If I were to describe Mel Gibson's Movie, The Passion of the Christ, in one word, that word would be "intense." The movie, The Passion, is the most emotionally intense movie I have ever seen. If you are like me, you will experience fear, disgust, surprise, and shock. You will also spend much of the movie crying - even if you are like me - one of those unemotional science-types.
Is the movie faithful to the gospels?
The movie begins in the garden of Gethsemane. Satan makes his appearance early, and plays a much larger role than that portrayed in the gospels themselves. Even so, Gibson's literal fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 is quite striking.1 The cinematography is exceptional, but disappears through the intensity of the drama portrayed. The dialog is spoken in the original languages of the time - Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew - with English subtitles. Although the movie "officially" covers only the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus, viewers get a more complete picture of Jesus' ministry and purpose - His passion - through flashbacks. For the Christian, the flashbacks are familiar stories from the New Testament that present the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. Those unfamiliar with the New Testament may get somewhat lost during a some of the flashbacks. So, if you take a non-Christian to the movie, ask him if he had any questions about parts of the movie. A summary of the scenes, characters, and flashbacks and their significance can be found at Movie Guide for The Passion- Questions and Answers.
The scourging scene is the most emotional and most difficult to watch. Mel Gibson portrays the sadistic evil of the Roman penalizers in gruesome detail. The scene will make shivers run up and down your spine. At the end, there was blood everywhere. Even the religious leaders who wanted Jesus executed looked horrified at the degree of Roman cruelty. One often sees some sort of disclaimer to the effect that no animals were injured in the making of a movie. It would seem that this movie should have had a disclaimer about no actors being injured in the making of The Passion of The Christ.
Although Mel Gibson is a conservative Roman Catholic, The Passion of the Christ is quite true to the gospel narrative, with little added tradition (with the exception of the wife of Pontius Pilate, and some other minor additions). The dialogue is almost word for word from the gospels themselves. Mel Gibson has done an excellent job integrating the four gospels into one coherent storyline that flows from beginning to end.
Is The Passion of the Christ anti-Semitic? No! If anything, one would have to say that the film is anti-Roman. For more details, see Anti-Semitism in Mel Gibson's Movie The Passion?
Is the violence in the movie faithful to history?
A number of years ago, a medical doctor wrote an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the physical death of Jesus Christ.2 The article examined the historical practices of the Romans regarding crucifixion. All the practices mentioned in the gospels were confirmed through the historical information available. Therefore, the violence, although extreme, is most likely an accurate portrayal of first century Roman criminal "justice."
Who should see this movie?
I would recommend that every adult Christian see the movie, The Passion of the Christ. The movie brings the death of Jesus from the safe pages of scripture and theology to the reality of life. All the sanitized movies about Jesus and His death pale in comparison to the reality of the actual events, which are brought forth in vivid realism in The Passion. The movie isn't easy to watch, but it will move you profoundly. When I watched the movie, the entire theater was absolutely silent at the end of the movie - one could hear the sound of air moving through the ventilation system. The Passion will give you a better appreciation of the real cost of redemption paid by God's Son.
Should non-Christians or atheists see the movie? Having been an agnostic for many years before becoming a Christian, I would say that I would probably have gone to see the movie even as an agnostic to see what all the fuss was about. Even if you don't believe in Jesus, the movie has some redeeming aspects for you. The cinematography is excellent, along with the sets, costumes, music, etc. However, even if you think you can handle the violence, you will be disturbed by it. I have corresponded with some atheists who have seen the movie, and they were so disturbed by the violence that they missed much of the storyline. It is almost impossible not to become emotionally involved with the characters. If you are a non-believer and go to see the movie, e-mail me to let me know what you thought of the movie.
The movie is not suitable for young children. There were some children in the theater, who were terrified and crying during the movie. Don't take your young children to see it. In addition, unless they are excellent readers, they will miss much of the story because of the subtitles. Teenage children might be able to watch, if they are sufficiently mature. We are debating about taking our eldest son, 12-year old, Matthew, but will probably buy the video and show it to him later.
- Anti-Semitism in Mel Gibson's Movie The Passion- Is the Bible Anti-Semitic?
