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CRUCIFIX OR THE CROSS?
THEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES & DOES MEL HAVE A CLUE?

By: Nathanael

The pre-release furor of Jewish groups, among others, followed by Mel Gibson’s capitulation to that pressure did not raise my expectations of the "The Passion", prior to viewing it on 03/13/04. Gibson’s earlier declarations that the Bible and the Four Gospels in particular were the basis of his depiction of Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Cross are clearly a false flag.

It is implausible to accept the mystic writings of the Anne Catherine Emmerich, as a minor influence to the story line of the movie or as only slightly variant from the Gospel accounts. The first example is the scene with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gibson commences his relentless introduction of extra-Biblical material largely from Emmerich. Jesus encounters a black-robed woman, assumed to be Satan although never specifically identified as such, who taunts and tempts Jesus while He is considering the soon coming arrest, sacrifice and resurrection, wherein He    redeems-propitiates-justifies, His Sheep. Nowhere in any of the Four Gospels does Satan speak to Jesus in Gethsemane. Jesus does converse intimately with the Father as mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Nowhere in the Old Testament or the New Testament are any angels identified as other than a men. Satan, Lucifer, is a fallen angel that was the original covering cherub in the Garden of God, who sought the godhead for himself. Taking further license with the Biblical text, a snake comes out from the bottom of Satan’s black cloak and crawls over to Jesus who is prostrate on the ground near by. The next immediate scene shows Jesus standing up right and He then stomps presumably on the serpent’s head with His heel, killing it. This extra-Biblical tableau in Gibson’s garden scene is a perversion of important New and Old Testament passages simultaneously.

The Old Testament passage describing the Fall of Man as found in Genesis,is being alluded to directly.

Genesis 3
14   The LORD God said to the serpent,
      "Because you have done this,
      Cursed are you more than all cattle,
      And more than every beast of the field;
     On your belly you will go,
     And dust you will eat
     All the days of your life;
15  And I will put enmity
    Between you and the woman,
    And between your seed and her seed;
   He shall bruise you on the head,
   And you shall bruise him on the heel."

This OT passage is clearly prophetic, is the first proclamation of the Gospel - known as the protevangelium, and foretells of the death struggle between the Son of God and Satan with the loser necessarily being Satan. So then…what is wrong with the scene in Gibson’s movie?

  1. Satan is never spoken of as a woman.
  2. Jesus was tempted by Satan and Satan was vanquished at the beginning of His Ministry, see Matthew 4, and Luke 4,and not in Gethsemane.
  3. The serpent was in the Garden of Eden and was instrumental in the fall of man. It was not in the Garden of Gethsemane scene, which came just before the redemption of man.
  4. The first blow by the serpent, the deception of Adam and Eve and their fall from innocence was the striking or bruising of the heel of the God-Man, which is not shown or referenced.
  5. The crushing of the head of the serpent, the defeat of Satan and the consequences of sin, does not occur in Gethsemane but is commenced at the Cross and finished with His Resurrection.
  6. If Satan was defeated (his head was crushed consistent with the prophecy of Genesis 3) in Gethsemane, as this extra-Biblical distortion implies, then there is no need for His Sacrifice on the Cross or the Resurrection. A resultant problem arises…the enemy has been destroyed before the sins of man have been atoned for on the Cross and before the wrath of the Father for our sins has been propitiated.

This theological conundrum is a direct result of Gibson altering the Biblical text. It is but one of many grave errors introduced by using his "cinematic license".

