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Mel Gibson's Passion

The Film, the Controversy, and Its Implications

edited by Zev Garber

Publication Year: 2006

There is no question that the Passion is the most controversial Jesus-if not religious-movieever made. The articles...are an attempt by academics to explain why. Five essays were presentedin an earlier version at the Jewish Studies Symposium on key issues raised by The Passion of the Christ held at Purdue University on March 30, 2004 (Garber, Mork, Pawlikowski, Robertson, Young); and 15 essays (Bartchy, Edelheit, Edelman, Feldman, Golan, Greenberg, Haas, Holdredge, Jacobs, Libowitz, Moore, Neusner, Wheeler, Zuckerman) complement the Purdue Symposium. The contributors reflect on a plethora of issues, and they show that concerned andinformed Jews and Christians together can assess dis/misinformation, monitor dissent, alleviate community fears, and reassure that the solid rock of Jewish-Catholic-Protestant dialogue, though assailed, has not become chipped.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Shofar Supplements in Jewish Studies

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pp. 1-4

The unprecedented biblical-cinematic debate on the merits and demerits of Mel Gibson’s controversial Jesus movie, The Passion of the Christ, began long before its release nationwide in 2,000-plus American theaters on Ash Wednesday, February 25, 2004. A combined group of Christian and Jewish scholars convened by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Advisory ...

Section 1. Reflections on the Film

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pp. 5

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1. Review of The Passion of the Christ

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pp. 7-12

Mel Gibson has fashioned the most successful Passion play of all time. His film, The Passion of the Christ, is weak in its presentation of Jesus’ teachings, but is a powerful retelling of the Gospel stories, complete with miracles, cosmic portents, and signs—though bloody and bordering on the sadomasochistic. The film is gripping and emotionally wrenching, but it focuses one-sidedly on the ...

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2. Gibson at the Crossroads

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pp. 13-20

Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ is a cinematic tour de force which manages to humiliate both Christians and Jews. It humbles Christians by having their Christ—as well as his mother, apostles, and disciples—speak an incomprehensible Middle Eastern language, the language spoken by his people, the Jews. Jews, in turn, are embarrassed by the sight of some Jews kicking Jesus when he ...

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3. Gibson’s Passion

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pp. 21-30

Many critics claim that Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is a violent movie, whose main theme is not Christ’s vision of Christianity, but Gibson’s vision of violence for its own sake.¹ A careful viewing reinforces this impression and identifies aesthetic, contextual and format-related flaws in the film. Yet this is not all; as we examine the movie and its context more closely we find ...

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4. Where Are the Flies? Where Is the Smoke? The Real and Super-Real in Mel Gibson’s The Passion

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pp. 31-38

First of all, I have to make confession: I really did not want to see this film. I wasn’t reluctant because I thought that the message conveyed about Jews and/or Christians, ancient and/or modern, might prove “problematic” (as we scholars like to say when we want to choose a polite word for something we do not like for one reason or another). If anything, the problematic potential of ...

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5. How Austrians Viewed The Passion of the Christ

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pp. 39-44

Mel Gibson’s controversial film The Passion of the Christ hit European movie theatres six weeks after its release in the U.S. By that time, a large segment of the population was already familiar with the content, whether they read film reviews or not. This was due to the fact that all major newspapers covered the controversy in the U.S. over the movie’s potential anti-Semitism. The polemics ...

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6. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and the “Via Media”

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pp. 45-53

References to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ are plenteous on the World Wide Web and can provide college instructors from a variety of disciplines a wide range of responses suitable for classroom presentation and discussion. This range of responses can be considered a sociological phenomenon in and of itself. Particular commentaries and position papers can be used most ...

Section 2. Scriptural Jesus and Gibson’s Passion

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pp. 55

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7. The Quest of the Historical Jesus Revisited: Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ

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pp. 57-62

In the first chapter (“The Problem”) of his famous book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede, Albert Schweitzer notes, “It is no doubt interesting to trace how modern thoughts have found their way into the ancient dogmatic system, there to combine with eternal ideas to form new constructions; it is interesting to penetrate into the ...

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8. The Jewish Jesus: A Partisan’s Imagination

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pp. 63-69

My own approach to finding the historical Jesus in the text of the New Testament may appear to some as extreme. It seems to me that Mark, the earliest Gospel version on the life of Jesus compiled shortly after the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., contains authentic traces of the historical Jesus shrouded in repeated motifs of secrecy which are intended ...

