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© 2004, Elizabeth McDonald & Dusty Peterson,  Bayith Ministries www.bayith.org  email: bayith@blueyonder.co.uk  You are very welcome to make copies of this article for personal research or for free distribution by print or email, but please respect our conditions that the content remains intact (including this copyright statement); that no misleading impression is given that we are necessarily associated with or endorse the distributor; and that proper reference is made to the title and author.  Website owners are encouraged to link to this page, but you must not incorporate this article into your own website without our prior written consent.  Thank you and bless you.

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The Passion of The Christ
10 things you really need to know about this film!

by Elizabeth McDonald and Dusty Peterson
27 March 2004.  Last updated 30 May 2004

 

 

Numerous very good articles have been written about Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of The Christ and so, rather than reinventing the wheel, we have simply listed our ‘Top Ten’ aspects of the film below, along with at least one reference to an article covering each point in more depth:

  

(1)  AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EVANGELISM

Mel Gibson's production company markets The Passion of the Christ as "perhaps the best outreach opportunity in 2000 years", and church leaders around the globe are seeing the film as:

"one of the most powerful evangelistic tools of the last 100 years" [Greg Laurie, Harvest Crusades].

It is perfectly understandable that believers would not want to miss any opportunity to bring the Gospel to the lost, and it is true there are some reports of people joining the Catholic Church due to The Passion, while at least one US Baptist church has polled "scores of moviegoers" and asked them to "commit themselves to Christ".  Sadly, though, 'joining the church' or 'making a decision for Christ' does not always mean the person has truly been born-again.  Although interviews with unsaved Passion-goers show that many of them are "deeply moved" by the film, few of them actually reveal any signs of biblical conviction of sin, repentance, and salvation.

"Gibson said, 'I want to inspire and make people feel.' He's certainly achieved that. He has created a film that is moving and heart-rending. Who would NOT be moved to tears, seeing a loving and gracious person like Jesus rejected, whipped and crucified? Movie-goers are bound to feel sad, guilty, stunned and even shocked - but are any of these feelings true repentance and will they lead to accepting the Risen Christ by faith?" [Tricia Tillin].

A point worth considering is that made in the UK newspaper The Christian Herald:

"Many people have come to Christ through lousy preaching, but just because people can be saved through bad preaching doesn't mean to say we should endorse it" [Roy McLoughry, Christian Herald].

In other words, even if this film were the most powerful evangelistic tool ever it does not necessarily follow that God wants us to take people to it.  We must certainly be ready to bring the Gospel to those who have seen The Passion, just as we would want to bring the Gospel to the unsaved if we suddenly discovered that the plane we were in was about to crash, but this is not the same thing as pro-actively using the film to preach the Gospel, as many evangelicals are advocating we do.  Very worryingly, some believers are actually reporting significant damage to their minds and prayer life through seeing The Passion:

"I was very disturbed by the movie in many ways that I didn't realise right away. The images are burned deeply into your mind. ... It plays on your emotions and your mind, which I thought I could handle. I was wrong. ... By viewing this movie, I have suffered from the image of the actor portraying Christ jumping into my prayers … now I have to fight off the residual effects of this movie … " [Scott Gilbert].

For more accounts from people who have seen the film, and an article regarding the film's evangelistic potential please see:
Four Eyewitness Reports - David Cloud
Passion Evangelism - Roger Oakland & Jim Tetlow

 

(2)  BIBLICAL ACCURACY

Some folks claim that this film is an accurate representation of the Lord's last hours, but it turns out that there are over 50 significant events in The Passion which have no biblical support and go well beyond what could be construed as 'artistic license'.  Likewise, some important elements that do appear in the gospel accounts are missing from the film.  This despite the fact that God says we are never to add to, or take away from, His perfect Word (eg. Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5-6; Rev. 22:18-19).  The following are just a very few examples:

Satan tempts Jesus in Gethsemane, as well as appearing to Him several times during His suffering, and is depicted as a woman with a man’s voice, holding a demonic-looking baby. [Please see the comment by Rebecca Sexton in her article here for the most likely reason behind this seemingly strange idea of Gibson's.]