Other examples of significant "cinematic license" taken in the movie are:

  1. The soldiers in Gethsemane immediately start to brutally beat Jesus after Judas identifies Him.
  2. The arresting soldiers chain Him and while in transit to the Sanhedrin the beatings continue including Jesus being thrown off a bridge and momentarily being hung by His neck.
  3. Jesus’ right eye is closed by the beatings and continues closed through the whole movie.
  4. Peter confesses to Mary, Jesus’ physical mother, that he is unworthy and addresses her as Mother with a capital "M".
  5. Right after the betrayal and receiving the thirty pieces of silver, a small pack of children (presumably satanic) torment Judas up and until he hangs himself.
  6. When Barabbas, (which means son-bar of the father-abba), is presented to the crowd for their choice to release, he too has a blind right eye. Is some kind of evil or anti-Christ parallel being asserted? If so why?
  7. While the Roman soldiers are whipping Jesus, they deliver beatings far beyond the 39 lashes specifically mentioned in Scripture. Why? Does Mel know better than the Father as to what happened or that Jesus could endure more than was ordained by YHWH?
  8. During the whippings, there is a reappearance of the black robed female Satanic figure this time carrying a small, seething, man-child who taunts Jesus further. What is the Scriptural basis of this anti-Madonna and anti-infant and for what purpose, for it has no basis or context in Scripture? Is Mary the anti-Satan?
  9. Pontius Pilate’s wife brings clean, white towels to Mary and Mary Magdalene to wipe up the Blood and Flesh of Jesus splattered about and covering the paving stones of the square.
  10. The whipping of Jesus continues incessantly for about 50 minutes all through the carrying of the Cross to Calvary. Where is that in Scripture? Does Mel know better what He could endure than the Bible informs us?
  11. The black robed, female anti-Christ/anti-Madonna/Satan is walking through the crowd keeping up with the procession to Calvary.
  12. Peter, John and the Disciples address Mary as Mother, the subtitles use a capital "M".
  13. Mary meets Jesus in the street while He is carrying His Cross.
  14. An unknown woman comes out to meet Jesus in the street and wipes his face with a cloth.
  15. In the nailing of His hands the Romans drove the spikes through His palms instead of just before the wrist, between the radius and the ulna.
  16. Then after nailing His hands and feet to the hewn logs and because the spikes were considerably longer than the horizontal bar was thick, the Romans tilted the Cross up and over allowing it to slam to the ground with Jesus underneath the weight of the Cross. The Romans had to finish their handiwork by hammering flat the nail shanks that protruded out the backside of the horizontal log.
  17. After the Romans planted the Cross in the ground Mary, Jesus’ mother, kisses His feet resulting with His blood in her mouth.
  18. The addition of a black raven that pecks out the eyes of the unrepentant thief.
  19. Mary states to Jesus, "Flesh of my flesh, heart of my heart, my son, let me die with you."
  20. The "Tear of God" falls from the sky causing the earthquake that tears the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
  21. The Temple is also severely damaged from the earthquake.
  22. The rending of the veil in the Temple reveals a Rose Window above and behind the Holy of Holies.
  23. After He is taken down from the Cross, Mary holds Jesus in her lap in a classic pieta’ pose, harkening the image of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture. That sculpture depicts the Hands of Jesus pierced through His palms as well.

The above list was written down during my one and only viewing. Supposedly all of the synoptic Gospels were used as primary guides for the screenplay. Please take the time to compare the above non-exhaustive list of alterations and additions with the Biblical passages of Matthew 26, and Matthew 27, Mark 14, and Mark 15, Luke 22 , and Luke 23 , and John 18, and John 19 which describe the Crucifixion episode. Are any of Mel’s "enhancements" found in the Four Gospels? No. The theological conflicts rising from these alterations to the Biblical account cannot be understated.

Gibson’s nailing of His hands through the palms, contrary to the archaeologically shown Roman technique, creates further theological difficulties. There are two other scenes in the movie inseparably connected to the "nail through the palm" depiction: (1) the breaking of the leg bones to hasten death (which was done to both thieves on the other crosses but not Jesus) and (2) the brief Resurrection scene where Jesus stands up after the burial clothes are emptied on the burial slab.

The Sacrifice of Jesus had to be perfect in every way in order for certain prophecies in the Scripture to be fulfilled. His bones could not be broken or the Sacrifice would not be perfect and would not atone for the sins of man. The prophecies of Messiah had to 100% accurate without any exceptions.

