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February 20, 2004 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-02-20

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1111 or many in the Jewish com-

munity, the historic figures
and events in The Passion of
the Christ, the story of the
last days of Jesus' life, is unfamiliar
territory.
Here are names to know: Pontius
Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judea, and
Caiaphas, the high priest of the Jews
appointed by the Romans.
The controversy? Is Caiaphas, a Jew,
responsible for crucifying Jesus? Or is
his boss, Pilate? Whose story do you
believe? There are four (stories)
Gospels, one each according to
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Says Dr. Ruth Langer of Boston
College's Center for Christian-Jewish
Learning, according to modern bibli-
cal scholarship, each Gospel is written
from a different viewpoint and for dif-
ferent communities.
In the late first century, for example,
Christians are trying to get the
Romans to accept them as a legitimate
religion, and they're trying to get con-
verts from the gentile world, Langer
said. So some of the Gospels are writ-
ten to help that along — to make
Christianity look more acceptable, she
said. This means toning down Pilate's
evilness and transferring his responsi-
bility for Jesus' death to the Jewish
high priest Caiaphas, who is really just
his lackey, Langer said.
But history shows Pilate was evil
and responsible for more than 1,000
crucifixions.
Gibson chose to reflect an unhistor-
ical approach to the Passion, one that
promotes an anti-Jewish perspective,
she said.
"But his choice is driven more by
anti-modern biblical scholarship
rather than by anti-Semitism," she

Maia Morgensten plays Mary, the mother
of Jesus, in the movie.

said.
The controversial quote from
Matthew 27:25 — "His blood be
upon us and upon our children"
(making the Jews for all time responsi-
ble for Christ's death) and which con-
tradicts the history of the time (Jews
were probably not responsible) — was
pulled from the film, along with the
controversial visions of the 19th-cen-
tury German nun Anna Katherine
Emmerich that portrayed Jews as evil
and demonic.
Yet, the implications of Matthew's
words and the nun's visions are still
there, showing the Jews responsible
for Jesus' death, said Dr. Philip A.
Cunningham, executive director of the
Center for Christian-Jewish Learning
at Boston College. [1]

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