Comments by Those Who Have Seen "The Passion of Christ"
Passion was a superior recounting of the ‘greatest story ever told,’ the last
days of Jesus. There is in the film the gravity and seriousness it deserves.
There are moments so heart-rending, the tears come easily. I cannot but
believe that people of all religions will find this truly an impressive (and
respectful) piece of art and realism, emerging from the New Testament. As a
cinema artist, you have just reason to be proud of what you have done. (From
a letter to Mel Gibson, July 2003)
from Valenti’s appearance on MSNBC’s Scarborough:
SCARBOROUGH: What can you tell us about “The Passion”?
VALENTI: Well, I was
quietly moved by it. I thought it was a serious and gravely told story about
the last days of Jesus. …I found this to be an extraordinary movie.
SCARBOROUGH: So you do not believe that it was anti-Semitic?
VALENTI: No, I
don't. Actually, the villains in this movie are the Roman legionnaires who,
on orders from their legion commanders, flogged Jesus before they made him
take the cross to the mount. So they were the villains. …I have read the New
Testament and I think this accurately portrayed what is in the gospels.
William Peter Blatty
Director of The Exorcist
The Passion is a masterpiece. And beyond. I love his film
and I love his faith and ardor and guts for doing it. (From an e-mail to
Producer of Independence Day, The Patriot,
First off, thank you so much for allowing me to see your
incredible film, “The Passion”. In
all honesty, I think it’s a masterwork.
I loved everything about your film.
The performances, the staging, the photography and the story telling
are everything I dream about when I think of movies. You’ve totally outdone yourself with this
exquisite film. I can’t begin to tell
you how honored I was to be able to see the film. I’m still getting over the incredible impact the film had on
me. (From a letter sent to Icon)
The precept of freedom of expression often takes a back
seat once the ideologues and pedants get involved. Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion,” provides the latest and most
vivid example. Though Gibson is still
editing his film and has shown it to a very small number of people, there
already are cries of protest and dark insinuations of an anti-Semitic
subtext. …These blatherings strike us
as irresponsible. The film, which
depicts the final hours of Jesus’ life, was fully financed by Gibson, who
directed it but did not appear in it.
It is clearly an art film, dark and disturbing.
Some will be moved by this film, others disturbed. As with all previous films depicting the
period, some scholars and theologians will doubtless challenge Gibson’s
historical accuracy – indeed he is an actor, not a Biblical scholar. But to condemn both the film and the
filmmaker in advance reflects both bigotry and a disdain for free expression.
It is a powerful film, and I believe it will prove
historic -- a real moment in the history of cinematic treatments of the
greatest story ever told. Be happy and proud. It is going to be huge. (From an email to
DRUDGE: This may be the last movie Mel Gibson makes. This
is the ultimate film. It's magical. Best picture I have seen in quite some
time, and even people like Jack Valenti were in the audience in tears at this
screening. There was about 30 of us. It depicts a clash between Jesus and
those who crucified him, and speaking as a Jew, I thought it was a magical
film that showed the perils of life on earth.
BUCHANAN: Right. "The New Republic" -- today I read a long report
in "The New Republic" said it is an anti-Semitic film, just about
flat-out. What's your take?
DRUDGE: They haven't seen the darn film and those of us, every single person
in there, and I'm not talking about tears, I'm talking total tears. It is something
Mel Gibson stood back at the end and took questions for about an hour, and he
is -- he told me he's tired of Hollywood. That this is it. He's going to do
it. He's going to do it his way, and this film, I tell you, is magic. It's a
miracle. It's a miracle... (MSNBC, Jul 23, 2003)
Radio Talk Show Host
If you've heard the conventional wisdom about
this movie, due out during Lent next year, you should listen to my firsthand
account of it. I really didn't want to give you all the details of the movie,
but I did want to tell you its affect on us. My stepdaughter cried for the
last 30% of the movie, for example. It's that powerful. Some people are
probably put off because they think this movie is religious. They
shouldn't be, because it's not. There is nothing offensive about this film.
It's a movie about a religious figure, but the movie itself isn't religious.
I'm not making a fine point here, as you'll understand after you see it.
There is violence, of course, and that's factually accurate.
This movie does not preach; it doesn't try to
convince you one-way or the other who or what Jesus was. It is very intimate.
It doesn't matter if you're religious or atheistic or a snake handler. This
movie will hit you in the gut. It has themes about man's inhumanity to man.
It's also about one man standing by what he believes to be true - no matter
the cost - and enduring. (Rush Limbaugh Show, Jul 28, 2003)
American Enterprise Institute
In the Nicene Creed sung or recited by some 2 billion-plus
Catholics (Greek, Orthodox, Roman), Anglicans, Lutherans, and other
Protestants every Sunday, Jesus Christ is characterized as “suffered under
Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried….” These ten words are
the theme of Mel Gibson’s new movie (scheduled for release at Easter,
2004). It is the most powerful movie
I have ever seen.
A week after having watched a rough-cut version, I have
still not been able to get The Passion out of my mind. At every Mass I have attended since, at
the raising of the Body of Christ and then the Chalice of his Blood, its
darkly colored, shocking images have flooded my memory, and suffused new
vividness into the passion being reenacted on the altar.
I don not know whether Mel Gibson and I are in any other
way kindred spirits. No matter. I am in awe of the twelve-year work of art
that Gibson has accomplished. No
other movie on Christ even comes close.
