'You Can't Whitewash the Events of the Bible'

Mel Gibson's movie 'The Passion' is faithful to scripture, and that's why critics are angry, says a Bible scholar.

New Testament scholar Darrell Bock recently spoke with Beliefnet about Mel Gibson's film "The Passion," which dramatizes the last hours of Jesus. Critics--including Catholic biblical scholars and the Anti-Defamation League--have raised concerns about the movie's historicity and its portrayal of Jewish authorities. Bock saw a rough cut of the film in late August.

What is your analysis of the controversy over "Passion"?

The controversy is not about the film. It's about the content--the biblical portrait of the Passion. The gospel accounts agree that the Jewish leadership with Pilate are ultimately responsible for Jesus' death. They agree that Pilate had the technical final decision. But they also suggest that Pilate's sensitivities would not have risen to the level they did had it not been for the relationship and influence of the Jewish leadership.

It's not an attempt to blame all Jews. It's an attempt to historically explain what put Jesus on the cross. Jesus was put on the cross for what was fundamentally a dispute with Judaism about who he was, according to the biblical portrait.

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What you have going on with some of the scholarship is a reflection of a kind of critical/skeptical reading of the biblical accounts. These people are claiming to be historical critics and being very careful about the history on one hand, but they're also reading these accounts very skeptically on the other.

There's another kind of conservatism that claims not to be quite so skeptical about the quality of the accounts. Those people, the second group-critical, not skeptical-would look at this film and say "I think it's fundamentally biblical." I think I heard a quote from someone yesterday, a Catholic, who said, "If this film really were anti-Semitic, I'd complain about it but I won't because basically it's fundamentally biblical."

If you're going to understand the discussion going on between Christianity and Judaism over the centuries, you

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