The Passion of the Christ (2004)
One of the most incredible things about this movie is its attention to linguistics. Mel Gibson hired the Jesuit scholar and Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Studies Rev. William Fulco to translate his script into Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic. He chose to leave out the other language which was widely spoken across the Roman Empire: Greek. He also inserted some incredible subtleties. At one point a group of Roman soldiers speaking Aramaic shout at a Jewish crowd who reply in Latin. The language of each is purposefully littered with grammatical errors and mispronunciations.
What Mel Gibson does is he telescopes the chronology of the Old and New Testament to a confusing degree. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the first scene where Jesus stamps a snake to death that’s been handed to him by an Obi-Wan Kenobi-like figure who’s supposed to represent Satan. He also goes a little far with Jesus’s woodworking prowess. There’s strong scriptural evidence that Jesus was an apprentice under his father, but Mel Gibson slightly overstates the passion of the carpenter when he credits Jesus with having invented the dining room table during a rather bizarre exchange with his mother.
One of the big problems with the movie, and here we’ll say nothing about Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism, is the extent to which it blames the Jews for Jesus’s death. Even the ancient, romanized sourcesâPhilo and Josephusâportrayed Pontius Pilate as corrupt, provocative and arbitrarily cruel. But in “The Passion of the Christ“, when Jesus appears before him in the Jewish Court (the Sanhedrin), Pilate comes across as a reasonable man.
Then there’s by far the biggest departure from history: the grotesquely gratuitous violence that dominates the final two hours of the movie. This is pure artistic license (assuming you can call it artistic) on Gibson’s part. The Gospels make no mention of Jesus being tortured to any such degreeâMark, Matthew and John writing that he was flogged but nothing moreâwhile the Roman writer Tacitus reports his execution and nothing else.