It belongs in the company of Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s St. Matthew’s
Passion. The work of artists often
soars above their human limitations. (Weekly Standard, Aug 25, 2003)
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
Thirteen years ago, actor Mickey Rooney wrote an editorial
for “Variety” in which he said, “The on-screen depiction of religion is less
than flattering, and as a Christian, I pray the era of denigrating religion
on screen comes to a screeching halt.
Rooney’s prayer has been answered with “The Passion.” It is a soul-stirring film, which deserves
wide distribution and viewing. Its
message is not just for Christians, but for everyone. I doubt if a better film about Jesus could
be made. (Tribune Media, Aug 5, 2003)
Jewish officialdom — that small, cozy world of community
leaders and other machers — is already getting agitated by Mel
Gibson's still-in-production Jesus movie. "The Passion" depicts the
last 12 hours in the life of Christianity's founder, and press reports
suggest that it places blame for the man's death firmly on Jewish shoulders.
…One such orthodox belief insists that, despite what the Christian Gospels
say, it wasn't Jews who killed Jesus: it was Romans acting on their own. You've
heard this a million times, from Hebrew school onward. The Simon Wiesenthal
Center's Rabbi Marvin Hier, referring to Gibson's making of "The
Passion," recently told Reuters that he's concerned "that the
film's purpose is to undo the changes made by Vatican II," which
absolved the Jews of collective responsibility for Jesus' death. That
"would unleash more of the scurrilous charges of deicide directed
against the Jewish people."
Yet authoritative Jewish sources teach that Jesus died at
least partly thanks to decisions taken by his fellow Jews. That fact used to
be covered up by our communal leaders lest antisemites discover and publicize
it. But the discovery has already happened, as a quick Internet search will
reveal. So why keep fooling ourselves?
Maimonides says it unapologetically in his "Letter to Yemen":
"Jesus of Nazareth... impelled people to believe that he was a prophet
sent by God to clarify perplexities in the Torah, and that he was the Messiah
that was predicted by each and every seer. He interpreted the Torah and its
precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment, to the
abolition of all its commandments and to the violation of its prohibitions.
The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his
reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to
In this passage, Maimonides draws on the Talmud and the Tosefta, another
ancient rabbinic text. One key talmudic passage, from tractate Sanhedrin
(43a), was expunged by censors but preserved in manuscripts and is well known
"On the eve of Passover they hung Jesus of Nazareth. The herald had gone
forth forty days before [his death], (crying): 'Jesus of Nazareth goes forth
to be stoned, because he has practiced magic and deceived and led astray
Israel. Anyone who knows anything in his favor should come and declare
concerning him.' But they found nothing in his favor."
Stoning would have been followed by briefly hanging the body on a tree. As
one modern scholar notes, "the Talmudic story of the execution of Jesus
does not implicate the civil [Roman] government at all."
…What's clear beyond doubt is that the Jewish community has a strong interest
in fostering positive, warm relations with Catholics and other Christians.
Surely, though, the cause of friendship with our non-Jewish fellow citizens
is unlikely to be advanced by critiquing religious beliefs which closely
mirror our own tradition. Our loyalty should be to Judaism and to truth, not
to an officially sanctioned, sanitized version of Judaism or the truth —
which may be neither Jewish nor true. (The Forward, May 3, 2003)
David Klinghoffer is the author of "The Discovery of God: Abraham and
the Birth of Monotheism," published this month by Doubleday.
Talk Show Host & Columnist
Gibson's film is an artistic vision and must be judged
that way. It is an awesome artifact, an overpowering work. I can't remember
being so affected by a film before. It is extremely painful to watch and yet
the violence is never gratuitous. You never feel like you want to take your
eyes off the screen. It is a wracking emotional journey, which never strays
from its inspirational purpose. It is as close to a religious experience as
art can get.
It is not anti-Semitic, as the film-burners have charged.
Two illustrative details: Jesus is referred to in the film as
"rabbi," and there is never any distancing of Jesus or his
disciples from their Jewishness. (One point missed by ignorant bigots like
Fredericksen whose only familiarity with The Passion is with a stolen script)
is that while the film is in Aramaic -- a brilliant effect that enhances the
symbolic resonance of the story -- it has subtitles. Second detail: A Jew
carries Jesus' cross along the terrible route to Golgotha and shares his
miseries. But yes the film is also faithful to the Gospels and therefore the
Pharisees are Jesus' enemies and they and their flock do call for Jesus'
death (and why wouldn't they since Jesus was a threat to their authority and
But all this is to miss the point. This is a Christian
parable. The cruelty, intolerance and lack of compassion of human beings is
limitless -- and we who have lived through the Twentieth Century know this
all too well. The moral of this Christian story -- of Mel Gibson's film -- is
that we all killed Jesus -- Jew and Gentile alike -- and tortured him, and we
do so every day. But if you believe the vision that Gibson has rendered so
searingly and so well, Jesus forgives us for that very act. Whosoever will give
up cruelty and love his brother will enter paradise. That is the message that
Gibson has framed in his extraordinary work. The effort to shut down his film
before it opens is just another station of the cross. (FrontPageMag.com,
Jul 30, 2003)
Never has a film aroused such hostile passion so long
prior to its release as has Mel Gibson’s Passion. Many American Jews are alarmed by reports
of what they view as potentially anti-Semitic content in this movie about the
death of Jesus, which is due to be released during 2004. Clearly the crucifixion of Jesus is a
sensitive topic, but prominent Christians who previewed it, including good
friends like James Dobson and Michael Novak who have always demonstrated
acute sensitivity to Jewish concerns, see it as a religiously inspiring
movie, and refute charges that it is anti-Semitic. While most Jews are wisely waiting to see the film before
responding, others are either prematurely condemning a movie they have yet to
As an Orthodox rabbi with a wary eye on Jewish history
which has an ominous habit of repeating itself, I fear that these protests,
well intentioned though some may be, are a mistake. I believe those who publicly protest Mel Gibson’s film lack
moral legitimacy. What is more, I
believe their actions are not only wrong but even recklessly ill-advised and
shockingly imprudent. I address
myself to all my fellow Jews when I say that your interests are not being
served by many of those organizations and self appointed defenders who claim
to be acting on your behalf. Jewish groups that fracture friendship between Christians and
Jews are performing no valuable service to American Jews.
