|Passion Play - Destiner Press Topics|
"Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death...Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom
you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (The apostle Peter,
addressing the crowds of religious pilgrims in Jerusalem, Acts 2:23,26)
At the request of a friend who wanted my opinion, I once sat through The Passion Of Christ, the Mel Gibson production, which I would not have bothered to see otherwise. Here is my critique, which I have been persuaded to share because of the film's continuing popularity and because of the noteworthy number of errors in it (both mistakes and very purposeful inaccuracies) which will be listed and explained in detail below.
Very soon into the movie I found that, in order to keep up with jotting copious notes regarding its historical inaccuracies and grossly misleading suggestions of facts, I had to use the pause button frequently. Afterward I reflected on what had made the film so popular with Christians. Well, for a start, it is full of historical inaccuracies and additions.
From the very beginning of their cult, Christians have tried to monkey with Scripture. That is what the early apocryphal writings were all about, Christians trying to alter or add to the eye-witness accounts by the original apostles, throwing in anything - the Madonna worship so beloved in the pagan traditions, fetishes about Mary Magdalene, and extra stories about the acts of Jesus and the apostles that read like inane fairy tales. Christians lapped it up. They still do. (See: The Truth Which Sets Free, Chapter 5)
The hi-jinks that these early churchmen got into were no different than many of the antics we see in Christianity today, especially in Orthodox cults and Roman Catholicism, and particularly in the depiction of the suffering Messiah in passion plays held at Easter (the festival of the goddess Ishtar). Instead of the full account of Christ's life, we have this one section of it pulled out and literally beaten to death. Christ is subjected to endless and repetitive suffering, and the Madonna is slipped into the picture in increasing importance. That is why the Christ of Catholicism is still nailed to the cross. That is why the crucifix is so venerated. That is why Mary is elevated to a position never ascribed to her in the Word of God. That is why the Sacrifice of the Mass is perpetual, and so deadly. (See: The Truth Which Sets Free, Chapter 10)
The New Testament Book of Hebrews is a must in reading if you wish to see through this Christian travesty and the superstitions of churchdom. Hebrews proclaims the completed work of Christ in ransoming his elect in a once and for all time sacrifice; final, finished, over and done. The elect have a remembrance that has nothing to do with these Christian passion floggathons, and they have been noticeably absent from these make-believe performances throughout history. These fictional re-enactments are the inventions of Christians, not the elect. No original disciples mention any such make-believe festivities, nor would they have taken part in them.
Elect sheep are not called to recall their Redeemer as a bloody pulp walking the streets of Jerusalem (or Mexico City or anywhere else) every year, or constantly hanging on a crucifix in some dank house of death called a church. But that image is exactly what has been injected into the souls of millions of goats snared by Christianity. This should not be the case for the elect. As such we remember him no longer, because ever since that event long ago, and right now, the Son of God sits at the right hand of the Father in full power and majesty. If you want an elect view of Christ from an original, then read Ephesians Chapter 1.
Gibson's movie has next to nothing regarding the resurrection. That is not surprising. Roman Catholics have a big problem with the real status of the risen Christ. They prefer the risen Mary (fictitiously ascended into heaven from the city of Ephesus) and Christ still nailed to the cross or reduced in some manner that makes him very secondary to the "Mother of God."
The remarkable number of errors in this film is by no means accidental, for this is very distinctly a Catholic work of art. Right from the beginning we have a doubting Christ in the garden, literally making a plea for his Father to rise up in His Son's defense. Utter garbage. The Lord made no such petition; he said exactly the opposite thing. (Matthew 26:52-54) He had already declared to his disciples at supper that night, and many times beforehand, his relentless intention to meet his destiny without fail.
Yes, it was a terrible prospect that had him sweat blood, but it was for his disciples' sake that he prayed aloud, that if there was any other way, if it was possible for this appointed cup of wrath to be by-passed, to make it so. He knew very well it could not be so, and proclaimed it throughout his teaching. (e.g. Matthew 26:2; Luke 24:7) Note: if you do not really understand the electrifying reason why there was no other way for this Shepherd to secure his elect, given to him by his Father even before they created the world, then read God & Evil on this website. To have Christ plead for his own rescue would lower him to the status of a major prophet, great but nevertheless flawed in faith, like John the Baptist, doubting God while imprisoned at the end of his life. (Matthew 11:2) And this is one of the devious undertones contained in most passion plays, the subtle diminishing of Christ rather than his exaltation.
