James Carroll on The Passion:

Jews as presented in this movie are overwhelmingly negative. Roman soldiers brutally execute Jesus, but Pontius Pilate is a good man, who stands in dramatic contrast to Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest. Going well beyond anything in the Gospels, Gibson’s film emphasizes Roman virtue and Jewish venality by inventions like these:

Pilate’s wife Claudia is an actual heroine, who aligns herself with Mary. Mary, terrified for her son, appeals to benign Romans against the hostile Jewish crowd.

Claudia is the woman behind the Romans. Her dramatic counterpart, the woman behind the Jews, is none other than a female Satan.

Pilate kindly offers Jesus a cup of water. Pilate orders Jesus flogged, but only to satisfy the Jewish bloodthirst.

The Jews are expressly indicted by the Good Thief, who, after the crucified Jesus says, “Father, forgive them . . . ,” tells Caiaphas that “He prays for you.” Jews are indicted by Jesus, who consoles Pilate by telling him, “It is he who has delivered me to you who has the greater sin.”

There is no resurrection in this film. A stone is rolled back, a zombie-Jesus is seen in profile for a second or two, and that’s it. But there is a reason for this. In Gibson’s theology, the resurrection has been rendered unnecessary by the infinite capacity of Jesus to withstand pain. Not the Risen Jesus, but the Survivor Jesus. Gibson’s violence fantasies, as ingenious as perverse, are, at bottom, a fantasy of infinite male toughness. The inflicting of suffering is the action of the film, and the dramatic question is: How much pain can Jesus take? The religious miracle of this Passion is that he can take it all. Jesus Christ Superstoic. His wondrous capacity to suffer is what converts bystander soldiers, and it is what saves the world.

In an act of perverse editing, Gibson has Jesus say, “I make all things new” as his torment approaches climax, as if cruel mayhem brings renewal. When Jesus cries out near the end, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” the film conveys not his despair, but his numb gratification. There’s the film’s inadvertent reversal, the crucifixion as a triumph of sadomasochistic exploitation. That triumph seems to be what Gibson’s Jesus salutes when he says finally, “It is accomplished.”

It is a lie. It is sick. Jews have every reason to be offended by “The Passion of The Christ.” Even more so, if possible, do Christians.

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