Jewish organizations protesting
Passion are remarkably selective in their ire. It is so bizarre that the new movie Luther,
which champions someone who was surely one of history’s most eloquent
anti-Semites, gets a free pass from our self-appointed Jewish guardians. Only Gibson is evil, is that right?
Again, why would the soon to be
released new movie, The Gospel of John, be utterly immune to the
censoring tactics of certain Jewish organizations? After all, the soundtrack includes virtually every word of the
Gospel including the most unflattering descriptions of Jewish priests and
Pharisees of Jesus’ time, along with implications of their complicity in the
Crucifixion, yet not a peep of Jewish organizational protest. Could their conspicuous silence possibly
have anything to do with the ethnicity of the producers of The Gospel of
John? These include Garth
Drabinsky, Sandy Pearl, Joel Michaels, Myron Gottleib, and Martin Katz. So if Jews quote the Gospel it is art but
if Mel Gibson does the same, it is anti-Semitism? The Talmudic distinction eludes me. It probably eludes most Christians too.
These protests against Passion
are not only morally indefensible, but they are also stupid, for three
reasons. The first reason is that
that they are unlikely to change the outcome of the film. Mr. Gibson is an artist and a Catholic of
deep faith of which this movie is an expression. By all accounts, his motive in making this movie was not
commercial. In addition, anyone who
saw his Braveheart would suspect that Mel Gibson profoundly identified
with the hero of that epic, who allowed himself to be violently disemboweled
rather than betray his principles.
Does anyone really believe that Gibson is likely to yield to threats
from Jewish organizations? Do any
Jews actually believe they are going to prevent millions of Christians from
seeing this movie? I don’t think Jews
should see this movie; it isn’t about our religion. However the millions of Christians who do see it will find
themselves profoundly moved and uplifted by it.
The second and more important
reason I consider these protests to be ill-advised is that while Jews are
telling Gibson that his movie contradicts historical records about who really
killed Jesus, Vatican Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos has this to say:
Mr. Gibson has had to make many artistic choices in the
way he portrays the characters and the events involved in the Passion, and he
has complemented the Gospel narrative with the insights and reflections made
by saints and mystics through the centuries. Mel Gibson not only closely
follows the narrative of the Gospels, giving the viewer a new appreciation
for those Biblical passages, but his artistic choices also make the film
faithful to the meaning of the Gospels, as understood by the Church.
Do we really want to open up
the Pandora’s Box of suggesting that any faith may demand the removal of
material that it finds offensive from the doctrines of any other faith? Do we really want to return to those dark
times when Catholic authorities attempted to strip from the Talmud those
passages that they found offensive?
Some of my Jewish readers may feel squeamish about my alluding to the
existence of Talmudic passages uncomplimentary toward Jesus as well as
descriptive of Jewish involvement in his crucifixion. However the truth is that anyone with
Internet access can easily locate those passages in about ten seconds. I think it far better that in the name of
genuine Jewish-Christian friendship in America, we allow all faiths their own
beliefs even if we find those beliefs troubling or at odds with our own
beliefs. This way we can all prosper
safely under the constitutional protection of the United States of America.
Finally I believe the attacks
on Mel Gibson are a mistake because while they may be in the interests of
Jewish organizations who raise money with the specter of anti-Semitism, and
while they may be in the interests of Jewish journalists at the New York
Times and elsewhere who are trying to boost their careers, they are most
decidedly not in the interests of most American Jews who go about their daily
lives in comfortable harmony with their Christian fellow citizens. You see, many Christians see all this as
attacks not just on Mel Gibson alone or as mere critiques of a movie, but
with some justification in my view, they see them as attacks against all
Christians. This is not so different
from the way most people react to attack.
We Jews usually feel that we have all been attacked even when only a
few of us suffer assault on account of our faith.
Right now, the most serious
peril threatening Jews, and indeed perhaps all of western civilization, is
Islamic fundamentalism. In this
titanic twenty-first century struggle that links Washington DC with
Jerusalem, our only steadfast allies have been Christians. In particular, those Christians that most
ardently defend Israel and most reliably denounce anti-Semitism, happen to be
those Christians most fervently committed to their faith. Jewish interests are best served by
fostering friendship with Christians rather than cynically eroding them. Rejecting flagrant anti-Christianism on
the part of Jews claiming to be acting on our behalf would be our wisest
course as a community. Doing so would
have one other advantage: it would also be doing the right thing. (WorldNetDaily.com, Sept.
