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Message Subject casting Jesus in films, costume & historical errors
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Gibson really got some things wrong. He largely rejected their consultants' input, preferring his own reading of the Gospels as well as the “revelations” of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19th century Catholic nun who had mystical visions of Jesus' passion. Mel added quite a few non-biblical scenes taken from her visions and as he has said in several interviews, he is convinced she was inspired to see these things. Gibson is not only a strong Roman Catholic believer, he is part of a right-wing break away Catholic sect that sees the reforms of Vatican II as heresy and considers even the present very conservative Pope to be “liberal” in that regard. This has to be considered in any attempt to understand or evaluate how Mel Gibson ended up making the film he did. He has been quite open about this in all his interviews.

The film as an unabashed attempt to present a Roman Catholic version of the story. Throughout the film Mary the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene, were presented in both dress and pose as Catholic nuns, their costumes coming about as close to the traditional Catholic habit [/b. Mary especially, in almost every scene, was scripted to look fully the part of The Blessed Virgin Mother of Catholic tradition. The brothers and sisters were not included of course, even at the death, because Mary could not be presented as a normal Jewish woman with a large family of five boys and at least two girls, given the dogma of the “perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of God.”

The Catholic tradition of Veronica and her cloth were included. Jesus carried this unbelievably huge full cross, just like in all the traditional paintings, and at times that part of the film bordered on the ridiculous. This portrait, however appealing to tradition, is unsupported in either the Gospels (Greek word stauros means stake) or what we know of Roman history.

It is worth noting that the two “thieves,’ crucified with Jesus, as this film portrayed things, had only to carry the “cross beam” to which the arms would be tied or nailed, not the entire cross. This would be in keeping with Roman practice, so why have Jesus bend and break for nearly 30 minutes of the film, carrying a “cross” that surely would have weighed over 100 lbs. Here, as in other places, presumably Gibson read his English Bible where the term “cross” is used, and guided by Sister Emmerich’s visions and Church tradition, decided that this was the way things were. Gibson also had Jesus’ nailed to the cross in the hands and feet, rather than through the wrists and the heel bones, as we know was actually the case. Thanks to an amazing accidental archaeological discovery made in 1968—the skeleton of a crucified man contemporary with Jesus found in Jerusalem (see the informative article by anthropologist Joe Zias at: www.uncc.edu/jdtabor/crucifixion.html), we are now quite certain about what Roman crucifixion at the time involved and how it was carried out.

Even though Jesus' brutal suffering were portrayed with realism, I noticed that the two “thieves” who were crucified with him hardly looked like they were suffering at all—yet scourging and beating was common for all the victims, and anyone crucified would be in such screaming excruciating pain any of us would have difficulty watching. One had the impression that the important suffering, the only one who really suffered, was Jesus, even though we know that tens of thousands of other Jews died this same brutal death during the very lifetime of Jesus (see www.uncc.edu/jdtabor/cruc-josephus.html for the sources and references).

The Romans, contrary to the portrayal in this film, would have considered the heavy loss of blood, a botched job. The trick was to nail the victim to the wood, but draw very little blood; otherwise one would go unconscious quickly from loss of blood and not suffer for more than a few minutes. Crucifixions, according to the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, were intended to last for several days. The victims eventually died from trauma, dehydration, and shock--not from blood pouring out of severed blood vessels in the hands and feet.

Apparently Gibson was told of some of these things by some of his initial consultants, but chose to follow the visions of Sister Emmerich, who presumably “saw” the wounds in the hands and feet, the huge cross, and so forth, so Mr. Gibson is apparently convinced that the scholars and historians just don't know what they are talking about.


First, one got the impression that not only the corrupt Jewish high priests yelled for Jesus' crucifixion, but also just about the whole population of Jerusalem—that is, at least representatively, the entire Jewish people. This came through very strongly over and over again, mainly in the views of the crowds, who, other than a few women, were rejoicing and even participating with stones, jeers, and spitting, at the brutal suffering of this fellow Jew. Not a single Jew is presented with any kind of character development, nor does one get any sense throughout the film of what the faith of Judaism might have been like—the very faith of Jesus himself. Even the Gospels, as much as they do (especially Matthew and John) put blame on the “Jews,” do not support this view. Jesus was apparently incredibly popular with the masses.

The very reason the Caiaphus was called illegally after midnight was because these leaders knew they could never pull this off in broad daylight, with the likes of Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Gamaliel present, and doubtless many others of such views who had authority and influence. The Gospels witness that Jesus was too popular and loved by thousands to risk an open arrest. The common people heard him gladly and hated this corrupt Temple leadership, as we learn in various Jewish sources.
 
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