"When they go to arrest 'Jesus', they strike him ... leaving him blinded in the right eye throughout the whole movie. I'm not sure why Mel decided to blind the eye of the "good shepherd", when the Bible describes the "foolish shepherd" as having his "right eye darkened"" (Zechariah 11:15-17) [Rebecca A. Sexton].

Jesus' deity is in question in the film when, in the garden no-one falls over backward at His words: "I am he".  [In saying these words, Jesus was identifying Himself as Jehovah, meaning: I AM.]

For an article listing over fifty substantial ways in which the film adds to and takes away from God's perfect Word please see:
Errors in Mel Gibson's Movie - David Cloud

 

(3) THE GOSPEL

The Passion of The Christ actually tells viewers very little of the real Gospel message.  While the Lord's trial and crucifixion is portrayed in two hours of unrelenting violence, His resurrection is over and done with in just two minutes.  The result is predictable:

"We are left unsure who Jesus was; and why – metaphysically if not politically – he had to go through such unbearable torments" [Mark Oakley, The Church Times].

"The Passion never provides a clear sense of what all the bloodshed was for" [A.O. Scott, The New York Times].

"I've struggled since seeing the film to come to terms with what I might have been missing, with how a film like this could be considered spiritually uplifting, enlightening, important. ... The significance and import utterly elude me. ... If the intent is to remind both the religious and secular multitudes why Christ had to die for our sins, the film fails on every level since it does virtually no explaining of who He was or what He did" [Ray Richmond, Hollywood Reporter].

Comparing The Passion with previous religious movies, one critic notes: "It tells us next to nothing about Jesus, aside from the fact that he said a few things about loving one's neighbors and then dies horribly: ... [Other movies] didn't present Jesus only as a victim. Nor did any of them provide a Resurrection [so] perfunctory ... Gibson's finale seems especially empty..." [John Harti, MSNBC].

"The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has an essential theological and doctrinal framework ... Peter's sermon at Pentecost was typical ... and the result was not sobbing about scourge blows, but repentance out of fear of judgment" [Jonathan Crosby].

"Tragically, the movie fails to answer the most important question: 'Why did Jesus have to die?' Sinners are not saved by knowing HOW Jesus suffered and died, but by believing WHY He died" [Mike Gendron].

For articles looking at the Gospel in The Passion please see:
The Passion of Christ - Don Fortner
What You Won't Learn From The Passion - Ken Wimer

 

(4)  PHYSICAL FOCUS

The Passion of The Christ focuses excessively on, and adds extra-biblical accounts of, the Lord's physical suffering, rather than on His spiritual suffering as He was separated from His Father, which is what Scripture focuses on - it is the Atonement that is the key part of the Lord's crucifixion.  Tragically, this is apparently serving only to harden unsaved viewers against the Gospel:

"A sickening death trip, a grimly unilluminating procession of treachery, beatings, blood, and agony" [David Denby, The New Yorker].

"... the most gut-piercing depiction ever of a man being beaten to death in all of its blood-spurting, flesh-pulverizing glory. The film is an orgy of gore, displayed for the seeming sake of gore. Take away the spiritual veneer and, in its way, the film is downright pornographic. It concerns me that parents may be taking young (or even semi-young) children to see a film that is such a full-on visual assault simply because the graphic, unsparing viciousness can be justified as holy and pious" [Ray Richmond, Hollywood Reporter].

"You’re thinking there must be something to The Passion of the Christ besides watching a man tortured to death, right? Actually, no: this is a two-hour-and-six-minute snuff movie – The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre – that thinks it’s an act of faith" [Slate].

Please see the following articles for further examples of this element of The Passion:
Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of Christ": Why is the movie so brutal? - David Cloud
4 Eyewitness Reports - David Cloud
'Passion'--Pornography for the Whole Family? - Ray Richmond

 

(5) GIBSON'S INSPIRATION

Gibson has stated that the inspiration for his film came from a book, The Dolorous Passion of Christ, by Roman Catholic mystic Anne Emmerich (1774-1824). (Dolorous means sorrowful, dismal, full of grief.)  He said "She supplied me with stuff I never would have thought of" and he admits to carrying one of her relics with him.  But Emmerich had never read the Bible, only the Catholic Catechism.

"The Church is the only one, the Roman Catholic! ... Then I had the sweet assurance that Mary is the Church; the Church, our mother; ... I have had a great vision on the mystery of Holy Mass and I have seen that whatever good has existed since creation is owing to it [No. All good things are owed to God alone - DP & EMcD.]" [Quotes from Anne Catherine Emmerich].  

