We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Movie Review: The Passion of the Christ

Back in March 2004 when this movie came out, I decided to watch it for apologetics purposes.  Churches across the country were buying out whole showings so their members could attend and take unbelievers with them, assuming there would be a revival or something. This week I ended up in a discussion with Catholics about this movie and discovered I have never posted my review on my blog to be able to link to!  So I dug in my files and found it—it had been typed up but never saved as a digital file, which means for THIS posting I will be typing it from my file copy, which was written on 8 March 2004. Note that every reference to a “mystic” is referring to Anne Catherine Emmerich; much of the movie was based on "visions" in her "The Dolorous Passion," which included much extra-biblical and unbiblical material.


I was very disappointed with this movie; I don’t understand how people can make a “decision for Christ” by watching it.  The gospel is not in it; there is no discussion as to all of us needing a savior because we are sinners—I guess it is assumed that you know the story.

It is a very Roman Catholic presentation.  I have read much about it and this was the reason I didn’t want to waste my time with it, but I have had several conversations recently where I really couldn’t intelligently discuss what I hadn’t seen. For apologetics purposes I can recommend it as something to be able to discuss why it is a problematic movie.  Otherwise I can’t recommend it.  Here are my thoughts from notes I took (yes, I took notes the whole time).

There was an awful lot of dramatic license, mixing scenes from the Bible, but that is to be expected from Hollywood. The devil in the Garden was all imagination and not found in Scripture.  It is possible this took place, but must we have a feminine Satan? I suppose he did look sexless, even though played by a woman. The guy playing Jesus was just too Aryan, and too nice looking. Jesus was a Jew, and Isaiah tells us He was nothing to look at.

The fight in the garden at the arrest was not biblical. From Scripture it seems only Peter resisted and that was one blow, and Jesus immediately rebuked him. The main problem in the garden is that, when they asked for Jesus and He said, “I am he,” they didn’t fall back and to the ground as Scripture says; this is a very important point to demonstrate who he was! It should not have been omitted.

Jesus’ fall over the bridge was just silly, especially falling next to Judas. This is one of those mystic’s visions.  And the issue of Judas seeing a demon there is really reaching.

The movie has Mary sensing the capture of her son. I don’t think this is at all correct; it would give her omniscience, a la Romanism.

With the flashback to Jesus making the table and his conversation with his mother, we are being really silly. A much more modern idea than I think they would have had. And where is Joseph? As far as we know Joseph should be around with Mary. Once Jesus’ ministry starts we have no mention of Joseph so it is possible he died, but Rome always depicts him as aged at his marriage to Mary so that he dies early in Jesus’ life.  Since the Bible doesn’t say this, I don’t think we should be assuming it.

There is entirely too much beating at the temple; he would have had his jaw broken, cheek bones broken, teeth knocked out, and probably broken ribs and internal injuries. The Bible does not depict this much violence here. This will lead to my major problem with the movie.

Peter and John both call Mary “Mother.”  While John is later told that she is his mother to care for, I seriously doubt that they would be calling her this. However, it fits well with Rome and their view of her as everyone’s mother.

The scene with Judas and the demonic children is just too implausible.  If this was the case, why wouldn’t Scripture tell us this?

Satan is always in the crowd watching. Again, why isn’t this in Scripture?

Why is Mary his only family member watching and following? We know Jesus had siblings (contrary to Romanist dogma); wouldn’t they also have been concerned?

The flogging scene is just ridiculously over-exaggerated. The cat-o’-nine-tails with the stones/bones would do much more damage than they showed for all the flogging they showed; I doubt if anyone could have survived it.  And Jesus gains strength by looking at Mary; is this making her a co-sufferer of the beating?

Another “vision” scene (either a mystic’s or Mel’s) is the women mopping up the blood. Why would they do this, and why would the soldiers allow it?

The soldiers calling Jesus “King of worms” and “wormy king” came from a “vision” of a mystic. The beating here, after such a severe flogging, would have killed him again!

The flashback of Mary Magdalene makes her the woman caught in adultery; where do we find that in Scripture?  Oh, Rome teaches it as “tradition.”

Jesus prays to God and says he (Jesus) is the son of God’s “handmaid.”  This certainly is pointing to Mary as special, leading to Mariology.

Why is Jesus the only one to carry the whole cross while the others carry only a cross-beam?

Veronica and her mopping Jesus’ face, with the impression of his face in blood on her cloth, is from a mystic’s vision.

Where were the garments that were bartered for? Where was the one-piece garment? Wasn’t this an important scene that fulfilled prophecy?

Mary wanting to die with Jesus; would this be true? Or doesn’t this lead to Mary being a co-redeemer/co-mediatrix?

Where were the guys in the crowd who thought Jesus called for Elijah?

So, the thief who is mean to Jesus gets his eyes plucked out?!?!? Where is this in Scripture? Is this another “vision”?

Way too much blood/water from the spear wound—the soldier is showering in it!

My major problem, aside from the Romanist view and additions to Scripture, is that the whole thing of Jesus’ suffering is unbelievable. The initial beatings are not mentioned to that degree in Scripture. Then he is flogged exaggeratedly to where he should have been dead. Now he has lost so much blood that he has to be so weak as to be barely able to stand. Then they hammer in the crown, which has such long spikes they would have pierced his brain. Then they have him drag a cross that is so heavy it takes two able-bodied soldiers to lift. All the while he is dragging the cross he is being beaten and falls often. When he falls, the cross hits him on the head, falls on him, and both times probably would have killed someone in that condition, or at least give them a severe head injury. Then at the scene where Veronica wipes his face, he is again beaten mercilessly.  During all this he is dragging this very heavy cross uphill on a very long trek that an Airborne Ranger would be winded doing, let alone someone who has half his blood missing and, with those types of beatings, probably broken ribs and other bones. The Jesus of this film is a superman to endure all of this, yet the Bible depicts him as a normal human in this regard. Now that he’s made it to the top of the hill and they nail him on, they lift the cross up, turn it over and drop it on him! That would have killed him. Then they turn it over and drop it back down again. This would likely have broken the back of a healthy man, let alone one who had his back flailed with that “cat.” 

The whole thing was just too unbelievable for anyone not biased. This creates a loss of credibility for the story, and I see it as very harmful for trying to get unbelievers to accept it.

The resurrection scene was so brief (12 seconds?) as to not be readily understood by someone not familiar with the story.

My wife’s reaction to the movie was, “Why didn’t they use the Bible more?”

These are reasons I feel the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with this production. Can the movie be used anyway? Yes, God can use anything to His glory.  But we as Christians shouldn’t be praising a movie that takes such liberties with adding to Scripture and given an unbelievable view of the punishment endured.


High Sierra Flyfisherman said...

Glen, nice to have the write-up. Timely if you have seen the announcements of the new part 2! The Resurrection.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Yes, I saw the announcement, which was what led to this post. A discussion of FB about the whole issue of the errors of the first one. So now I've used this link in my discussion. :)