John 19
Care of the Body of Jesus
31   Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32   So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him;
33   but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
34   But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.
35   And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.
36   For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN."
37   And again another Scripture says, "THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED."

Exodus 12
46   "It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.

Numbers 9
12   'They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall observe it.

Psalm 34
20 He keeps all his bones, Not one of them is broken.

At the very end of the movie the Resurrected Jesus stands up from sitting at the end of the burial slab and His right hand passes clearly in front of the camera. There is a considerable hole in the palm, more or less the size of a quarter, such that one can see through it completely. The requisite conclusion to be drawn from this clearly defined puncture wound is that His bones have not only been broken but segments of the bones in His hand are missing. This detail stands defiantly in contradiction to fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament. The open, empty hole in and of itself disqualifies the movie from being Biblically accurate, honest, trustworthy, consistent, faithful or whatever other euphemism for "truthful" being proffered by Protestant Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders alike. The theological substance of this depiction qualifies for greater condemnation than simply being untruthful.

Asking the question…" Is the movie Biblically truthful?" raises the issue of authority and a consistent application of one’s source of authority. Mel Gibson’s authority is not the Bible alone. It is the Roman Catholic Church, its Tradition, its Magisterium and the Scripture all filtered through the infallibility of the Pope, which churns out its version of "truth". This is categorically and historically at odds with the Protestant source of truth known as Sola Scriptura, - the infallible Word of God. During the Reformation and before, hundreds of thousands of people, Protestants and Pre-Reformers such as Hus,and Wycliffe,died at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church battling over the Bible (who gets to read it, in what language, who can explain its message, etc.) and the source of final authority.

The chorus of Big League Evangelicals, Roman Catholic Heavyweights and some well known liberty minded political commentators, such as Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran lavishing praise on Mel’s movie seems endless. Is the majority "opinion" correct? Does Gibson follow the Gospel accounts and provide a "truthful" rendition? Does his accuracy or lack thereof even matter? Hey, it is just a movie right?

For example…

Evangelical Protestant Christians:

Billy Graham: After watching 'The Passion of the Christ,' I feel as if I have actually been there. I was moved to tears. I doubt if there has ever been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus' death and resurrection – which Christians believe are the most important events in human history." "The film is faithful to the Bible's teaching that we are all responsible for Jesus' death, because we have all sinned," Graham continued. "It is our sins that caused His death, not any particular group. No one who views this film's compelling imagery will ever be the same." 

"Every time I preach or speak about the Cross, the things I saw on the screen will be on my heart and mind."

Albert Mohler, Speaker, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar: "....Without doubt, Gibson has based his movie on the New Testament accounts. He drew his narrative largely from the Gospels of John and Mark, though passages from Matthew and Luke also appear. The movie is a graphic account of the crucifixion and suffering of Christ, and the violence of the movie--true to the biblical accounts--has earned the film an R-rating...Christians have historically believed that the actual words of the Bible were directly inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.... Biblical Christians understand the Bible to be the very Word of God, and thus our responsibility in interpretation is to understand the text--not to correct it.... The controversy over the movie will produce many opportunities for truth-telling in the midst of the confusion. It's up to us to tell the rest of the story."

Dr. Mark Roberts: Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard University, Teaches New Testament courses for Fuller Theological Seminary, ...."The Passion of the Christ meticulously follows the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ death,... As one who has spent thousands of hours studying and writing about Jesus, I had anticipatory doubts about the accuracy of The Passion of the Christ. ... I was gratefully surprised by a film that is faithful to the gospels without being slavishly bound to them.

