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The Passion of the Christ

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Jay Leno's monologue on The Passion:

The big story of course is Mel Gibson

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Likewise, I'll be joining Dick Staub to lead a discussion at Living Hope Community Church in Lynnwood, Washington on Monday evening at 7:30. You're all invited! biggrin.gif

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I want to realistically address anti-semitism (which, unlike most here, I do believe was somewhat present in the film).

Where?

It seems that a little bit of solid biblical theology (I am referring to the academic discipline, "biblical" isn't just an adjective in this case) could have helped Gibson picked better dialogue for the Jews. But I am interested to hear what specific points you would bring up in a church discussion .

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Jay Leno said:

: It's the third biggest Wednesday opening in history -- it made $26 million

: yesterday. It did so big -- there is now talk of turning it into a book.

Hey, I still have my copy of Lee Roddy's novelization of Jesus. That's right, they novelized a movie that was a word-for-word adaptation of the Gospel of Luke.

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: Likewise, I'll be joining Dick Staub to lead a discussion at Living Hope

: Community Church in Lynnwood, Washington on Monday evening at

: 7:30. You're all invited! biggrin.gif

Sorry, dude, I'll be appearing on NowTV's Online around then to talk about the film. smile.gif

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Ask yourself this question: In the dramatic license that Mel Gibson took, was he equitable to the Jews? The answer is an unequivocable \"NO.\" He should have taken the same care with the Jewish leaders as he did with the Roman leaders, namely Pilate. Also, the Roman guard (who didn't say 'surely he was the Son of God') doesn't have a Jewish counterpart who is obviously sympathetic to Jesus--at least to his suffering if not his message.

But all Jewish leaders are portrayed as monolithic, hateful, and murderous--which is fine if the same had been done for Pilate. What about inventing sympathetic roles for the Jewish leader's wives? Or do what Zeffirelli did and expand the roles of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea to provide balance to the Jewish council? The few voices dissenting at all from the hatred are brutally excluded from the council without us having any chance to get a fuller impression of them. I find, days after viewing, that the images of Caiphus and his cohorts stay with me.

I think if Mel had included a little context in the matter of the Pharisees verses Jesus, it would have helped the film more. It's pretty clear in the Biblical accounts that they hated Jesus - He did call them "vipers", which was akin to saying "you are a moron" today - and He really did represent a threat to their way of life. While I didn't feel that the Jewish leaders in the film were completely off base with what I would think of them in the Biblical account, they come off in that way in the film because we have no reference point with the relationship between the two other than the accusations in the trial scene.

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As I discussed in a review, it's no so much antisemitic as unfair. I don't think the film is inherently biased against the Jewish (overly racist/antisemitic) as it is unfair and harmful in some aspects--but not at its core.

Okay. This may be a good place to start: from a purely literary perspective. (Which is the perspective from which most people are actually reading the film.) It is just so odd to see New Testament Studies such in vogue. It is bizarre to watch CNN at midnight and find people debating these broad questions that have lain in obscurity literally for centuries in the ivory towers of our seminaries.

From the perspective of New Testament studies, some of these questions are really cut and dried. I never realized how difficult it was for people to seperate the statement "the Sanhedrin hated Jesus and basically forced Pilate to crucify him, and Pilate was a panty-waist so he did it" from notions of "anti-Semitism". But the thought worlds of 2nd temple Judiasm are such well-trodden territory in current thought, that what the media tries to make a big "question" about the Jew's role in Jesus death hasn't ever really been an issue in New Testament studies.

It is cool to see guys like Bock and Wright and Crossan all chit-chatting on the nightly news. I wish they would do that more often. But it is just bizarre to see the marketing spin focus in on these "debates" that don't ever really occur behind the doors of professional biblical criticism.

That being said, I think I would have to agree with your approach. If someone is going to talk about "anti-Semitisms" in the film, it would have to be a discussion that only takes place within the details of the film and doesn't try to educate people on 2nd temple Judaism and the social relationships between Rome and Jerusalem. Because all you find there is that everybody hated everybody (kind of like it is today).

But then if we do want to talk about "anti-Semitisms" in the film itself, which is the only way we could really talk about them, then I wonder if it would be better to talk about how Gibson simply caricatures certain characters and demythologizes others, rather than seeing his activity as "anti-Semitic." The film is so patently a-historical, that we can't really talk about the "film" and "history" at the same time. This isn't a documentary.

Doing a church discussion on this film doesn't seem as easy at it sounds!