I watched a rough version of this work in progress, and it represents by far
the most moving, substantive, and artistically successful adaptation of
Biblical material ever attempted by Hollywood. The premature efforts to
discredit Gibson and his ambitious movie come at a time when committed Jews
and serious Christians have been working together as never before to advance
our common values – in the Middle East and in America. All people of conscience
should encourage their burgeoning coalition, and resist unfair attacks on an
unfinished project by an inspired, idealistic filmmaker. (Salem Radio
Network, Aug 2003)
It is by a very large margin of advantage the most
effective cinematic adaptation of a biblical story I have ever seen.
And it's the kind of movie that's going to touch people. (Fox News,
The O’Reilly Factor, Aug 4, 2003)
Pontifical Council for
Archbishop John Foley
Vatican official who watched clips from Mel Gibson's controversial film
"The Passion" offered enthusiastic praise Saturday for what he saw,
despite concerns from Jewish groups that the movie will promote
U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley of the church's
social-communications office said he hoped to show the film in the Vatican
and said he doubted whether criticisms of the film were valid. "From
what I could see of the trailers, it seemed to be an excellent film,"
"I don't think they would be well-founded criticisms
because all the material in the film comes directly from the Gospel accounts.
There's nothing in the film that doesn't come from the Gospel accounts.
"So, if they're critical of the film, they would be critical of the
Gospel." (Associated Press, Sept 13, 2003)
Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos
Worldwide Prefect of the
As I watched this yet unfinished version of the film, I experienced
moments of profound spiritual intimacy with Jesus Christ. It is a film
that leads the viewer into prayer and reflection, into heartfelt
contemplation. In fact, as I told Mr. Gibson after the screening, I
would gladly trade some of the homilies that I have given about the passion
of Christ for even a few of the scenes of his film.
With this film, Mr Gibson has achieved something truly
extraordinary. He has used the marvelous technology
available through our modern means of communication to make the passion,
death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ come alive for the people of our
times.What is more, the film as a
work of art – the performances, the dazzling cinematography, the sounds,
lighting, and pacing– is just as powerful as the message it contains.
In my opinion, one of the great achievements of this film
is to have shown so effectively both the horror of sin and selfishness, and
the redeeming power of love. Seeing this film provokes love and
compassion. It makes the viewer want to love more, to forgive, to be
good and strong no matter what, just as Christ did even in the face of such
terrible suffering. The viewer is
drawn into a powerful experience of God’s strong yet gentle love, of his
overflowing mercy. It is my belief that if we could understand
what Jesus Christ did for us and we could follow his example of love and
forgiveness, there would not be hatred or violence in the world. This film will help to make that
This film is a triumph of art and faith. It
will be a tool for explaining the person and message of Christ. I am
confident that it will change for the better everyone who sees it, both
Christians and non-Christians alike. It will bring people closer to
God, and closer to one another.
Mr. Gibson has had to make many artistic choices in the
way he portrays the characters and the events involved in the Passion, and he
has complemented the Gospel narrative with the insights and reflections made
by saints and mystics through the centuries. Mel Gibson not only closely follows the narrative
of the Gospels, giving the viewer a new appreciation for those Biblical
passages, but his artistic choices also make the film faithful to the meaning
of the Gospels, as understood by the Church.
Anti-Semitism, like all forms of racism, distorts the
truth in order to put a whole race of people in a bad light. This film
does nothing of the sort. It draws out from the historical objectivity
of the Gospel narratives sentiments of forgiveness, mercy, and
reconciliation. It captures the
subtleties and the horror of sin, as well as the gentle power of love and
forgiveness, without making or insinuating blanket condemnations against one
group. This film expressed the exact
opposite, that learning from the example of Christ, there should never be any
more violence against any other human being. (La Stampa, Sept 18,
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)
Archbishop Charles Chaput
Archbishop of Denver
From Rocky Mountain News
Beal: And what do you think [of The Passion]?
Chaput: I thought it was an
extraordinary work of art and extraordinarily faithful to the gospels. If I
was critical of the film's detractors it's because I think it's unwise for
any group to try to intimidate either the church or people of Mel Gibson's
faith from speaking very clearly what they believe to be true. You know
anti-Semitism is a terrible sin; it's a sin the church has repented from and
will need to continue to repent from if and when there are examples of it in
church life. But to clearly proclaim our belief that Jesus is the messiah and
that he suffered, died and rose from the dead is for us something we have a
duty to proclaim. We can't be intimidated from proclaiming it. It seems to me
the rush to judge the film before it was even completed was an act of intimidation
to prevent Christians from doing what they need to do. I can't speak for Mel
Gibson, of course, but I think making the movie was for him an act of faith.
I think it's a hugely significant personal venture for him. I think it's
important for him to listen to the criticisms that come his way, but I also
think he should be free to pursue his best judgments on the matter.
Beal: The Anti-Defamation League and Rabbi Marvin Hier,
the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, have also objected to
the film on the grounds that it is anti-Semitic and that, once released to
the public, it could inflame anti-Semitic sentiment.
