The Passion of the Christ has caused a great deal of theological and historical questioning. What is atonement? Who is Sister Anne Emmerich? Is Mel Gibson really Catholic? Below, we've compiled a quick reference to some of the most common questions.

What is blood atonement?
In Christian thought, atonement is humanity's reconciliation with God through the sacrifice of Jesus' death. Human sin is thought to damage the relationship between people and God. In Christian thought, Jesus' death enables humanity to "get right" with God.

How does this work? Different Christian groups understand the atonement in different ways, many of which overlap. One way, the 'ransom' approach, draws on Mark 10:45, where Jesus says he gives his life as a "ransom for many." The 'Satisfaction' or 'Vicarious Atonement' approach says that Jesus' blood is payment to God for human sins. Since the penalty for sin is death, someone had to pay it; Jesus paid the debt in place of humanity, giving humans eternal life. This ties in with a view of the atonement as the fulfillment of divine justice.

Though many liberal Christians find this view's transactional language and emphasis on justice harsh, the 'vicarious atonement' view is held as truth among evangelical Protestants and other conservative Christians. A more liberal view maintains that Jesus' death was an example to his followers, not a form of blood sacrifice. Most Christians of any denomination would say Jesus' death demonstrates God's love for humankind.

Why is it called a Passion Play?
The word passion refers to Jesus' sufferings in the period following the Last Supper and including the Crucifixion, as related in the New Testament. Thus, a passion play is a spiritual drama depicting the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.

The first passion play took place in 1634 in Oberammergau, Germany. The townspeople made a vow that if they were spared Bubonic Plague, every 10 years they would create a play about the life of Christ. Over the centuries the Passion Play became a major international event, attracting thousands of people every decade from around the world.

But the passion play also has a long history of inciting anti-Semitic hatred, which is why Mel Gibson's film is creating dread among some Jews. In fact, the play's fueling of anti-Semitism culminated in Adolf Hitler's 1934 comment expressing admiration for the play: "It is vital that the Passion play be continued at Oberammergau; for never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed as in this presentation of what happened in the time of the Romans. There one sees Pontius Pilate, a Roman racially and intellectually so superior, that he stands out like a firm, clean rock in the middle of the whole muck and mire of Jewry."

Are the Stations of the Cross in the Bible?
Yes and no. The Stations of the Cross (also called the Way of the Cross, Via Crucis, and Via Dolorosa) are a devotional practice linked to a series of pictures representing scenes from Jesus' last hours. The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a "pilgrimage" to the chief scenes of Jesus' suffering and death.

The traditional Stations are: 1. Jesus is condemned to death; 2. The cross is laid upon him; 3. His first fall; 4. He meets Mary, his mother; 5. Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross; 6. His face is wiped by Veronica; 7. His second fall; 8. He meets the women of Jerusalem; 9. His third fall; 10. He is stripped of His garments; 11. He is crucified; 12. Jesus dies on the cross; 13. His body is taken down from the cross; and 14. He is laid in the tomb.