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Alan wrote:

: Ask yourself this question: In the dramatic license that Mel Gibson took,

: was he equitable to the Jews? The answer is an unequivocable "NO." He

: should have taken the same care with the Jewish leaders as he did with

: the Roman leaders, namely Pilate.

Yes, I believe even SDG makes this point, in that comment that Ebert quoted, about how Gibson COULD have used that line from John's gospel in which Caiaphas expresses concern for the fate of Israel and says it is better that one man should die, etc. That's totally biblical, and Gibson left it out ... while inserting a bunch of stuff that makes Pilate look nicer.

Clint M wrote:

: I think if Mel had included a little context in the matter of the Pharisees

: verses Jesus, it would have helped the film more. It's pretty clear in the

: Biblical accounts that they hated Jesus . . .

Not quite. Luke 13 -- the same chapter that mentions Pilate's sacreligious brutality in a non-Holy Week context -- also mentions that some Pharisees actually wanted to SAVE Jesus, when they heard Herod wanted to kill him. So, when people ask if portraying neutral Jews in a life-of-Jesus movie is just a way of pandering to modern sensitivities, I say no, there is actual biblical warrant for that sort of thing.

(M)Leary wrote:

: The film is so patently a-historical, that we can't really talk about the

: "film" and "history" at the same time.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying that!

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(M)Leary wrote:

: The film is so patently a-historical, that we can't really talk about the

: \"film\" and \"history\" at the same time.  

Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying that!

You are welcome. Now try writing a review that tries to say this without sounding pedantic. People are so quickly turned off when the discussion turns to raw hermeneutics that it is hard to get to the heart of some of these issues in a popular setting.

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Clint M wrote:

: I think if Mel had included a little context in the matter of the Pharisees

: verses Jesus, it would have helped the film more. It's pretty clear in the

: Biblical accounts that they hated Jesus . . .

Not quite.  Luke 13 -- the same chapter that mentions Pilate's sacreligious brutality in a non-Holy Week context -- also mentions that some Pharisees actually wanted to SAVE Jesus, when they heard Herod wanted to kill him.  So, when people ask if portraying neutral Jews in a life-of-Jesus movie is just a way of pandering to modern sensitivities, I say no, there is actual biblical warrant for that sort of thing.

I've seen that passage at one point before, but completly forgot about it. I've often wondered if that's Nicodemus, because Jesus talked to him in John 3, and that's usually placed chronologically before that event. It's the many other verses where the Pharisees constantly try to trick Jesus or conspire against Him (Mark 12:3; Mark 8:11; Mark 3:6; Matthew 3:7; Matthew 12:14; Matthew 16:1 - small sampling) that makes them appear that they are trying to find a way to have him condemmed.

I will say that one thing I did notice in the film was that two of the religious leaders did accuse the other Pharisees of trumping up false charges against Jesus. I wondered if that was Nicodemus speaking out against their charges against Him.

Can Anti-Semetic charges be levied against the film? Certainly. I think the problem is, like so many have noted, it's a slice of the bigger picture. There is more complexity behind the events of the crucifixion than one two hour film focusing primarily on that event could have expressed.

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Could this be my first posting on the film? Why... after a year and a half of reading about this, I finally have seen the film, and have a unique idea that hasn't been covered yet!! Yay!

The few voices dissenting at all from the hatred are brutally excluded from the council without us having any chance to get a fuller impression of them. I find, days after viewing, that the images of Caiphus and his cohorts stay with me.

I think if Mel had included a little context in the matter of the Pharisees verses Jesus, it would have helped the film more.

I think that this part of the film was excised early, because it was originally to play without subtitles, and exposition like this is nearly impossible without them. When Mel decided to include subtitles, THAT's where he went for reshoots, mostly of scenes like The Sermon on the Mount, which has a lot of theology and thus translated subtitles were needed.

Since Mel's original intent was without subtitles, imagine him shooting a scene where the protesters explain their reasons, and Caiaphas explains the intricacies as to why they want Christ dead. It really needed to be as short as possible, because otherwise we would be sitting there for a long dialogue without knowing what everybody was talking about.

That's my guess as to why he held back on this.

The other thing I don't hear a whole lot of people talking about is the one unforgivable sin that Gibson steered clear from: extraneous running time. This seems to be why a lot of exposition is too short, and it only seems to work on an audience that happens to know the backstory and meaning. But it's opened huge, far huger than Gospel of John, with the 3-hr running time. His pacing was very strong--only once I was tempted to look at my watch, and didn't.

