'The Passion': What's Not in the Bible?

Because scripture is silent on certain details, Mel Gibson drew from extrabiblical sources to craft his 'Passion.'

BY: the Beliefnet Staff

 
The complete version of this article is available in Beliefnet's The Passion Papers.

"I wanted to be true to the Gospels," Gibson has said of his goals in creating "The Passion of the Christ." In an introduction to a book about his movie, he wrote, "Holy Scripture and accepted visions of the Passion were the only possible texts I could draw from to fashion a dramatic film."



But because scripture is silent on certain details of the Passion, several scenes in the movie aren't found in the Bible. Many of Gibson's additions are quite plausible embellishments of brief biblical mentions. Some came from other religious sources, like the visions of the mystic nuns

Sister Anne Emmerich

and

Mary of Agreda

. And a few scenes, apparently, are inventions--often artistically daring ones.



It's hard to divine a pattern from the portions that were added. Some seem to highlight the Jewishness of Jesus and his family. For example, at one point when Jesus is first being beaten, Mary awakens, as if from a nightmare. Sensing Jesus' pain, she says, in Hebrew, "Why is this night unlike any other night?" This is a famous part of the Jewish liturgy for Passover, the season during which Jesus was crucified. Other added scenes seem to make Caiaphas more villainous and Pontius Pilate more sympathetic. Still others just seem to make for a more dramatic narrative.



Below are both Bible citations and nonbiblical sources for selected movie scenes.



Jesus prays in Gethsemane

Bible references:

Mt 26:36-46; Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-46


In the movie but not the Bible:

Satan watches as Jesus prays (Jesus' prayers are drawn from the Psalms); Satan tempts Jesus, saying "Do you really believe one man can carry this burden? ...saving their souls is too costly;" Satan sends a snake to bite Jesus; Jesus crushes the snake's head in an allusion to Genesis 3:15.



Source:

Many movie details relating to Satan are drawn from Sister Anne Emmerich's visions, recorded in "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ." In "The Dolorous Passion," Satan says to Jesus, "Takest thou even this sin upon thyself? Art thou willing to bear its penalty? Art thou prepared to satisfy for all these sins?" Emmerich also envisioned "the serpent ...This odious reptile of gigantic size" in Gethsemane.

Other considerations:

"The Dolorous Passion" spends much time on Gethsemane and draws many Adam-Christ/Eve-Mary parallels. The book also refers to the serpent later in the narrative, when Jesus is near death and is entrusting Mary to John's care. "It did not appear to me in the least surprising that Jesus should call the Blessed Virgin `Woman, instead of `Mother.' I felt that he intended to demonstrate that she was that woman spoken of in Scripture who was to crush the head of the serpent, and that then was the moment in which that promise was accomplished in the death of her Son."




Payment to people to come to courtyard

Bible references:

Matthew 26:59-60


In the movie but not the Bible:

In a very brief scene, money is seen changing hands, with the implication that people are being paid to testify against Jesus. This probably refers to Matthew 26, which says "The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death." But no money is mentioned in the gospels.

Other sources:

"The Dolorous Passion" says "The High Priests now sent for those whom they knew to be the most bitterly opposed to Jesus, and desired them to assemble the witnesses ...The proud Sadducees ...whom Jesus had so often reproved before the people, were actually dying for revenge. They hastened to all the inns to seek out those persons whom they knew to be enemies of our Lord, and offered them bribes in order to secure their appearance."




Arrest of Jesus, Malchus' ear healed

Bible references:

Jn 18; Lk 22; Mt 26:52


In the movie but not the Bible:

Before the guards approach, Jesus tells some of his apostles "I don't want them to see me this way," referring to other apostles; when Jesus, in chains, is being led away, he falls and dangles from a wall. As he dangles, Jesus and Judas face each other.


Mary's reaction to Jesus' suffering


In the movie but not the Bible:

As Jesus is being tortured in Gethsemane, Mary awakens in her home and says, "What makes this night different from all other nights?" -- a reference to the Jewish Passover liturgy.

Other sources:

"The Dolorous Passion" says that "During this agony of Jesus, I saw the Blessed Virgin also overwhelmed with sorrow and anguish of soul... I saw these interior movements of her soul towards Jesus... I beheld the spiritual communication which they had with each other." Mary of Agreda, a Spanish nun, also saw visions of Mary. Her

Mystical City of God

relates that Mary sensed Jesus' pain even when far away from him. However, neither nun references the Passover liturgy.


Jesus comes before Jewish leaders at temple locale


Bible references:

Mt 26:57; Mk 14:53; Lk 22:54; Jn 18:13


In the movie but not the Bible:

Mary, Jesus' mother, and Mary Magdalene are depicted as standing among the soldiers. In the Gospels, they don't appear until much later in the narrative.

Other sources:

"The Dolorous Passion" describes how "Mary, with Magdalen, John, and the holy women, stood in a corner of the forum, trembling and weeping." The "City of God" says Mary witnessed many pre-crucifixion events either in the flesh or in visions.


Pontius Pilate's wife advises Pilate

Bible references:

Mt 27:19


In the movie but not the Bible:

The Bible references Pilate's wife only once, and not by name; she sends her husband a message about Jesus saying, "Have nothing to do with this righteous man--I have suffered much in a dream because of him." In the film, Pilate and his wife have several conversations about what he should do.



Other sources:

Sister Anne Emmerich's "Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ" describes interactions between Pilate and his wife, who is depicted as a sympathetic proto-Christian character.

Mary of Agreda's "City of God" attributes more mercenary motives to Pilate's wife: "Despairing of success, the demons betook themselves to the wife of Pilate and spoke to her in dreams, representing to her that this Man was just and without guilt, that if her husband should sentence Him he would be deprived of his rank and she herself would meet with great adversity."

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