Chaput: I don't agree. I think some
members of the Jewish community have felt that any passion play, any
depiction of the passion whatsoever, automatically begins in anti-Semitism.
If such a case occurred the church would act to show how it is wrong and a
sin. But with Gibson's film, certainly the version I saw, this isn't the
case. (Rocky Mountain News, Aug 21, 2003)
Knights of Columbus
Carl A. Anderson, head of the 1.6 million member
Knights of Columbus, attended a July screening of The Passion. In
introducing Gibson to leaders of the Knights, Anderson said “The Passion” was
a powerful depiction of Christ’s crucifixion. “I urge critics who have not
seen the final film to keep an open mind and not prejudge it,” Anderson said.
If there is going to be a public debate about “The Passion” and religious
rights, Anderson said, the Knights “would not duck from it.” Giving Gibson
the opportunity to meet with the Knights, he said, “was making sure ‘The
Passion’ gets a fair hearing. We hope such a hearing will promote better
religious tolerance and dialogue among all religious faiths.” (Knights of
Columbus, Aug 12, 2003)
Clara University Jesuit Community
“The Passion” to be a deeply moving and reverent presentation of Jesus’
suffering and death on the cross. I
believe that this film will have a special appeal to young adults. I think “The Passion” will give them a
rich sense of the person of Jesus and the meaning of his suffering, and will
invite them deeper into faith and exploring the Bible. I will certainly promote the film among
the students with whom I work, and can imagine hosting student discussions of
it after viewing it. (From an email to Icon)
spent my life teaching the Great Books and have a strong interest in
film. I think what you have done in
“The Passion” is extraordinary and will probably be recognized as the best
religious film ever made. I will
continue to pray for you and for the success of the film, and will ask our
students to do so as well. (From a letter to Icon)
Fr. Tom Forrest
In time, I expect the film to be declared a masterpiece,
and more importantly believe that it could have stunning and very positive
repercussions throughout the world. For sure, it will make people talk
and think, and that alone is a wonderful thing. Count on it that he and
you have our prayers and the prayers of everyone we can invite to join with
us in storming heaven for the spiritual and artistic success of this fine
work of art. (From a letter to Icon)
From an aesthetic standpoint, the film is beautiful. Its
visual narrative carries traces of the long tradition of Christian art, from
the very earliest Christian styles and medieval iconography up to
pre-Raphaelite images. My wife Theresa and I came away from the film with a
sense that our faith had been revitalized. Make no mistake: this movie will
convert and uplift hearts. Once you've seen it, you'll never again take for granted
the words: "He suffered, died, and was buried." And what about all
the alleged anti-Semitism? I didn't see any kind of anti-Jewish bias in the
film. If anything, it was the unspeakable brutality of the Roman soldiers
that enraged me. Of course, that doesn't make me hate modern-day Italians.
Nor do I hate the French when I see a film about the brutality of the French
Revolution. Simply put, there's no reason to be concerned that this movie
will spark any sort of anti-Jewish campaign. (Crisis, Aug, 2003)
I think that Mel Gibson has tremendous experience in the film world. I think used a lot of his, almost genius, in the film, having intuition almost on film making – how he was able to use that and take the scriptures, surely he and the others he used must have done a lot of research. I believe that he depicted it as something like Michelangelo would have done and say, “what’s the essence here, what am I trying to teach?” Art is generally getting beyond the physical, you have to teach something in any kind of artistic presentation, whether it be in music, or painting or a sculpture, you must be able to look at it and see beyond just what was the artist actually depicting, what was he trying to teach. And the highest art is when you can see God in any art. Whether it is depicting a landscape, you’ve got to see it’s God, a manifestation of God’s beauty. That’s the highest form of art, especially when it’s not a mystery, like modern art, because I don’t understand it. But great art to me is that I can see a manifestation of the attributes of God, the beauty of God, the mercy of God, the love of God, all of them. And I think that that came through in this film, of manifesting God’s infinite love for us and what He did for us.
Richard John Neuhaus
National Association of Evangelicals
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
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.
CNN questioned Haggard on specific claims from the story, including Jewish
leaders' offering blood money for Jesus' betrayal and Jewish people's
inciting hatred toward Jesus, leading to his crucifixion. Haggard responded,
"The movie portrays historical accounts realistically, but the Body of
Christ worldwide does not blame Jewish people for the crucifixion.
Evangelicals believe that our sins are responsible for creating the situation
that required the crucifixion of Christ. Christ did not die because of the
political and religious powers of the day, but for a far greater purpose. We
are all responsible. This is why evangelicals view The Passion as a
love story. It demonstrates the profound love Christ has for all
Haggard emphasized that evangelical Christians--who have a high view of the
historical accounts in the Bible as shown in the film--are some of the most
ardent supporters of Israel and defenders of Jewish people worldwide. He
maintained that evangelical Christendom values the realistic portrayal of Jesus'
last day and believes that the final effect of The Passion will be
positive for Judaism in America and around the world.
(NAE Release, July 22, 2003)
on the Family
deeply moving, powerful, and disturbing.
A film that must be seen - although the graphic scenes of the
scourging of Jesus are emotionally wrenching. (From an email to Icon)
Focus on the Family
President and CEO
What you showed to us was not simply another movie, to be
compared with remembrances of previous cinematic portrayals of Christ, but
rather something that breaks old boundaries and enters dramatic new
territory. For what I believe to be
the right reasons The Passion was
profoundly compelling and affecting.
