Sunday, March 07, 2004

A very interesting review by Charles Krauthammer of Mel Gibson's "Passion". He notes that:
In none of the Gospels does the high priest Caiaphas stand there with his cruel, impassive fellow priests witnessing the scourging. In Gibson's movie they do. When it comes to the Jews, Gibson deviates from the Gospels -- glorying in his artistic vision -- time and again. He bends, he stretches, he makes stuff up. And these deviations point overwhelmingly in a single direction -- to the villainy and culpability of the Jews.

The most subtle, and most revolting, of these has to my knowledge not been commented upon. In Gibson's movie, Satan appears four times. Not one of these appearances occurs in the four Gospels. They are pure invention. Twice, this sinister, hooded, androgynous embodiment of evil is found . . . where? Moving among the crowd of Jews. Gibson's camera follows close up, documentary style, as Satan glides among them, his face popping up among theirs -- merging with, indeed, defining the murderous Jewish crowd. After all, a perfect match: Satan's own people.


When I saw the film last week that's one of the things I noticed -- Satan moving among the Jewish crowd. It reminded me of John 8:44. This is part of a long dialogue between Jesus and "the Jews" (as they are styled in this gospel; the other gospels are more nuanced, mentioning the priests, the scribes, or the Pharisees). John 8:42-44 reads, "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. Your are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.'" In John's gospel, unbelieving Jews (as opposed to the Johannine community) are identified with the devil by Jesus' own words. I think it could be argued that this is where Mel Gibson got the idea to have Satan mingling with the Jewish crowd.

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