Gibson film based more on mysticism than gospels - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
July 9, 2004

Gibson film based more on mysticism than gospels

-9/7/04

Mel Gibson's film blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" was based more on a novel from the visionary meditations of an early nineteenth-century nun than on the gospels.

This is the conclusion of a contributor to a new book to be published in August, who also suggests that only around 5% of the film is based on the gospel accounts of Jesus' death.

"Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ: The Movie, the Gospels and the Claims of History" from Continuum is the first analysis of the Gibson film by an international team of leading Biblical historians and critics.

Readers are guided by historical Jesus scholars who help distinguish between the contents of the film and the contents of the Gospels, and between the contents of the film and what might be historically reconstructed about Jesus. The book also places the film in context as a work of art, assessing it alongside other portrayals of Jesus in different media.

The contributors give thoughtful, factual assessments of the historical and scriptural accuracy of the film, including the contribution made by non-gospel sources, particularly the nineteenth century Catholic nun and visionary Anne Catherine Emmerich.

In his essay "Hymn to A Savage God" John Dominic Crossan comments; "In this film, about 5% comes from the Gospels, that is, the general outline and sequence of events; about 80% comes from Emmerich, that is, the details and characters that carry the best and the worst of the non-Gospel additions and expansions; and about 15% from Gibson, that is, everything that escalates the violence above that already prevalent in Emmerich.

"If Mel Gibson were to receive a Best Director Oscar for this film, it could well be argued that Emmerich should get a Best Adapted (or should it be Original?) Screenplay. If accuracy or even courtesy were followed, the opening credit should read: A Mel Gibson Film, followed by Based on the Book by Anne Catherine Emmerich.

When the film was launched it received backing and acclaim from large numbers of Christians who saw it as an opportunity to use it for evangelism. This was despite allegations of anti-Semitism, charges of hypocrisy and warnings that the film was incomplete in its theology.

John Dominic Crossan continues; "It is surely fascinating to consider that a magnificent publicity campaign has persuaded thousands of conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christians to support enthusiastically an early twenty-first century film based only indirectly on the Gospels but directly on an historical novel from the visionary meditations of an early nineteenth-century Roman Catholic nun."

Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" also provided a boost for Christian sub-culture in the US with a surge in demand for Christian-themed products.

"Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ" is edited by Kathleen E. Corley, Oshkosh Northwestern Distinguished Professor and Professor of New Testament at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Robert L. Webb, an independent scholar living near Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The other contributors are:

* Dr. Helen K. Bond, Lecturer in New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh, UK;

* Dr. Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada;

* Dr Mark Goodacre, Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the Department of Theology, University of Birmingham, UK;

* Dr. Glenna S. Jackson, Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio;

* Dr. Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University, Chicago, Illinois;

* Dr. Mark Allan Powell, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio;

* Alan F. Segal, Professor of Religion and Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York;

* Dr. W. Barnes Tatum, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Greensboro College, North Carolina;

* David J. Goa, Curator Emeritus at the Provincial Museum of Alberta and a Fellow of the M.V. Dimic Institute for the Study of Culture at the University of Alberta.

The 208 page book is a paperback original (ISBN 0-8264-7781-X) priced at .95.

Gibson film based more on mysticism than gospels

-9/7/04

Mel Gibson's film blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" was based more on a novel from the visionary meditations of an early nineteenth-century nun than on the gospels.

This is the conclusion of a contributor to a new book to be published in August, who also suggests that only around 5% of the film is based on the gospel accounts of Jesus' death.

"Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ: The Movie, the Gospels and the Claims of History" from Continuum is the first analysis of the Gibson film by an international team of leading Biblical historians and critics.

Readers are guided by historical Jesus scholars who help distinguish between the contents of the film and the contents of the Gospels, and between the contents of the film and what might be historically reconstructed about Jesus. The book also places the film in context as a work of art, assessing it alongside other portrayals of Jesus in different media.

The contributors give thoughtful, factual assessments of the historical and scriptural accuracy of the film, including the contribution made by non-gospel sources, particularly the nineteenth century Catholic nun and visionary Anne Catherine Emmerich.

In his essay "Hymn to A Savage God" John Dominic Crossan comments; "In this film, about 5% comes from the Gospels, that is, the general outline and sequence of events; about 80% comes from Emmerich, that is, the details and characters that carry the best and the worst of the non-Gospel additions and expansions; and about 15% from Gibson, that is, everything that escalates the violence above that already prevalent in Emmerich.

"If Mel Gibson were to receive a Best Director Oscar for this film, it could well be argued that Emmerich should get a Best Adapted (or should it be Original?) Screenplay. If accuracy or even courtesy were followed, the opening credit should read: A Mel Gibson Film, followed by Based on the Book by Anne Catherine Emmerich.

When the film was launched it received backing and acclaim from large numbers of Christians who saw it as an opportunity to use it for evangelism. This was despite allegations of anti-Semitism, charges of hypocrisy and warnings that the film was incomplete in its theology.

John Dominic Crossan continues; "It is surely fascinating to consider that a magnificent publicity campaign has persuaded thousands of conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christians to support enthusiastically an early twenty-first century film based only indirectly on the Gospels but directly on an historical novel from the visionary meditations of an early nineteenth-century Roman Catholic nun."

Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" also provided a boost for Christian sub-culture in the US with a surge in demand for Christian-themed products.

"Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ" is edited by Kathleen E. Corley, Oshkosh Northwestern Distinguished Professor and Professor of New Testament at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Robert L. Webb, an independent scholar living near Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The other contributors are:

* Dr. Helen K. Bond, Lecturer in New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh, UK;

* Dr. Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada;

* Dr Mark Goodacre, Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the Department of Theology, University of Birmingham, UK;

* Dr. Glenna S. Jackson, Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio;

* Dr. Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University, Chicago, Illinois;

* Dr. Mark Allan Powell, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio;

* Alan F. Segal, Professor of Religion and Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York;

* Dr. W. Barnes Tatum, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Greensboro College, North Carolina;

* David J. Goa, Curator Emeritus at the Provincial Museum of Alberta and a Fellow of the M.V. Dimic Institute for the Study of Culture at the University of Alberta.

The 208 page book is a paperback original (ISBN 0-8264-7781-X) priced at .95.

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