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.
Any attempt to create a film rendering of a crucial
portion of the life of Jesus Christ is a bold endeavor, and one bound to
generate some amount of controversy.
Let me further encourage you to withstand this premature and unjust
criticism of your film and complete this important work of art. While some of its depictions of violence
are adult-level material, this stunning film must be seen by as many people
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)
Passion” is a forthright, compassionate, evenhanded presentation of the
historic facts of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of
Nazareth. I found it deeply moving,
factually accurate and unprejudiced in its presentation.
Bible scholar, I was impacted by the integrity of the film to the testimony
of scriptures. As a friend and
supporter of world Jewry and modern Israel, I reject all suggestions of
anti-Semitic bias for flavor in the film.
As a Christian, I am grateful for the film’s potential to deepen
devotion to the Savior and to more broadly offer the evidence of His love and
sacrificial death to people everywhere.
On The Family
been nearly three weeks since I saw the rough cut of The Passion. It is still impacting my life. I can’t stop thinking about it nor can I
stop talking about it. I have never
seen a film that has so affected my life.
It is powerful, moving, and disturbing. The film is true to the Bible and other historical evidence,
yet it is alive with emotion and the harshness of reality. I do not want to see it again, yet I will
be compelled from within to do so – not only again, but again and again. No one will be able to leave the theatre
and not be moved at the core of their being. (From a letter to Icon)
Pastor – Saddleback
Author – “Purpose Driven
Brilliant, biblical – a masterpiece. (Comments following a screening)
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)
The Liberty Channel
Mr. Gibson has attempted to painstakingly recreate the
crucifixion of Christ, not to assail Jews, but to arouse in people a desire
to understand the price paid for their salvation.
I am praying that Mel Gibson's movie will have a powerful
impact on our culture and that it will appeal to millions of movie lovers who
are starving for a glimmer of honesty regarding the miraculous and
life-changing story of the One who died for everyone, no matter their
religious heritage, station in life, sexual preference or skin color. (From Falwell
Cofidential, Sept 24, 2003)
Crystal Cathedral / Hour of Power
Dr. Robert Schuller
I can’t tell you how I admire, respect and applaud
you. May God give you the blessing
you need, where you need it most.
The Passion is an awe-inspiring portrayal of
the last hours of Jesus’ life. It is
an accurate account of Jesus’ real sufferings for the sins of the whole
world. This is not a film anyone
I make available to you the use our television program –
the most widely viewed religious television program in the world – to promote
your upcoming film! (From a letter to Icon)
Christian Broadcasting Network
Chairman and CEO
Without question, this is the finest work that has ever
been done on this subject. The
casting is superb. The action is
gripping, and I believe that having the dialogue in Latin and Aramaic adds
tremendously to the dramatic effect.
Your treatment of the high priest and temple officials is
sensitively done. It is clear that
the small group of religious leaders were acting in an extra legal fashion
without the full body of the Sanhedrin being present. The terrible suffering inflicted on Jesus
Christ by the Romans was at the urging of a small band of power-hungry
religious leaders, not by the Jewish nation.
More than anything your portrayal of the suffering of
Jesus is with a few exceptions in total accord with the biblical
narrative. It is therefore
I understand there are at least 50 million evangelicals in
the United States and nearly as many Roman Catholics. From what I can gather, the interest in
your film is very high among those in these groups who have heard about
it. In my opinion you will see a very
large and enthusiastic audience when The Passion is released next
It will be my pleasure to use whatever facilities we have
available at The Christian Broadcasting Network to help you publicize this
outstanding work. (From a letter to Icon)
Trinity Broadcasting Network
Paul Crouch, Jr.
All I can say is Whoa! And get ready! It is
one of the most powerful things I've ever seen. It basically
starts at the Garden of Gethsemane and ends at the resurrection.
It is without a doubt the best portrayal of Christ and the Crucifixion
I've ever seen. In fact, it makes you want to take all Biblical
epics and most "Christian" films and throw them right in the
trash. (Including many of ours!!) This will do for
"Jesus" movies what "Saving Private Ryan" did for
war pictures. Every Christian MUST go see this movie and hold Mr. Gibson
up in prayer. He's going to take a lot of heat for this project,
but if we'll support him, this movie could have a profound spiritual
effect on millions of people. (From a TBN email)
a brave heart to make “The Passion”. “The Passion” is the most
graphic, gritty and gripping depiction of Christ’s arrest, trial and
execution ever made. As a film, it
will become a classic work of art with dramatic lighting, authentic sets,
compelling music, realistic dialog, believable actors coupled with a timeless
story. (From an email to Icon)
President of Young Life, I am pleased to voice my strong support for The Passion. The Young Life sphere of influence includes tens of thousands
of staff and volunteers, as well as hundreds of thousands of adults and kids
who would be lining up in an instant to see this film. In addition, I think the film will have
mass appeal to people of any faith or no particular faith, simply because of
the quality of the production and the historical nature of the content. My best
to you as you move into the final stages of production and distribution. I'm thrilled about the prospect of a
quality film of historical substance and modern appeal hitting the
marketplace. Thanks for improving our
options. (From a letter to Icon)
Youth For Christ/USA
the film is the most powerful treatment of Jesus passion that I have ever
witnessed. It is true to the text and
done with the quality that it deserves.