I think the film is a very good film, not perfect, but well-worth seeing. Of course, if I was a Promontory critic you'd get that in the survey.

Nick

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Hey folks -- long time no post. Have dropped in to see what threads are running around the film. Very interesting.

One observation (and forgive me if this has been covered in detail in a related thread -- man I wish I had time to read and interact with all of the material you guys produce ;) --

Despite the flaws of the film that I have read about so far (the wife and I will likely see it this weekend), I am very intrigued by the intentional Mystery Gibson has framed the work in.

So many of the elements of this film stand unapologetically on their own in ways that intentionally grate against our society's (and our Christian sub-culture's, and our film-critic

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I have been reading the threads here for several months and have been following the hype in the media as well. I finally saw the film last night, having promised my supervisor that I would preview it before taking two of the teen boys on my case load to see it.

I must say that of everything I have read, a letter featured on Andrew Sullivan's blog today (Friday) resonates most with me. It is e mail of the day I. I think this is the reaction Gibson was trying to get, and I believe he succeeded brilliantly.

http://www.andrewsullivan.com/

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Clint M wrote:

: I will say that one thing I did notice in the film was that two of the

: religious leaders did accuse the other Pharisees of trumping up false

: charges against Jesus. I wondered if that was Nicodemus speaking out

: against their charges against Him.

Yes, this is not the first film in which Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea have served this function. What is interesting is that, in THIS film, they ask where all the OTHER members of the council are ... whereas in, I think, The Greatest Story Ever Told, it is Nick and Joe who are absent, and someone ELSE asks why those two were not summoned.

BTW, are Annas and Caiaphas etc. really supposed to be Pharisees? I would have thought Sadducees were more likely to be the priests, but I could be wrong.

Nick Alexander wrote:

: The other thing I don't hear a whole lot of people talking about is the one

: unforgivable sin that Gibson steered clear from: extraneous running time.

Eh? You don't think Gibson could have trimmed back on some of the excessive scourging, or cut out a few of those scenes in which Jesus falls to the ground?

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mrs. zug and I saw the film last night. I'm falling in more along the lines of Ebert's review. Did not find it too violent, as out of context, or as

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I picked up the Vanity Fair just to read Hitchens article, and WHOOO-EEE, he unloads his basic prejudice that all religions are just human constructions, and if Christianity and Judaism could just admit that they're manmade then we could all breathe a big sigh of relief. His description of the film is insane.

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Hitchens is a brilliant contrarian who always seems to find his best argumentsd for his wierdest views (from my POV). I find I have to shake off his knee jerk hostility to religion, Kissinger, and the Viet Nam War in order to appreciate his finer points. :twisted:

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Clint M wrote:

: Well, Mel made his money back. :wink:

Yes, and you KNOW it's only a short matter of time before someone publicly asks him what he plans to do with that money. Will churches get to keep the converts while Mel gets to keep the money -- is that how this 'grassroots' deal works? Will Mel make MORE religious movies? Will he sponsor more of those artsy films like Felicia's Journey and The Million Dollar Hotel and The Singing Detective? Will he produce sequels to Conspiracy Theory and What Women Want? Will he foster Jewish-Christian dialogue groups? What?

zug wrote:

: David Edelstein (Slate) has an audio review on NPR's Fresh Air site.

Reviews go here. smile.gif

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And thus, I seriously question the decision to produce this film and exhibit it in multiplexes. Sorta like building a monastery at the mall and saying, \"Come on in, everybody! Bring the popcorn!\"

You had me nodding along saying,

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It occurs to me that, at the rate this film is going, it will probably be the 8th film to gross $100 million in five days or less.

And of the Top 25 films in the all-time opening-five-day list, the only ones that failed to pass the $200 million mark eventually were Men in Black II (#14, open $87.2mil, cume $190.4mil), Planet of the Apes (#17, open $84.3mil, cume $180mil), The Matrix Revolutions (#19, open $83.8mil, cume $139.3mil), Jurassic Park III (#20, open $81.4mil, cume $181.2mil), and Pearl Harbor (#21, open $80.6mil, cume $198.5mil).

And of the 7 films to date that have grossed $100 million in five days or less, all but one have gone on to pass the $300 million mark; the lone exception is The Matrix Reloaded (#1, open $144.4mil, cume $281.6mil) -- which actually made more in its first five days than any other movie!. So, opening weekends are important, but so is having "legs".

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