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9. History, Archaeology, and Mel Gibson’s Passion

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pp. 70-75

Whatever else The Passion of the Christ is about, it is about history. Thus, it is important to examine the film from the perspective of history, and see how, and if, the film incorporates what we have come to know about that era. A great deal of progress has been made into the recovery of the first century C.E. in the last several decades, and much of it has been done by archaeologists. In ...

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10. Where Is the History in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ?

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pp. 76-92

Why has this film, which is claimed by many to be the most historically reliable presentation ever made in a movie about Jesus of Nazareth, become so controversial, so potentially dangerous in arousing anti-Jewish sentiment, and in my judgment such a betrayal of the memory of the historical Jesus ...

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11. Reflections on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ

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pp. 93-107

What we have in the film The Passion is a Passion play of the sort that used to be put on in Oberammergau and that was always an occasion not merely for the production of the play, but also for raising the population against the Jews. And I believe that the danger of such a film is tremendous, precisely because it is of the Passion play type; and this will be the most ...

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12. Crucifixion in Rabbinic Context: Juridical or Theological?

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pp. 108-113

How people view the death penalty governs their reading of the Passion narratives. The prevailing picture is simple and secular. Execution after trial and conviction represents a legal punishment after an unjust trial—pure and simple. Jesus was tried for a crime, found guilty, and executed. Reading the execution as penalty for a crime does not accommodate the next chapter in the story. The ...

Section 3. Diversity and Dialogue

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pp. 115

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13. Dramatizing the Passion: From Oberammergau to Gibson

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pp. 117-123

In 1633 the village of Oberammergau, in the Bavarian Alps, fell victim to the plague. It seemed to the village elders that their community would be wiped out by the sudden onslaught of the feared disease. Therefore they gathered beneath the crucifix of the parish church and prayerfully swore that if God would protect them from further depredations of the plague, they would perform the ...

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14. Deicide Déjà Vu: Mel Gibson’s Film The Passion—An Attack on Forty Years of Jewish-Christian Dialogue

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pp. 124-128

It is now four decades after “Nostra Aetate” and a few years after both A Sacred Obligation: Rethinking Christian Faith in Relation to Judaism and the Jewish People and Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity. In addition, the Scholar’s Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches has for more than thirty years now been a positive force for Jewish-Christian dialogues in both ...

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15. Gibson’s Passion: The Challenges for Catholics

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pp. 129-133

A contemporary film on Christian anti-Semitism terms this centuries-long disease within the church as a “shadow” on the cross. Recent Catholic documents have spoken in even stronger language. In 1989 the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace at the Vatican issued a major document on racism in which it clearly placed anti-Semitism high on its list of continuing manifestations of ...

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16. Gibson’s Passion on a Catholic Campus

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pp. 134-139

Saint Joseph’s University, a Jesuit institution of higher education, occupies a 43-acre campus at the extreme western edge of Philadelphia, abutting the affluent suburban “Main Line.” While offering graduate degrees in business and education, its primary student clientele consists of approximately 4,000 undergraduates, the majority of whom have matriculated from homes within one hundred ...

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17. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ: A Protestant Perspective

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pp. 140-143

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is a film. This has two meanings for the essay response that I am writing. First, it is merely a film and not any more. Thus, any analysis of the film requires a general sense of popular culture and how such films impact the popular mind. Second, it is a film of the Passion story and is in this way like so many other films and forms of presenting this ...

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18. Jewish “Officialdom” and The Passion of the Christ: Who Said What and What Did They Say?

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pp. 144-153

Among the falsely perceived myths, not only of this historical American Jewish experience but the contemporary one as well, is that of a singular American Jewish community, seemingly united by such common factors as religious faith and belief; love of and support for a continuously beleaguered State of Israel; higher educational agendas for the young; support for defensive organizations ...

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19. A View from the Pew on Gibson’s Passion

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pp. 154-158

By the time this book is published Gibson’s once front-page-news movie may have the lingering interest most front-page stories retain. The heavy publicity preceding the movie’s release, and the record ticket sales in the early showing, which are the kind of details often catching the media’s ephemeral fascination, do not completely overshadow the issues that arise from the composition, film-...

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20. The Passion of the Christ and Congregational Interfaith Relations

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pp. 159-163

By the time you read this we will be in the midst of the next installment of how The Passion will impact Jewish-Christian relations since the DVD was released on August 31, 2004. As of this writing you can find competing discounts for as low as $17.50 and bulk orders through churches are going to boost sales even before it is released. Mel Gibson’s violent, darkly personal interpretation of the ...


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pp. 165-175


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pp. 177-180


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pp. 181-184

E-ISBN-13: 9781612490106
E-ISBN-10: 1612490107
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557534057
Print-ISBN-10: 1557534055

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Shofar Supplements in Jewish Studies