Scholarly Smackdown: 'The Passion' (continued)

A liberal professor and a conservative professor debate Mel Gibson's movie, the Bible, theology and more.

Click for more Scholarly Smackdown.





Dear Ben,



Thank you for your response with which, as you probably expect, I disagree rather completely. I have some idea of Mel Gibson's intention for his film because I have heard (in person), read (in transcript), and seen (on television) his own explanation of its meaning. In any case, I am judging not purpose but result, not intention but execution.

I stand by my statement that this film is far, far worse in its contrast of Roman Pilate (very good) vs. Jewish crowd (very bad) than anything in that Hitler-approved Passion play of 1930 & 1934, 1950 & 1960. I also saw Oberammergau's changed 2000 production. The Gibson film is even farther from that version's attempt at some balance for and against Jesus. That version, of course, was only changed recently because Jews and Christians protested its excesses.

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I do not question Mel Gibson's sincerity or integrity, but I repeat my "J'accuse" to his film. If this film is not anti-Semitic, I cannot imagine what an anti-Semitic drama (as distinct from statement or slur) could ever be. Ben, I have not introduced "fear" or "suspicion" or "distortion" into the discussion. All of that, and much worse, is there already in the film. I have simply called it by its proper name. In any case, you have made your position clear and I have made my own counter-position equally clear.

I now raise another question by going back once again to the gospel accounts. Josephus'

Jewish Antiquities

records that "Pilate . hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us . condemned him to be crucified" (18:63-64). The gospels agree that the top Jewish and Roman authority were involved against Jesus, but they also emphasize Pilate's reluctance to condemn a Jesus he considered to be innocent.

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