CHATTER: Passion Protest
I haven't said much about Mel Gibson's Passion in these pages because it seems that most of the content of the various articles is more within the purview of Paleojudaica and the NT Gateway, where it has been admirably covered. A piece in the Jerusalem Post, however, while urging a boycott of a movie still in the 'focus group' stage does have rather more ClassCon than I've seen in the 'discussion' up to this point:
HERE IS The New York Times describing a scene in The Passion that gives us insight into how Mel Gibson portrays Pontius Pilate: "The Roman leader Pontius Pilate is depicted as being reluctant to harm Jesus, who Pilate's wife warns is holy. Largely to mollify a restive Jewish mob outside his window, Pilate agrees to a severe lashing and scourging of Jesus, but the crowd and the high priest demand more.
"Pilate says in Latin, 'Ecce homo – Behold the man' – displaying the broken and bleeding Jesus to the crowd. But the high priest insists, in Aramaic, 'Crucify him.' Pilate responds, 'Isn't this enough?' The mob roars 'No,' and only then does the Roman leader agree to the Crucifixion."
What a bunch of hateful nonsense. The historical records shows that Pilate was the Saddam Hussein of his time, a murderer of unspeakable cruelty. King Agrippa I wrote a letter to the emperor Caligula about Pilate's "corruption, his acts of insolence, and his rapine and his habit of insulting people, and his continual murder of persons untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending, and gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity."
Likewise Philo wrote that Pilate was an "unbending and recklessly hard character," famous for "corruptibility, violence, robberies, ill treatment of the people, grievances, continuous executions without even the form of a trial, endless and intolerable cruelties."
So cruel was Pilate that he was eventually recalled by Rome for his sadistic actions. When a Samaritan prophet gained a large following, Pilate's method of dispersing his followers was typical: he slaughtered four thousand of them when they gathered on their holy mountain. Even the brutal Romans could not overlook this atrocity, and Pilate was recalled to Rome in 37 CE.
The simple and undeniable fact is that Jesus was condemned in a Roman court on a Roman charge, and put to death by a method of execution used only by the Romans, just as the two leading historians of the time, Josephus and Tacitus, expressly maintain.
Pontius Pilatus the Saddam Hussein of his time? We also have to deal with what Josephus actually says:
And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross ... (Antiquities, 18.3)
Come on people ... let's show a little balance. Why is it so difficult for folks to say that the blame for Jesus' crucifixion lies at the feet of both SOME Romans and SOME Jews? Ye gods, in this day and age, are we still so caught up in 19th century thinking that we think an entire people is to blame for the actions of a few? Are we so thin-skinned and so genocentric that we cannot acknowledge that it is ultimately INDIVIDUALS who make choices? Do we condemn all Iraqis for the actions of Saddam Hussein? Do we condemn all Americans for the actions of George Bush? Do we condemn all Canadians for the actions of Alfonso Gagliano (who is my wife's cousin ... although now she denies it)?
At the risk of treading on the shoes of our friends over at Improvident Lackwit, I also couldn't help but think of this scene from the Simpson's episode called Beyond Blunderdome, in which Homer is the only person in a focus group willing to criticize Gibson's remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (text from the Simpsons Archive, of course):
Gibson: Mr. Simpson, I need your help.
Gibson: I think you're right about my movie, and I want you to
help me make it better.
Homer: Really? You want my help? Marge, did you hear that?
Mel Gibson wants my help. Mel Gibson!
Lisa: Dad, I thought you hated ...
Homer: [interrupting] Shut up.
Marge: Homer doesn't know anything about making movies.
Gibson: Don't sell your husband short, Mrs. Simpson.
Homer: She's always doing that, Mel.
Gibson: Homer is a brutally honest man. Completely tactless and insensitive.
Homer: Hee, hee. Guilty as charged.
Gibson: The problem I have is people love me so much, they never criticize me. I speed all the time but the cops never give me a ticket. If I don't pay my taxes, the IRS pays them for me.
Marge: [sympathetic] Oh, you poor thing.
Gibson: It's hell being Mel.
[outside, the plane honks]
Travolta: C'mon, geez!
Gibson: I don't have much time, Homer. Will you come to
Hollywood with me?
Homer: You had me at, "hello."
Gibson: I didn't say, "hello."