"To the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven [but see Jer. 7:17-19 & 44:16-27 - DP & EMcD] and Earth, Lady of the Most Holy Rosary [the Rosary is not actually Catholic, but rather Hindu, in origin - DP & EMcD], Help of Christians, and Refuge of the Human Race [No. Jesus Christ is the only Refuge of the human race - DP & EMcD.]" [Dedication in Emmerich's book, (details as above)].

Emmerich also showed signs of demonic oppression, if not possession:

"[Emmerich] was often favored by visits from the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven, who under the form of a sweet, lovely and majestic lady, would bring the Divine Child to be, as it were, her companion" [extract from Introduction to Emmerich's book, (Tan Books and Publishers, Inc, as quoted by Roger Oakland)].  [There is an un-crossable gulf between the living and the dead, so these were obviously demonic visits - DP & EMcD.]

"During the last 12 years of her life, she ... subsist[ed] entirely on the Holy Eucharist [Since the Roman Catholic Eucharist is not a Holy thing, it is hardly likely that it was the Lord God who was sustaining her - DP & EMcD]. From 1802 until her death, she bore the wounds of the Crown of Thorns, and from 1812, the full stigmata of Our Lord, including a cross over her heart and the wound from the lance" [From article 'Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich'].

"She levitated" [Michael Brown, biographer of Emmerich].  [Witches levitate, but the only 'levitation' Christians will experience is the rapture - DP & EMcD.]

Many of the additions to the biblical account in The Passion come straight from this (demonic) source.  Is God likely to want us to expose ourselves to such things?  Please see the following articles:
The 'Passion' Visionary - Roger Oakland
Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich - Marianne

For extracts from Emmerich’s book, which show the extent to which Gibson drew on her writings, rather than on the Bible, for his film, please email Jewel Grewe on discernment@earthlink.net for the March/April 2004 edition of her Discernment Newsletter.

For the full text of Emmerich's book see: The Dolorous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

(6) THE MASS

The Passion is designed to show how the 'sacrifice' of the Roman Catholic mass is the equivalent of the sacrifice on Calvary:

The purpose of the film is to juxtapose the "sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the altar (mass) - which is the same thing" [Mel Gibson].  

"The film ... links the sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the Mass. In doing so, it faithfully depicts ... Catholic teaching" [A Guide to the Passion, published by Ascension Press and Catholic Exchange, p3].

"This film, for its author, is a Mass. Let it be, then, in an obscure language [the film is in Latin and Aramaic and is subtitled], as it was for so many centuries. If the mind does not understand, so much the better" [Catholic journalist Vittorio Messori].

But the Mass is blasphemous because it treats a created thing - a wafer - as God, and it is idolatrous because it worships the wafer it has deemed to be God.  The Bible tells us to "flee from idolatry" (1 Cor. 10:14).  In contrast to God's clear Word, Gibson's source for The Passion, Anne Emmerich:

"never entered the church without her angel-guardian who taught her by his own example the homage due to the Eucharistic God" [Michael Brown, biographer of Emmerich].

Will not unbelieving viewers think that Roman Catholicism is the most faithful form of Christianity as a result of this film?  For more on this aspect of The Passion please see:  Mel Gibson's Movie is "A Mass" - David Cloud

 

(7)  MARY

In this film, Mary the mother of Jesus is consistently given far more exaltation than is biblically permissible.   The following are just a few examples from the many scenes exalting her beyond her biblical due:

The Lord Jesus is portrayed throughout as weak and bewildered, needing to draw strength from His mother.  This is particularly noticeable during the scenes of His whipping when He would look into Mary’s eyes, also during the scenes on His way to the cross.  [None of this is reflected in the Bible - DP & EMcD.]

Peter and John call Mary "Mother" (capitalized in the subtitles), and Peter confesses his denial of the Lord to Mary while she is seen to offer her 'forgiveness' to him.  [None of this is in the Bible - DP & EMcD.]