The range of emotions caught me by surprise but the message is so
powerful that it captures your soul.
ministry perspective I tried to imagine what young people would think and how
they would respond. My hope is that
they will also be captured by the presentation. I believe they will because it is simply the telling of God’s
story. I am most encouraged by the
fact that they will see a true representation of Jesus: fully God and fully
man. (From an email to Icon)
International Bible Society
Mel and his team marvelously wove a tapestry of subtle and
not so subtle Hebraic insights into the movie, e.g., the heal hitting the
serpent’s head, Mary asking in Hebrew “Why is this night different from all
other nights”, the flashbacks to the Jesus’ Passover Seder with his disciples
(commonly called the Lord’s supper).
The list goes on and on.
As a Jew, while I see why some Jewish leaders might be
offended, I must say that the only reason they would be is because of how
close to the Scriptures you stayed in the telling of the story. There are a whole host of reasons why we,
as Jewish people, can feel a keen sense of rejection, offense or other things
by what some Christians have done “in the name of Christ” during the last
2,000 years. But, let me assure you
that Mel Gibson is not to be named in that number. Mel has chosen the narrow road of staying true to the
Scriptures. (From a letter to Icon)
Pastor Greg Laurie
I think the Passion is
going to make history. Even after the film has had its impact in the theatres
it will have a very, very long shelf life through DVD, etc. I can see that
film being shown around the world to touch untold millions of people. Mel has
created a resource that will make a difference in the lives of many for time
and eternity. (From an email to Icon)
Tim LaHaye Ministries
THE PASSSION is the finest
presentation of the last hours of Jesus’ life I have ever seen. It is a scripturally accurate account of
how He really suffered for the sins of the whole world. The acting and production were superb, and
the message leaves a lasting impact on both Christians and
non-believers. Everyone should see
The believers who see this film will be renewed in their
commitment to Christ. Many
non-believers will be moved to reevaluate His claim of dying for the sins of
the whole world. No film in my
lifetime has the potential of impacting more people with the world’s greatest
story than THE PASSION. It is sensitive to the Savior, Biblically
accurate, and both production and acting are of the highest quality. It could be Hollywood’s finest achievement
I was extremely impressed with Mel Gibson’s spiritual
passion on wanting to present the true nature of Christ’s suffering for all
the world to see. It gives a message
that will benefit people of all faiths, cultures, and backgrounds. (From a
letter to Icon)
Imagine for a moment that an Oscar-winning director, such
as Steven Spielberg or Roman Polanski, announces that his nest project will
be an historical drama. Now imagine
that groups representing the people depicted in the film are demanding to see
the script to see if it meets with their approval. There’s no way that any responsible director would give in to
those demands. And, in refusing, he’d
have the whole-hearted support of what is called “the creative community” and
the First Amendment watchdogs. The
exception, of course, is if the history in question is the passion of our
LORD, in which case creative freedom is expected to take a back seat to the
demands of political correctness.
That’s what’s happening with Mel Gibson’s upcoming film The
Passion. The Passion tells
the story of the twelve hours surrounding the Crucifixion. While The Passion is only the
latest in a series of films about Jesus, it stands out for two reasons: First, it is unsparing and
unsentimental. In Gibson’s opinion,
previous cinematic efforts had failed to capture the enormity of Jesus’
suffering on our behalf.
This quest for fidelity has made some people nervous. Even without seeing the film, some Jewish
and Catholic leaders have accused Gibson’s film of fomenting “religious
animosity” and even anti-Semitism.
They worried that the film might blame “the Jews” for the death of
Jesus. And they requested that a
panel of scholars be allowed to review the script before the film’s release.
Gibson’s defenders include Archbishop Charles Chaput of
Denver. He wrote that he found I “puzzling
and disturbing that anyone would feel licensed to attack a film of sincere
faith before it has even been released.”
He reminded Gibson’s liberal critics that when The Last Temptation
of Christ – and attack on the historic Jesus – came out, “movie critics
piously lectured Catholics to be open-minded and tolerant. Surely that advice should apply equally
for everyone.” (Break Point, Aug 2003)
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)
Baptist Theological Seminary
Having viewed the film in Chicago, I see no basis for the
ongoing allegation that the film is anti-Semitic in any fashion. Please express our deep appreciation to
Mr. Gibson for his excellent work and assure him of our ongoing prayers in
this important endeavor. (From an email to Icon)
Chairman and CEO
Based on first century eyewitness accounts, The Passion
is a historically accurate film chronicling the events surrounding the
trial, torture and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Far beyond this, the film is a life-changing glimpse into a
person and into a world that contemporary Americans can scarcely
imagine. My plea to everyone is, “Go
see The Passion!” Go with your
skepticism or your questions, but go.
You will leave the film forever changed. (From an email to Icon)
team went to see the movie – we each came away from that movie greatly
impacted and affected by the images and scenes that we took in that day. Without reservation we will recommend this
film to our community. If there is
anything we can do as an organization to help promote this film we are more
than willing to do so. (From an email to Icon)
rest assured that we at American Life League will do all we can to help
promote this amazing film. (From an email to Icon)
For Social Action
Passion” is simply fabulous. It is
emotionally wrenching because it is brutally honest about the violence of
Jesus’ death. Never in my life have I
seen any movie that comes even close to depicting what Roman crucifixion was
really like. Long familiarity and
theological explanation have leached out in our minds the awful brutality of
Jesus’ trial and death. John’s simple
words, “the Pilate took Jesus and scourged him” feel vastly different as you
watch two brutal Roman soldiers go on minute after terrible minute
bludgeoning Jesus near-naked body with flesh-gouging whips. Pious talk about Jesus’ death for our sins
takes on a whole new meaning. (From an email to Icon)
It’s a monumental accomplishment. It continues to impact
me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. (From a letter to Icon)
Ed Young Jr.
