'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.

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to understand the biblical portrait of these events. You can't whitewash them. You can't go around it. This has been the debate that has existed between Christianity and Judaism for centuries. It's a difficult discussion, but it's a

real

discussion.

I actually think some of the protesting is reaching such a level that it risks exacerbating the problem rather than helping it. The suggestion I heard on TV that "this is going to lead to violence against Jews" risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not because of the film, but because of the reaction to the film.

The film is about the biblical portrayal of the difference between what became Christianity--which emerged out of Judaism-and Judaism. It's a dispute among Jews. Judaism has a strong history of disputes. You can read the Old Testament prophets, and Israel doesn't come out smelling like a rose. So this kind of religious confrontation is part of the first-century world, and it's actually been part of the biblical world. It's a world that is a little bit foreign to the modern world in that what we

try

to have is a level of tolerance in engaging each other. But sometimes that can be disingenuous, because we wash over what may be real differences in how we see things.

We're learning that lesson now in our culture with Islam. So we better learn how to talk directly about these things, instead of pretending these differences don't exist.



What is your involvement with the movie?

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[In late July,] I was contacted by someone connected with the movie. They were interested in my taking a look at the content of the film. I saw a screening in the afternoon of the same day the screening was held in Houston, where the Anti-Defamation League was present. There were about 45 people--arts people, film, and religious leaders as well.

It's somewhat unprecedented to get all this reaction to a film that actually hasn't been seen by very many people. It's still a rough cut, and they're still deciding what scenes should go in, what scenes should come out.

Were there any Jewish scholars at the Dallas screening?

No. All Christians of various sorts as far as I know, or arts and film people.

Any liberal Christians?

My guess would be no. I didn't know everyone who was there, but the bulk of people I saw would have been evangelical or Roman Catholic.

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