- Movie Guide for The Passion of the Christ- Questions and Answers
- Edwards, W.D., W.J. Gabel, and F.E. Hosmer. 1986. On
the Physical Death of Jesus Christ. JAMA
Copyright ©, 1986, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
- And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15)
- Edwards, W.D., W.J. Gabel, and F.E. Hosmer. 1986. On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ. JAMA 255:1455-1463.
We are what we think.
- 09/27/2016 10:00 AM
Reflections on Social Media: Is Digital Networking a Good Phenomenon? Part 2
It seems a safe assumption that all new technologies—from cell phones to social media—present its users with both positive and negative possibilities. The challenge resides in learning how to manage the technology so one maximizes the positives and minimizes the negatives. How can we do this for the emerging and enormously popular phenomenon known as social media? In this second article (see…
- 09/20/2016 07:00 AM
Reflections on Social Media: Is Digital Networking a Good Phenomenon? Part 1
In July 2016, the Facebook Messenger app marked the amazing milestone of having 1 billion daily active users.1 And Twitter now claims 313 million monthly active users.2 There are also numerous other social networking sites that are extremely popular, including YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram, etc.3 Since social media doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, I have decided to write a couple…
- 09/13/2016 01:31 PM
Lessons About Evil: Reflections on the Movie Anthropoid
Reinhard Heydrich (1904–1942) was a Nazi leader who impressed Adolf Hitler with his unbridled brutality. Historians consider Heydrich to be the central mastermind of the greatest state-sponsored crime in history—the Holocaust. As an evil genius, he planned the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews and 5 million other non-Jewish victims totaling a staggering 11 million people. Heydrich’s ruthless cruelty earned him such ominous…
- 09/06/2016 07:00 AM
A Review of Patterns of Evidence
In his film Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, documentary filmmaker Timothy Mahoney recreates his search for the historical truth behind the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. I previewed this film at a theatrical release in February 2015. The documentary is now widely available for rent and purchase, and I’ve noticed that it’s been getting some promotion within the Christian apologetics community…
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- 08/30/2016 07:00 AM
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Irenaeus
Irenaeus was one of the first Christians to defend the faith against Gnosticism, but what exactly did he believe and what else did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Irenaeus—and why he still matters today. Who Was Irenaeus? Irenaeus (c. 130–202) was a Greek thinker who was born in Asia Minor to…
- 08/23/2016 07:00 AM
The Image of God Gives All Human Life Value
Lethal acts of terrorism, controversial police shootings, and attacks upon law enforcement officers have left many unsettled in America. These horrific public killings cause many to wonder whose lives really matter in life. So do all human lives have value? And, if so, on what basis do they carry worth? Without debating the controversial social and political issues involved, I…
- 08/16/2016 07:00 AM
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on John Calvin
John Calvin was one of the great voices of the Protestant Reformation, but what exactly did he believe, and what else did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of John Calvin—and why he still matters today. Who Was John Calvin? John Calvin (1509–1564) was born in Noyon, Picardy, France, to a devoted…
- 08/09/2016 07:01 AM
Apologetics Strategies: How to Select Resources to Give to Nonbelievers
Last year, I wrote two articles outlining basic strategies for engaging in evangelistic conversations with scientists and informed hobbyists who have more knowledge or education than you in a particular field (part 1 and part 2). One of the recommendations I made was to share resources with nonbelievers. But what should you look for when selecting a resource to…
- 08/02/2016 07:00 AM
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Martin Luther
Martin Luther is famous for posting his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg and for attempting to reform the Catholic Church, but what exactly did he believe, and what else did he contribute to Christendom? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther—and why he still matters today. Who Was…
- 07/26/2016 07:00 AM
How a Christian Worldview Influenced America’s Founding Fathers
Today I offer an article by guest author Andrew Stebbins. *** It might be fair to say that most Americans tend to take our freedom for granted. We forget that our freedom was hard-won and is not guaranteed. In fact, the liberties we cherish are privileges not many societies enjoy. Tyranny, in its many guises, is the historical norm. In truth,…
Last Modified August 15, 2004