The Madonna figure also makes an astonishingly early entry in Gibson's version. There was no snake in the garden for Jesus to stamp upon, and there was no woman there to watch him do it. This is exactly the kind of nonsense that the apocryphal writers felt at liberty to invent. No eyewitness account has any woman at all in Gethsemane that night. Neither does any Scriptural account say that he was hit by the Jewish temple guards during his arrest, as he was repeatedly struck in this film, let alone preposterously hung on a chain from a rampart. He was simply bound and taken into custody, much like the police would do their job today with handcuffs, and in this constrained state he was later sent onward to Pilate. (John 18:12,24; Matthew 27:2)
There was a brief scuffle with the apostles at Gethsemane, but no mention of anyone hitting Jesus himself. It is hardly credible that these guards would have agitated this difficult situation with such a popular teacher who had done nothing wrong and whom they knew they were arresting illegally at night precisely because of the fear of public reaction had it been done by day. It was a situation that could have exploded or backfired very badly on them. They had no idea what lay ahead. They simply followed orders and took him in. His mistreatment actually began at the trial, at the hands of judges and churchmen supposedly versed in the law, abuse that began in earnest after he was condemned for the alleged blasphemy of declaring himself LORD. He had already told the guards that he was the I AM at his arrest, and rather than hitting him they were the ones to be struck, falling backwards at these words, a detail of his power significantly omitted from the film. (John 18:4-6)
His subsequent scourging by the Roman guards was grossly overdone and over-extended, no doubt to sate Catholic passion frenzy, which you will appreciate if you have witnessed Christians bloodying themselves in self-agitated distress in Easter processions, especially in Third World countries. A Roman scourging was severe to be sure, but there is nothing to suggest that Jesus received an extraordinary dose. This scourging or "chastisement" actually receives very scant mention in each of the Scriptural accounts, appearing in some almost incidentally, in a single sentence about something else. (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:22; John 19:1) It is not mentioned again in any of the following books of the entire New Testament. Put simply, the apostles did not dwell on it. But Christians love to dwell on it, and stretch it to the utmost.
There was no Madonna present at that flogging. It is absurd to suppose that any Jewish women (or men for that matter) somehow slipped into the Roman praetorium (palace-fortress) at a time when Rome was stamping out any form of insurrection in the Jews, and especially on that day of turmoil with crowds on the edge of rioting. (Matthew 27:24) They had no more chance of getting in there than a mother would get into a police station on high alert today to witness her son being beaten inside. Peter made it as far as the high priest's house before being discovered (Luke 22:54-56) but not into the Roman fortress where governor Pontius Pilate later questioned Jesus. Not even the pious priests thirsting for Christ's death entered the praetorium that day; they shouted their accusations from outside. (John 18:28) The only other Jews likely to have been in the praetorium would have been servants or prisoners like Barabbas.
But in Gibson's movie we again see Mother Mary materializing behind the scenes, speaking words of wisdom, as she is usually portrayed in the Catholic view, in preparation for her big church role in the foreground afterward. This is all fictional rubbish. She did not miraculously appear in the praetorium any more than she was at Jesus' arrest, and all we know of her after the crucifixion is that she was looked after by the apostle John, as requested by Christ of his best friend. (John 19:26,27) From this it can be reasonably assumed that her husband, Joseph, was dead and that Jesus preferred John as her caretaker to any of the children Mary bore Joseph by normal sexual intercourse and natural birth. (Mark 6:3, Matthew 12: 46-47) This is another aspect that Catholics rigorously avoid in their fixation with a "perpetual virgin" Mary. She was no such thing, and after Christ's resurrection Mary had no important role amongst the elect; she disappears off the map without further mention.
The taunting of Judas likewise has no foundation in Scripture. Whatever terrible anguish he felt upon the growing realization of the nature of his sin, and the punishment for it as foretold to him by Jesus himself, that he was the ordained betrayer and it would be better if he had never been born, was more than enough for him to take his own life. (Matthew 26:23,24; Luke 22:22; John 6:64,71; 13:11,18,27) His suicide is little more than a footnote in the Word (Matthew 27:5) but in this film we must sit through another exercise in prolonged and frenetic torment, with Gibson throwing in some deranged and deformed children to help raise the level of angst, a fictional addition that is just plain silly. What child ever had time to learn of Judas betrayal a few hours earlier, or harass him for it? He threw down the blood money at the priests' feet and went and hung himself while Jesus was facing Pontius Pilate, that very morning.
Then comes the carrying of the
crucifix, which was probably a single stake, not a cross (that symbol so
precious to pagans, but that is another subject) and the ridiculous soap opera with Simon of
Cyrene. Simon merits just one sentence in three of the Scriptural accounts
(Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) and these state that he carried it
for Jesus and behind Jesus. They did not carry it together.
Jesus was obviously weakened from the scourging so Simon was pressed into service without any note of his reaction or
any dialogue. He was most likely terrified. But here he repeatedly has face to
face revelations with Christ, and lots to say, worthy of any apocryphal
fable. And the soldiers are still whipping Jesus during this entire
procession, another fiction. No Scripture records his being hit even once as he walked to Golgotha, and that was a short distance outside the city, nothing like this protracted sufferathon.
It was at this point of the film that my mere irritation at its fictional additions, like the girl with the water and and cloth coming to Christ's aid, turned to the same kind of revulsion that I have experienced when seeing Third World Christian processions at Easter, the uneducated masses sucked into a festival of affliction, hungry for anguish, attended and led by their equally superstitious priests. Add to this the truly horrible church music, that eerie mix of organ dirge and new wave banshee lamentation that Hollywood rolls out for epics like Gladiator, and the picture's manipulative soundtrack is complete.