I have no doubt that the movie will be one of the greatest evangelistic tools in modern day history. I think people will go to it and then flood into the churches seeking to know the deeper implications of the movie. That's where we have a chance to capitalize. The bottom line is that our sin nailed Christ to the cross, the movie crosses all barriers to black, white, Jew, gentile, white-collar, pink-collar, blue-collar. The whole message is one of love and forgiveness and grace. (From an email to Icon)
believe this film will have a powerful impact on students and adults. This film will not only have widespread
interest but will finally make sense out of the Easter story for thousand of
people who have never entered the door of a church, especially young people.
heartily recommend this film and will do everything we can to mobilize our
constituency to see it. (From an email to Icon)
of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS)
President and CEO
I have had the privilege to view a rough cut of Mel
Gibson’s new film, “The Passion.” That was weeks ago. I am still haunted by
the images, the characters, the powerful action, and of course, the message.
I find myself reviewing certain scenes in my mind, and longing to see the
film again…and again. It was that compelling.
The audience that MOPS represents is mothers of preschool
age children. There are 14.3 million in the United States alone. While
preschool age children would obviously be too young to view this film, I
believe that mothers everywhere will respond to the dramatic interaction
between mother and son in this film. Further, in a culture where mothers are
stretched beyond themselves to raise the children under their care, and in a
season when they are depleted of their own resources, mothers are hungry for
the hope that comes from outside themselves in the form of this story of a
God who loves them and cares for them.
This film offers a graphic picture of the hope all
mothers’ want. It is a powerful
telling of a message that families need to hear. I plan to encourage our audience to see this movie and to take
their families with them. (From a letter to Icon)
the movie that people have been waiting for. For years producers have attempted to portray the life and
death of Jesus Christ, but they were never able to get it right. Mel Gibson got it right! I have been in the Christian retailing
business for over 23 years and I can tell you that people will come out in
droves to see this movie. I have
already sensed an air of excitement from people who have gotten wind of
it. (From an email to Icon)
delighted I am to share this letter of affirmation for the remarkable and
powerful film, “The Passion.”
It was my privilege to view the film a few weeks ago in a private
screening of a few religious leaders.
very moved by the film. In fact, it
was a deep spiritual experience for me.
Without a doubt, it was the closest I have ever been to actually
witnessing the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I highly recommend this powerful film to
you. I believe that it is accurate
and very consistent with the Biblical account of the passion of Jesus Christ
of Nazareth. I am very grateful to
Mel Gibson for his vision in producing this marvelous film. It is not exaggerated or glamorized in
ways that many of the Hollywood films in the past have portrayed the life and
death of Jesus. It is a film that I
would encourage every young person and adult of every religion or philosophical
persuasion to view.
– “Building a Contagious Church”
makers are the history teachers of our culture – and Mel Gibson's movie, “The
Passion”, teaches us about history's most important event. The impact of this
movie will be immeasurable.
Brian W. Blomberg
VP and Chief Development Officer
The Passion is one of the most
amazing images of the real account of the Crucifixion. What struck me
most was the gritty, in your face account of the ultimate hero Jesus
Christ. Although graphic and brutal, it is a film worth taking your
children and friends to witness on the big screen. This may be the next
great evangelism tool of our time.
Chief Operating Officer
I predict The Passion will be one of the most talked about experiences of our generation It is not a movie but an experience…a life changing recognition of the true love of GOD for me through the sacrifice of his willing son Jesus Christ. It is my hope that the body of Christ will embrace this movie as one of the most opportunistic forms of Outreach of their lifetime and will be obedient to invite their friends, family members, and people they come in contact with to theatres to experience Gods love.
Pastor – Best selling Author
Thank you for allowing our congregation to preview the movie trailer of The Passion. In just four short minutes, the images and the authenticity left our members “spell bound”. Something went right to the heart of those who watched the trailer. You have our prayers and support as we look forward to the release of the movie.
Worship Leader Magazine
The Passion resonates in both art and message crushing the Gnostic head of a superficial Christianity with a Braveheart style of gospel experiential narrative. I think Gibson is a Giotto on celluloid. He makes all past Biblical narrative cinematic interpretation seem tepid or grossly unreal. As I said in the meeting, I thank God that my 17, 16 , 15, and 11, year old children will have an opportunity to experience the Passion of Jesus Christ in a language they can understand, and to be confronted with the killing of God, and finding their own lives washed in the blood of the redemption story. My hope and prayer is that Icon’s investment will pay off 1,000 fold so that you can continue to create and promote media art with eternal meaning for decades to come.
“The Case for Christ”
The Passion will stun audiences and create an incredible
appetite for people to know more about Jesus. I urge Christians to invite
their spiritually seeking friends to see this movie with them - and then to
use it to launch discussions about why He chose to endure the cross.