Whatever Mel Gibson had intended, he did not produce an accurate description of the Passion of Christ. The film he produced which has excited, pardon the pun, such passion does not deserve all the hype its flacks, admirers, and critics have generated.
In fact, *#8220;The *#8220;Passion*#8221; provided me with three handwritten pages of such inaccuracies. The movie produces great detail that is (a) inconsistent, (b) sensationally graphic, c) illogical, (d) inaccurate and (e) contradictory to Holy Text.
The four Gospels, written by contemporaries from contemporary sources agree on several basic points. The High Priests waited until after Passover to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane. Peter sliced off the ear of a High Priests*#8217; guard (or servant) during the arrest. They took Jesus to the home of Caiaphas to be accused. Found guilty through false witnesses, the Priests brought Jesus to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate to demand that he be executed. Pilate, though convinced of Christ*#8217;s innocence, agreed to his crucifixion because to do otherwise would have invited the Priests to provoke a riot. Roman soldiers humiliated and beat Christ and took him through the streets of Jerusalem and out the gates to the hill of Golgotha to be crucified. Christ suffered and died on the Cross.*nbsp;
In the opening scenes, Gibson has the soldiers of the High Priests throwing Jesus over a wall and then breaking the fall *#8211; and no doubt several ribs *#8211; with His chains. The Gospels say only that the soldiers of the High Priests arrested Jesus in Gethsemane and took Him to the house of Caiaphas.*nbsp;
The eastern half of the Roman
Empire spoke Greek, not Latin.
After the *#8220;trial,*#8221; the High Priests conduct Christ to Pontius Pilate for sentencing and execution. There is no Gospel evidence that they brought a mob with them. In fact, according to the Evangelist John, the High Priests stood outside Pilate*#8217;s house to avoid ceremonial uncleanliness. The interplay between Pilate and his wife over her fear that her husband was condemning an innocent man is consistent with Scripture. (There is no reason to belabor another point: Gibson has Christ and Pilate speaking in Latin. The eastern half of the Roman Empire used Greek as the lingua franca, not Latin.) Pilate, trying to avoid responsibility, sends Christ to be judged by Herod, the Jewish puppet King. The scene in Herod*#8217;s Palace is simply silly. Herod sends Christ back to Pilate who is now stuck with a no-win decision. At this point, Mel Gibson invents another heretofore unknown passage of scripture so that he can present the centerpiece of his movie: a truly dreadful eleven minutes of brutal, gory, and sadistic flogging. Pilate offers Caiaphas a compromise. He orders Christ brutally scourged but with strict orders not to be killed, as a substitute for the death sentence. The scourging of Christ is a uniquely dreadful piece of cinema. Gibson depicts the Roman soldiers as a mindless, ill-disciplined rabble. They administer a flogging with a hooked whip that would have killed any man with a half-dozen blows. Historians of Russian history will note that the knout, a similar whip perfected under Ivan the Terrible, normally killed its victim within eight to twelve blows. Only the intervention of an officer prevents the best disciplined soldiers in the world from gleefully disobeying a specific order not to kill Christ. I came away convinced that Mel Gibson made this movie to show his technical expertise in special effects. The Gospels mention a flogging, but without dwelling on it. The Evangelists devote many more verses to describing the Crown of Thorns and the Red Cape in which the soldiers dressed Jesus. Gibson glorifies the flogging.
The scene between Pontius Pilate*#8217;s wife Claudia handing a towel to Mary the Mother of God and Mary Magdalene so that they can wipe Christ*#8217;s blood from the stones where he was flogged is bizarre. There is no evidence indicating that the Proconsul*#8217;s wife ever met the two Marys. Furthermore, what were these women doing in a Roman Army barracks?Gibson invents a Panagia not described in Holy Text.
Gibson again distorts Holy Text depicting Jesus in a flashback stopping the stoning of a fallen woman who turns out to be Mary Magdalene. In John, the fallen woman is an unnamed adulterous. Mark describes Mary Magdalene only as a woman out of whom Jesus cast seven demons.
The scene where Pilate offers the mob the choice between amnesty for Christ or for Barrabas is probably the historically most accurate moment of the movie, except that Gibson portrays Christ as a bloody and virtually unrecognizable beaten pulp. The ensuing 20-minute passage of Christ through the streets of Jerusalem is simply incredible. He simply would not have made it. Logically, the Romans wanted to crucify Christ, not have Him die on the way.*nbsp;
To be fair, Gibson depicts Pontius Pilate consistent with the Gospels. Pilate is a troubled soul torn between his duty to keep the peace in a seditious and rebellious land and his sense that he has sent an innocent man to his death. Pilate is the only well-developed role and truly human character in the movie. The only other developed character is Judas, although his departure*nbsp; is much more theatrical than the Gospels depict. The Panagia, Mary Magdalene, and John the Apostle are one-dimensional roles that add little to this badly misdirected film. The High Priests are comic book villains.*nbsp;
Gibson makes another, albeit small, historical error. Golgotha is depicted as a small mountain somewhat removed from Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built only three centuries after the event, encompasses a small hill barely ten meters above bedrock. By all accounts, Golgotha, the regular place of execution, was just outside the then city gates.
The film itself does not single out the Jews nor can it directly be accused of anti-Semitism. In fact, the negative depiction of the Jewish High Priests pales by comparison with the unbelievable brutality of the Roman soldiers. On the other hand, Western European Jews cannot be faulted much for their concerns. Medieval Passion Plays in Catholic Europe frequently served as a pretext to stir up an anti-Jewish mob whenever the local Bishop or Prince felt that was useful. Mel Gibson*#8217;s movie recreates a Passion Play with less art and more gore.
This film may make Mr. Gibson half a billion dollars richer. I just regret having contributed.