The few flashbacks afforded to other events in the life of Christ show us either completely fictional scenes or a lovey-dovey Jesus, not the Christ who repeatedly ripped the teachings of the churchmen to shreds, the prime reason why they plotted to kill him. We see nothing of the Lord who rebuked his surrogate mother, who like most of the disciples, usually did not understand what was going on at the time, (John 2:4, 12:16, 16:12: Luke 9:44,45; 18:31-34) or the Lord who admonished those with a leaning toward blessed mother-worship, holy families and goddess breast fetishes that were immensely popular in that day and age. (Luke 11:27,28) Nor do we see the Mary who was obviously stunned and very likely speechless (no words are recorded) at the violent execution of Jesus.
Instead we have a Mary with rather corny dialogue (additions to Scripture usually are) who refers to the "heart of my heart" (if you know about the popular fetish of sacred heart worship then you will understand that Catholic insertion) and who desires to die with Christ. This is an extremely clever twist, considering the Catholic elevation of her to the flawless (immaculate) Savioress and Mediatrix who participates in atonement for sin and divine mediation. This was a crucial dogma in the Mother and Child worship concocted by early Christians, Christ becoming ever smaller in stature, even held as a perpetual infant, with the perfectly sinless Mother goddess in charge. This became one of the most revered idols of Christianity, and remains so. The recently deceased pope of Rome (the one with whom Mel Gibson visited to exchange blessings) is buried under such an image of the goddess he adored.
I have read and seen many accounts of the death of Christ that have moved me to tears, but this one left me cold, even disgusted, feeling no connection between this main character and the One whom I know to be the Lord of the universe. The historical fictions and liberties taken with the truth left me vexed, and the continual sacrifice of this particular mass was so flogged to death it simply left me numb. As for the hermaphrodite Lucifer in the background, well, no comment. But I can certainly see its appeal as classic Christian fodder.
If Christ came today in the same manner he would no doubt be likewise crucified by churchmen to shut him up, and then they would celebrate endless passion plays about what happened, in complete denial that they were the very ones who did it to him. (See the texts from the Book of Acts above, which put the responsibility of this crime squarely on the religious shoulders of those who thought they knew God.) But the Lord will not return like that, neither will those who remain in love with churchdom survive his coming, and there will be no more passion plays.
If you want to view a reasonable cinematic account of the life of Christ then it is probably better to see a version not made by a Christian director or producer. It is more likely to stick to the script. The Gospel According To Matthew, by Pier Pasolini, is far better at following the original story than any church-made effort, and it does not limit itself to a passion play. Pasolini was a homosexual and had communist affiliations, so his film was a surprise to both friends and critics who expected an aberration of the Scriptures. Pasolini even dedicated the movie to the pope, but this was a diplomatic move. He would have been well aware of what repercussions the true depiction of the priests in Matthew's account might bring, and Rome has had a long history of executing "heretics" with papal blessing. Pier Pasolini was found mysteriously murdered on a vacant beach lot north of Rome, and despite efforts to first put the blame on a boy and later three thugs, the culprits and reasons for his death remain obscure and unsolved.
His low-budget film, with few special effects, employing friends and family in the cast, has an air of gritty reality that no Hollywood production has ever managed to capture. I know many Christians who hate it. Christ is, as predicted by the prophet (Isaiah 53:2), not good-looking, having that ordinariness that required Judas to identify him to the guards at his arrest. Mary actually ages convincingly (the old Mary is Pasolini's mother) a reality that Catholics strive to avoid in the imagery of their perpetual goddess. Judas is well portrayed, as are most of the disciples. The film's understated black and white documentary style helps give it a ring of truth, and its depiction of Christ chastising the devious churchmen (so prominent throughout Matthew's account) establishes the premise for the priests' quest for vengeance. The death penalty scenes are not dragged out but are enough to be compelling. The film correctly ends with the elevation of Christ to his present status.
The inherent problem with most Christian passions, besides their inevitable Mariolatry, is that they skip the whole story, which is exactly what they are designed to do. If they have any common thread it is their striking resemblance to the long, drawn out processions and lamentation rites celebrating the deaths of a multitude of pagan deities, especially the weeping for the Babylonian god Tammuz, held in Jerusalem at Ishtar (Easter) time. This is no mere coincidence. Christianity is a resurrection, not of Christ but of neo-paganism, and it has been so from the beginning of its earliest cults which appeared even while some of the original apostles were still alive. This is an epic story spanning thousands of years and it eclipses every insignificant passion play. If you are not aware of this; if you do not know about the many fraudulent "sons of god" and "mothers of god" and you have never examined the historical facts of how the early sects called Christians absorbed all these pagan traditions into their "new" religion, then now is the time to find out all about this massive deception in The Truth Which Sets Free and The Dark Powers That Bind.