just a note here on medieval philosophy: Medieval European philosophers/theologians, in trying to comprehend the "mechanics" of how the Crucifixion managed to undo the effects of Original Sin, finally settled on a description/definition (put forth by Anselm in "Cur Deus Homo") that relied HEAVILY on the PHYSICAL SUFFERING (called the "Buffeting and Scourging") of the Christ (more so than the actual point of death) to atone for the rest of us.

This film's emphasis on the passion intrigues me, and I want to see it.

Coincidentally (or not), the film version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" shows Jesus transformed (cleaned-up, white, and radiant) immediately following the 39 lashes (the Buffeting & Scourging) rather than after his death on the cross.

(As the scrawny guy in the suit sitting on the park bench in the original Quisno's Sub commercial says: "Hm!")


Just gotta say, that as someone as ignorant as myself about religion I'm really looking forward to seeing this. I was never raised around Church, and only went there for boy scout meetings. I DO believe that Jesus is the son of God, but only in the way that we are all children of God. I think Jesus was a brave man, but a man nonetheless. If Jesus were in fact God himself or the son of God or whatever and knew he was going to be resurrected that takes away from the sacrifice he made. And I certainly do not want to take away from what Jesus did, but he certainly wasn't the only person to be crucified. I mean, who WOULDN"T sacrifice himself in order to save the souls of ALL men to come?

I also think that assigning blame over this is foolishness merely because none of us alive killed Jesus. So I could care less if the Jews or the Romans did it. I don't owe black people anything, although being a white man, my family likely owned slaves. In this way Jews today don't owe anything if they did in fact kill Jesus. Again though, I must admit I'm quite ignorant of religion but I'm trying to figure all this out for myself.



Yeah, Hollywood is a great venue for theology.


The bible was a 'Story'.

The Passion of the Christ was a remake of that story.

Jesus is a fictional character...



Regarding "JC Superstar," most depictions of the Passion show the body of Jesus not having succumbed to the suffering the Romans tried to inflict. We see the wounds, but also see that the body has gained a kind of redemptive dignity. David Denby makes this point in his New Yorker review. Gibson said he wanted the look of Caravaggio but both Caravaggio and Goya (who could really get grotesque) elevated the body of Christ, wounds and all, and did not show him as a slab of pulverized meat.


It is only a movie. I would have thought that the same rules apply to it as other movies, if you don't like it don't see it.

For various reasons plenty of people find plenty of movies offensive for various reasons. Why should this one be any different?

Oh yeah since when was Hollywood a trusted source of history? History has been changed to tell the chosen story many times in the movies.


Have not seen the movie and don't plan on it--I'm saving my money for starsky & hutch. I might say though--genius marketing tactics by Mel Gibson. Make a movie that creates national debate & makes 90 year old ladies and other steriotypical non-movie goers get out the house to go see it. He is gonna laugh all the way to the bank no matter what people say.



I just want to say some things regarding your post.

You said that, "I DO believe that Jesus is the son of God, but only in the way that we are all children of God."

Jesus Himself told us in the gospels that he was the messiah, the christ, the son of God. The main question is, was he really the Son of God? He said that He was...so in the words of C.S. Lewis...

"Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has no left that open to us. He did not intend to."

Man, your questions and comments are legit by human standards, it is obvious you have thought about this subject. I'll be back and respond to your statement about the resurrection/sacrfice...that is the most awesome part of this whole story bro!



JESUS IS NOT A FICTIONAL CHARACTER. He saved your ungrateful ass.