Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Mel Gibson's 'The Passion'I can't get over the self-defeating impulses of various parties involved in the "Passion" controversy. First, the baffling centuries of persecution of Jews by Christians for "deicide," even though the Bible clearly places the responsibility for the necessity of Christ's death on all people--and besides, had the Romans refrained from killing Jesus, it would have disrupted God's redemptive plan. Meanwhile, those who stirred up the controversy about Mel Gibson's movie and alleged it was anti-Semitic served only to amplify attention to the movie, ensuring that it would be a blockbuster instead of a blip on the national radar.

The Newsweek cover story wasn't bad, especially in showing how Gibson not only exaggerated the role of Jewish leaders in Christ's execution, but also fails to see that they didn't have the political capacity to play such a role. But the Newsweek story scoffs at the veracity of the supposedly tendentious Gospel writers while accepting the historian Josephus as gospel truth. As Eugene Peterson said in his lecture on Josephus last fall here in Chicago, Josephus was a manipulative opportunist who abandoned all his principles to schmooze his way into a comfortable post in the Roman Empire. Whether or not his dubious personal integrity casts doubt on his accuracy is another matter, but it should be noted that the Gospels are so unflattering to both Christ and the disciples that they make unlikely propaganda.

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