Have you seen the trailor for Mel Gibson’s film about the last 12 hours of Christ’s life? This has been the subject of much debate, as Jewish leaders raise concerns about anti-Semitism and others respond. Here are some responses from people who have actually seen a rough cut at the behest of the New York Post, which apparently bootlegged a copy (the uniform reaction — except from the “Post reader” — was that the film unfairly portrayed Jews).

Amitai Etzioni, who has been blogging regularly on this topic, had an interesting take on this flap way back in September:

Those who will wrap themselves in the First Amendment should note that no one is arguing that the government should ban the movie — only that it is morally not right. There are many things we can say about African Americans, Jews, and for that matter about Catholics, which best remain unsaid.

While I suspect that there will be no uniform Mormon response to this film, my inclination is to agree with Etzioni.

8 comments for “Passion

  1. December 1, 2003 at 10:41 am

    I am curious as to your thoughts then on the LDS Church’s productions on Christ’s crucifixion such as The Lamb of God and others. We clearly believe, indeed the Book of Mormon teaches, that the Jewish leadership at the time of Christ was responsible for Christ’s illegal conviction and crucifixion. Of course, we don’t believe in any group guilt, but we adhere to the historical facts of His death. From my understanding, Mel Gibson has merely stuck to the historical facts as taken directly from the text of the gospels. Do religious groups who teach from the gospels threaten the world with anti-semitism?

  2. Taylor
    December 1, 2003 at 5:14 pm

    Brent writes- “the Book of Mormon teaches that Jewish leadership at the time of Christ was responsible for Christ’s illegal conviction and crucifixion.” I am not sure that the conviction was illegal, and I don’t think that the Book of Mormon teaches that (though I may be mistaken). However, this is a far cry from the ADL’s accusations about the Passion:
    “The film portrays Jewish authorities and the Jewish “mob” as forcing the decision to torture and execute Jesus, thus assuming responsibility for the crucifixion.
    The film relies on sinister medieval stereotypes, portraying Jews as blood-thirsty, sadistic and money-hungry enemies of God who lack compassion and humanity.
    The film relies on historical errors, chief among them its depiction of the Jewish high priest controlling Pontius Pilate
    The film uses an anti-Jewish account of a 19th century mystical anti-Semitic nun, distorts New Testament interpretation by selectively citing passages to weave a narrative that oversimplifies history, and is hostile to Jews and Judaism.
    The film portrays Jews who adhere to their Jewish faith as enemies of God and the locus of evil.”

    I don’t think that “informed” :) Mormons believe any of these things.

    Much of NT scholarship is looking at how the term “Ioudaioi” is used. It is often translated as “Jews,” but more often probably means “Judeans,” to refer to the people of Judea, and not all Jews (this is especially true when the Judeans cry that their blood be responsible, a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, not all Jews). It would be interesting to see if the BoM yeilds the same results. The so-called “historical facts” actually probably piont to a minimal involvement of any Jews except for a few leaders, and the death of Jesus was probably mostly a Roman affair. The blame of the Jews by both NT and BoM writers is rooted in both political and theological arguments, not historical ones. Theologically, the theme of the righteous prophet rejected by his own people is at the heart of much of OT narrative. However, this idea has an unfortunate history in our own culture, far removed from ancient Israel. We should be especially reflexive about how we use it today.

  3. December 1, 2003 at 10:15 pm

    I am aware of what the ADL claims. Unfortunately, it does not square with what those who have actually seen the film in its rough form relate. Mel Gibson and many others have stated that the movie is based almost entirely on the accounts of the gospel and the claim that the movie is based on the writings of a 19th century mystic ant-semitic nun have been refuted. I guess my main point is that the historical fact is both that those mainly responsible for Christ’s death and also his followers (and Christ himself) may properly be called Jews regardless of the definition we look to. It may be an unpleasant fact that the Jewish leadership and the “rabble” who supported them called for Christ’s execution, but it remains a fact.

  4. Jooniper
    February 26, 2004 at 7:23 pm

    I just came from a BYU religion class and my professor was one of 7 professors asked by the comunity to see the film and give an opinion. 6 to 1, the professors said they would not discourage seeing it. The one who said he would discourage it was my professor, and here were his reasons (as far as I understand):
    1) Obviously the film is gruesome and disturbing
    2)It does have some ideas in it not supported by the bible and does seem to go out of its way to play the jews (it takes the blame away from Pilate), and it has Caiaphas mocking Christ on the cross. Sounds like Gibson took some artistic license.
    The point is, so long as Mormons have a firm graps of the truth AND recognize their own sensitivites to violence (some mormons may be able to handle it, some won’t…) watching the Passion is a personal decision, and viewers can watch the film and allow it to make them think about thier own beliefs.

  5. Ben
    February 26, 2004 at 7:31 pm

    Can you tell us who the “February Seven” were Jooniper?

  6. February 26, 2004 at 7:42 pm

    “…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” –Acts 4:27-28

  7. February 26, 2004 at 8:38 pm

    Just to go with Aaron’s comments, the book of Acts does seem to take a different view with respect to the Jews. The KJV is a tad obscuring on this so I’ll quote the NIV.

    “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer.” (Acts 3:17)

  8. Anonymous
    January 2, 2005 at 3:22 am

Comments are closed.