While on the cross, Mary kisses Jesus’ foot.  Blood runs down into her mouth, and she backs away “almost licking her lips with blood all over her face.” [Note how this event suggests the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.]  Also, Mary asks Jesus if she can die with Him, and after He is taken from the cross she is shown holding Him – this is a re-enactment of the Romish Pieta which depicts Mary as the suffering Mother who is co-redemptrix.  [None of this is Biblical - DP & EMcD.]

What message does all this send to unbelieving viewers?  Mel Gibson has actually stated his belief that Mary is a "tremendous co-redemptrix and mediatrix", and he is amazed that evangelicals are supporting The Passion so enthusiastically because, he says: "the film is so Marian".  Jim Caviezel the actor who plays 'Jesus', has said: "This film is something I believe was made by Mary for her son...".

For more on the Marian emphasis in The Passion please see:
Errors in Mel Gibson's Movie - David Cloud (from which we’ve taken the above points)
Gibson's Movie Helping Evangelicals See Mary in New Light - David Cloud
Caution: 'The Passion' and Mary - Roger Oakland

The Emperor's New Clothes - Matt Trewhella
The Passion of Rome: To Bring All Home - Rebecca A. Sexton

 

(8)  IMAGES

Biblically, Christians are banned from having, or using, images of deities.  This rule even forms part of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:4-5):

A film portraying the Lord Jesus surely amounts to "animated idolatry … If it is idolatrous to have an image of God (the Lord Jesus Christ) in your living room, it cannot be less evil to play the role of God (or watch a man play that role) in a movie or play" [Don Fortner].

"By pretending to be Jesus Christ, the actor in Gibson's movie (or any other such movie) is playing the part of an idol and those who support and defend it are idolaters. Beware, this is not a light matter.  1 John 5:21 exhorts believers to avoid idolatry, and the Bible would not say that if we were not capable of idolatry" [David Cloud].

"I saw a quote by [a well-known evangelist], addressing the impact viewing the film has had on him, saying, 'Every time I preach or speak about the Cross, the things I saw on the screen will be on my heart and mind.' How could that not include the bloody face of James Caviezel? ... his is the image that will forever remain in the psyche of captivated viewers worldwide when they think of Jesus Christ and close their eyes to pray in His name. What they will see in their mind's eye will be a lie - an idol - yes, a false Christ" [Paul Proctor].

The Bible's view of idols is uncompromising (see also Deuteronomy 4:15-16).  Should we not be likewise?

For some excellent articles on a) the question of the film's flouting of the second commandment, and  b) pictorial representations of the Lord Jesus, please see the following:
Big Screen Jesus - Paul Proctor
The Problem With 'The Passion' - Cecil Andrews
Mel Gibson's Passion Undermines The Deity of Christ - Lorin Smith
The Menace Of The Religious Movie - A.W. Tozer
Idolatry in the Evangelical Camp - J. Virgil Dunbar & Richard Bennett

 

(9)  ISRAEL

The way in which the overwhelming proportion of Jewry are portrayed in the film was so anti-Semitic that Gibson was forced to cut out some scenes.

"It would be impossible for any disinterested viewer (if one could be found) to escape the fact that 'The Passion' does not just mention in passing but is centered dramatically on the culpability of the Jews. This notion, sometimes called blood libel or blood guilt, has led to untold suffering and death over hundreds and hundreds of years, and should have given someone, even a believer, pause" [Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times].

"Even if the film is not intended to be anti-Semitic it may be used as an excuse for anti-Semitism. With the media's misreporting of the situation in Israel this film is only likely to strengthen feelings against the Jews and Israel" [Martin Emerson].

While not actively denying the holocaust, Mel Gibson has never publicly repudiated his father’s view that: “It’s all – maybe not all – fiction, but most of it is” [Interview reproduced in Newsday], and he has built a church for his father’s congregation in Los Angeles [Andrew Brown].

Additionally, The Passion distances the Lord from His Jewish heritage by giving Him Romanist features - which lends weight to the scurrilous view of the New Age that Mary liaised with a Roman soldier.  Regarding Israel, God says "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee."

Please also see: Critic Calls Gibson Movie Anti-Semitic

 

(10)  THE FILM'S CREATOR

It is claimed that Gibson is a true believer.  In fact, he is a very strict Catholic who took Mass every day of the shoot.  Therefore going to see The Passion would effectively be to legitimise the religion of Rome:

"The movie reflects my beliefs" [Mel Gibson]. 