Southern Baptist Convention, Jack Graham President: The movie is biblical, powerful and potentially life-changing.  The thing that I'm most excited about is the opportunity it's going to give those of us who preach the cross to explain the meaning of the cross and message of the cross to untold millions of people who are going to be asking questions about the cross and why Jesus died. There's no question it is the most hard-hitting display and demonstration of the crucifixion. (Baptist Press, Aug 22, 2003)  

Dallas Theological Seminary Dr. Darrell Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies: Three words summarize for me: Sobering, Stunning, Haunting. The film speaks for itself.  I hope you keep the graphic nature of it complete in the film, because it will cause everyone to reflect on what His death was.  The world tends to wash over this directness.  The details are very accurate -- this is the kind of death our Lord died for me. (From an email to Icon)  

National Association of Evangelicals Ted Haggard, President: The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) affirms the importance of the authentic retelling of the New Testament accounts in Mel Gibson’s latest film, The Passion. The NAE has established this position of support for the film in response to numerous attacks leveled at Gibson and the film. In interviews on CNN and various radio networks, Ted Haggard, President of the NAE has described The Passion as, "A beautiful, wonderful account of the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus Christ. It is consistent with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John."

At a special showing in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Haggard, along with 30 other prominent evangelical leaders, reviewed the film and encouraged Gibson to release it with minor stylistic adjustments. All acknowledged the biblical accuracy of Gibson’s creative dramatization of the historical account.

Focus on the Family Donald Hodel President and CEO   …The quality and realism of the acting, the setting, adherence to the historical record, its intensity and pacing all amount to an outstanding and moving film.  It is unusually provocative concerning vital spiritual issues.  For both Christian believers and for non-believers The Passion will penetrate the mind, heart and soul in ways that can only be memorable and positive. …For our part, Focus on the Family applauds The Passion and it is a film we will heartily recommend to our constituents. (From a letter to Icon)  

Rick Warren Pastor – Saddleback Church Author – "Purpose Driven Life"  

Brilliant, biblical – a masterpiece.

Roman Catholic Leaders

Cardinal Francis George Archbishop of Chicago:  From Chicago Sun Times   Is "The Passion" – Mel Gibson’s upcoming film about the hours leading up to Jesus’ death – anti-Semitic?  That depends how you interpret the Bible, says Cardinal Francis George, who saw a rough-cut version of the film two weeks ago.   It’s a very graphic presentation of the passion of Christ in the Gospels," George said Saturday.  "For people who think that the passion narratives are themselves anti-Semitic, well then, it’s a presentation of those narratives.   For those of us who don’t believe they’re anti-Semitic, that Christ died for our sins, all of us, and so therefore we all caused his death, it’s a way to portray, very graphically, the brutality of that execution in a Roman style."   "I’ve read the Passion narratives of the Lord and contemplated them and prayed over them many, many times, and I’ve never thought of the crucifixion with the images that I received while watching this," George said.  "I’ll never read the words the same way again." (Chicago Sun Times, Aug 3, 2003)

Pope John Paul II:

…Amid continued criticism of its depiction of Jews, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls called the film on the final hours of Jesus' life "a cinematographic transcription of the Gospels. If it were anti-Semitic, the Gospels would also be so."

Office of Film and Broadcasting, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: The Passion ... is a composite of the Passion narratives in the four Gospels embroidered with non-scriptural traditions as well as the imaginative inspiration of the filmmaker. The result is a deeply personal work of devotional art — a moving Stations of the Cross, so to speak. However, by choosing to narrow his focus almost exclusively to the Passion of Christ, Gibson has, perhaps, muted Christ's teachings, making it difficult for viewers unfamiliar with the New Testament and the era's historical milieu to contextualize the circumstances leading up to Jesus' arrest. And though, for Christians, the Passion is the central event in the history of salvation, the "how" of Christ's death is lingered on at the expense of the "why?"

Nationally Known Political Commentators:

Patrick J. Buchanan from WorldNetDaily:

But Gibson's "Passion" gives us a Lenten masterpiece, a beautiful moving work of art. To cradle Catholics who can recite the lines of each episode before they are uttered, it is faithful to the Gospels, to the Stations of the Cross, to the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Joe Sobran of LewRockwell.com

If we're looking for Gibson's motives, we should start with the role of Mary in the story, which has received little attention. She is shown, with the utmost compassion, witnessing and sharing Jesus' torment. We see a flashback of her consoling him as a boy when he falls down, just as she consoles him when he carries the Cross. All this adds emotional depth and spiritual meaning to what some of the reviewers see only as a gruesome spectacle of physical pain.

