It has now been one month since I’ve seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ. As a Catholic, I was very moved by the movie itself, but, even more intriguing are the many reviews of the movie that have been appearing in newspapers and magazines across the country. Even the recent review by John Buhler in The Voice (volume 12 issue 13 2004-03-31) was interesting, as it does as the movie does — it gets believers and non-believers talking about Him.
I know, you’re sitting back rolling your eyes thinking, “not another review of The Passion,” but that’s not what this is. The questions that have come up since I’ve seen the film are unending, and the false, emotionally-loaded answers provided by critics and non-critics alike are interesting to say the least, but still false. While I am no theologian, I do have an opinion, and a knowledge of my faith to back it up and help clear up the most common questions and comments.
What follows are a number of questions or criticisms raised in Mr. Buhler’s article, as well as other sources, to which I’d like to bring a different perspective:
My friends who have seen the movie have said that it is gore-fest. Is that true?
While some of the scenes are extremely bloody, including the scourging scene, gore-fest is not the term I would use. “Historically accurate” is more precise. Historically, scourging is only second to crucifixion for extreme torture. The fact that flesh and blood flew is in fact what would happen to the human body with that type of torture. When the actor who played Jesus, James Caviezel, was accidentally whipped during the scene, he said it was the most excruciating pain he’s ever felt. That single wound left a 12″ gash upon his side. The many wounds Jesus received would have spilled vast amounts of blood, just as the movie depicted.
There is a scene in which Mary and Mary Magdalene use white towels to soak up Jesus’ blood from the ground. What is that about?
This scene represents the fact that Mary and Mary Magdalene knew that Jesus’ blood is sacred.. Claudia (Pilate’s wife), who gave the towels to the two Marys, had dreams about Jesus being the holiest of men, and was also compassionate toward Jesus’ mother. The towels are strikingly symbolic of these things, though they were not mentioned in The Bible.
What is with the scene with Satan walking around with that weird looking baby?
It’s very true, Mel Gibson added some things that are not in the Bible at all. If you’ve read any of the Gospels, you’ll know that there isn’t a huge, drawn-out depiction of the crucifixion. At most, it is two pages long. So, with theologians and historians at his side, Mel Gibson added in little touches to do with the devil.
This is just my opinion mind you, but I believe Satan was mocking Mary, as he seemed to be looking at her. Mary is losing her only Son in the most torturous way and there’s the Devil with his own demon child mocking Mary.
What is to be learned about Christ or God from Jesus being beaten like an animal?
There is a lot to be learned by those who wish to be open to discussion. We could learn that it was the most torturous death to have been endured for our sins. We could also learn that Jesus Christ, while fully God was also fully human, in that he bled.
Why focus on only the suffering and death of Jesus; why leave out Christ’s other messages and mission?
It is the belief of Christians that Christ’s mission was his suffering and death for him to be the new covenant between God and the people. He died for our sins so that we could have eternal life.
It is generally known that the human hand cannot support the weight of a person being crucified. Wouldn’t the nails have gone through the wrist?
True, the hands do not have the bone structure to support the body on a nail. What is not noted in Mr. Buhler’s and others’ criticisms, is the small post on which Jesus also stands, and where his feet were nailed. Crucifixion is not a long drawn out form of torture. The crucified die of suffocation, not of having nails driven through their wrists, or of bleeding to death.
“The pectoral muscles would be affected and you could not let your air out. You could take it in, but could not let it out. And so, you’d hang there and suffocate, you would push up on your legs to let the air out, and then come down to take it in. When they wanted to bring about the death immediately, they broke their legs and they couldn’t push up ” (The Debate, 1981).
Jesus’ legs were not broken. The post under the feet offers more time for the crucified to suffer as it allows them to prop themselves up longer.
Since crucifixion was meant to be humiliating for its victims, wouldn’t Jesus have been stripped naked?
You may have seen in many churches that crucifixes have Jesus in a loin cloth as well. This allows our minds of the 21st century to focus on Jesus himself rather than what his genitalia depicts him to be (although a lot of critics say that having Jesus in a loincloth denounces the fact that Jesus was a Jew and would therefore be circumcised).
Why does the Jesus in the movie look like he’s a European?
Even Israeli’s and Jews come in different colors.
Do Christian churches consider Jews to be “the Christ-killers”?
The Roman Catholic Church does not consider Jews to be “the Christ-killers,” nor have I heard of other Christian churches believing this. Mel Gibson belongs to a traditional Catholic church based upon Roman Catholic beliefs (up until Pope John XIII). The Jewish have always been and always will be God’s chosen people according to The Bible.
What about the phrase “?perfidious Jews’ which was in earlier versions of Catholic sermons?
Perfidious, in the old Good Friday liturgy, referred to the rejection of God’s Son, the Messiah, by the particular Jews who called for his crucifixion (Carroll, W.). It is not the derogatory, racist term that people make it out to be.
Should Mel Gibson’s connection to his traditionalist Catholic regressive sect cause alarm?
Why is it felt that because Mr. Gibson belongs to a certain religious group that he is automatically anti-Semitic? Saying this is like saying because a person didn’t like “The Passion”, they are anti-Christian. Neither statement is true.
Shouldn’t Christians be offended by the marketing of items, such as Passion coffee mugs, because it trivializes Christ’s crucifixion?
Actually, as a Christian, I believe a mug or other marketing item would remind me of Jesus’ suffering for my ultimate salvation and, as a Roman Catholic, it can even deepen my faith through those small reminders.
Why does the film only recount the last hours of Jesus’ life, and not include more details of his ministry?
It is true that many incidents are left out, such as Christ preaching to the leaders in the temple as a child, and when he performed miracle after miracle. Nor does it include his ultimate resurrection and the apostles witness to this fact. It doesn’t discount these events, but the film is only three hours long and could not have been made longer to appease the minds of everyone.
I hope this article can help anyone out there struggling with what The Passion means. It would be a very hard movie to review as it is the controversial subject of religion. By keeping your head cool and your mind open, I think anyone can view this movie.
Carroll, W. (n.d.). Judaism and Christianity. Retrieved April 2, 2004, from
Holy Bible. (1993). The Gospel’s of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Nashville, Tennessee. Catholic Bible Press.
The Debate. (1981). Was Christ Crucified? Retrieved April 2, 2004, from http://answering-islam.org.uk/Debates/Deedat_McDowell.html