"The catharsis for me to play this role was through Medjugorje [a shrine to Mary in Bosnia-Herzegovina at which visitors claim she appears and speaks to them - DP & EMcD] … In preparation, I used all that Medjugorje taught me. … I kept this [piece of the true cross] on me all the time. … I also had relics of Padre Pio, … Every day everyone could see me with the rosary in my hands" [Jim Caviezel]. 

Cardinal Ratzinger was advisor for The Passion, and (it is claimed that) Pope John Paul II endorsed the film.

"Watching this movie as a former Catholic I quickly saw ... all the symbolism and false doctrine cleverly hidden within 'The Passion of Christ' ... the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary, the scapular ... the stations of the cross, a 'chalice' instead of the Biblical 'cup', 'St' Veronica, clothing that looked like a nun's habit, ... the Eucharistic imagery ... most of all, it reminded me of the place of Mary in Roman Catholicism. ... Mel had several Jesuits helping him behind the scenes of the making of this movie. ... Jesuits are masters at brainwashing" [Rebecca A. Sexton].

"A question that demands an answer is this: 'Why are evangelicals promoting a movie produced by a man who has been deceived by Roman Catholicism and is now deceiving others?' ... Evangelicals promoting a Roman Catholic film would be equivalent to Paul endorsing a message proclaimed by the Judaizers (Gal 1:6-9)" [Mike Gendron].

Gibson's past films are well known for their violence, and many of them have seen him swearing and appearing naked.  Incredibly, he cast five hardcore pornographic 'stars' in The Passion.  It is very troubling that the leading actor could take the Name of the Lord in vain (when he forgot his lines during the filming of the Last Supper), and reputable sources have reported that there was both laughter and swearing amongst the principal actors during the filming of the crucifixion scenes (please see the articles below).  It is surely highly inappropriate for there to be laughter during the 're-enactment' of the most pivotal and dreadful moment in the whole of human history.  Do you want your money to go to such people?...

"There were a great many people who witnessed the actual crucifixion of the Lord Jesus - and yet were the multitudes converted? Did a revival break out? No. Why, then, would the Lord bless the efforts of a Roman Catholic Hollywood actor/producer, who has broken the Lord's Word concerning idolatry and adding to Scripture, unto the salvation of lost souls? What abysmal darkness has descended on 'Evangelicals', that they could ever imagine such a thing? When the Lord of glory was crucified, the multitudes did not repent. Why would the Lord grant repentance to multitudes now, through a movie such as this? It is indeed a great outreach - but for Antichrist, not Christ" [Shaun Willcock].

For more on the Romish agenda, as well as the extremely un-Christlike and shocking features of The Passion Of The Christ, see:
The Passion of Rome: To Bring All Home - Rebecca A. Sexton
The Passion of The Christ: A Catholic Trap - Paw Creek Ministries
The Moral Vileness Intimately Associated With The Passion Of Christ - David Cloud
Mel Gibson's Hall of Porn (& House of Horrors) - Barbara Aho

 

For some excellent articles on the various aspects of the film we've briefly looked at above please visit:
That Movie - Tricia Tillin

Five Reasons Not to Go See The Passion of the Christ - Andrew J. Webb
The Passion of Christ: Mel Gibson's Vivid Deception - Richard Bennett & J. Virgil Dunbar

Where's Luther, We Need Reformation - Kelly McGinley

Indifference or Ignorance: The Practice of Idolatry Within the Church - R. Bennett & R. Paquette
The Poison in the Passion - Terry Watkis
The Passion of the Christ: Outreach for Antichrist - Shaun Willcock

Mel Gibson's Movie: (Index of Articles) - David Cloud

Should Christians Have Passion For The Passion? (Index of Articles) - Retaking America
The Passion (Index of Articles) - Cutting Edge

(Please note: all the articles we have cited for further reading we believe are basically sound in themselves.  However, this should not be taken as any kind of endorsement of the writers' wider ministry.)

In conclusion, unless God specifically tells a believer to see this film, we are surely wiser to avoid it.  Our task is simply to love the Truth and to obey God's commands as given in His Holy Scriptures.  If we do this we will produce fruit and are far more likely to win our unsaved loved ones to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible never tells us that the end justifies the means.

God bless you.

 

 

 

 

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