Cal Thomas Syndicated Columnist:  As one who has seen virtually every modern biblical epic – I can say "The Passion" is the most beautiful, profound, accurate, disturbing, realistic and bloody depiction of this well-known story that has ever been filmed. Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus with tender understatement, may be the best "Jesus" ever (not counting the original).  To those within the Jewish community who worry that the film, which is scheduled for release next Easter season, might contain anti-Semitic elements, or encourage people to persecute Jews, fear not.  This film does not indict Jews for the death of Jesus.  It is faithful to the New Testament account.  Gibson, a devout Roman Catholic, does not elevate Mary, Jesus’ mother, beyond what Scripture says of her, which will broaden the film’s appeal to Protestants (Tribune Media, Aug 5, 2003)

and many more support this movie without qualification. So how does one account for the numerous extra-Biblical scenes/characters and yet all these folks say it is accurate? The religious equivalent of multi-cultural, political correctness – ecumenism – provides the answer.

Contrary to what the above ecclesiastical bigwigs say about this movie, Mel’s movie is not consistent with the Scripture. These are days when deception and the lack of Scriptural knowledge are rampant. All Biblically minded Christians must, must be good Bereans.

Acts 17
Paul at Berea
10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
11   Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
12   Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

Read your Bible and then compare it to the movie.

Mel’s movie is embedded with Roman Catholic doctrine, that is antithetical to historic Protestant teaching and doctrine, such as:

Marian Worship - (From the Catholic Information Network ) In The Passion of the Christ, Gibson has accomplished a Marian feat no pastor or theologian could achieve in the same way. He has given the world through its most popular visual medium a portrayal of a real human mother, whose heart is inseparably united to her son’s heart. This mother’s heart is pierced to its very depths as she spiritually shares in the brutal immolation of her innocent son. Hers is an immaculate heart, which silently endures and offers this suffering with her son for the same heavenly purpose: to buy back the human race from sin.

Mary Co-redemptrix has been given her first international film debut in a supporting role, and it’s a hit.

Dr. Mark Miravalle

Professor of Theology and Mariology

Franciscan University of Steubenville

This is announced in the extra-Biblical quote of Mary at the Cross, "Flesh of my flesh, heart of my heart, my son, let me die with you." The potential dangers of the visual medium used in religious films was presciently addressed by A. W. Tozer, over forty years ago

Transubstantiation   - "The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ." Pg. 347 #1377 of the Catholic Catechism.

Where is this in the movie? That would be in the blood of Jesus in Mary’s mouth as she kisses his feet and in the brief, clipped passage used in the Last Supper scene. Every time a Roman Catholic Mass is said, the bread and wine are magically transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus, according to Roman Catholic doctrine. Jesus is re-Sacrificed hundreds of thousands of times each day. Mel held the Old Tradition Tridentine Mass everyday during the film and Caviezel is quoted to have taken Mass everyday to be clean since he was "playing Jesus". Does the Bible have anything to say about this doctrine?

Hebrews 9
24   For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
25   nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own.
26   Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
27   And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
28   so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

The Cross was either occupied by Jesus once and never again or it is not ever empty, which is what a Crucifix depicts or communicates. The empty Cross is the historic, Reformed Protestant representation of what was done ONCE for the Redemption of Sins for man. The Empty Tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus are the Divine Proof of Salvation for His Elect being completed and not just an accomplished potentiality that has to be done over and over in perpetuity.

Galatians 1
Perversion of the Gospel
6   I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
7   which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
8   But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (literal - anathema)
9   As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
10   For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.


"Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."


Nathanael lives in Dallas, Texas where he is an engineer.  He is a life long registered Republican and self employed.  It would jeopardize his career if his real name was used, hence the pseudonym of Nathanael.  He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.

Nathanael can be reached at nathanael4551@yahoo.com

Published in the March 19, 2004 issue of  Ether Zone.
Copyright © 1997 - 2004 Ether Zone.

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