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Caution: "The Passion" and Mary

Commentary by Roger Oakland

On Ash Wednesday, February 25, 2004 , Mel Gibson’s Icon Films will release “The Passion of The Christ.”  Over the past several months this film has created a storm of controversy. While many critics are saying that Gibson’s “R” rated film is anti-Semitic and brutally violent, there are other aspects of this film that should cause Bible believing Christians reason for concern.


Millions of people are excited about "The Passion of The Christ" – Roman Catholics and Protestants. They believe the film will provide an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. While Christians are called to be witnesses, it is important to reach the lost with the biblical gospel. Needless to say, the gospel must always be based on the Bible, without compromise. As well, additions to the gospel based on personal revelation from mystics or seers can be dangerous.


Therefore, I believe it is important for Christians to be warned that “The Passion of The Christ” is not solely based on the Bible. Mel Gibson has publicly declared on more than one occasion that his inspiration for making “The Passion of The Christ” came from at least one other source – The Dolores Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ written by Anne Catherine Emmerich, a Roman Catholic mystic who lived in the 19th century.


Critics of Gibson’s film have already expressed concerns about Emmerich’s vision of the crucifixion and how it has influenced the script. For example in an article titled “Critics say Gibson film mimics a hateful book,” posted on the web February 18, 2004 , we read:  

Rabbi James Rudin, senior interreligious adviser to the American Jewish Committee, said he also planned to speak out on the Fox News Network on Wednesday night.

"I was just stunned when I heard Gibson say this week that he was unaware of the harsh anti-Jewish stereotypes in Emmerich's book," Rudin said. On Wednesday morning, Rudin said he was comparing the film, which he has seen twice, with sections of Emmerich's "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ."

"Here's one example. There's this whole brutal scene in the movie in which Jesus' captors hang him over a bridge by chains and then yank him back up again," Rudin said. "That's nowhere in the New Testament. Where did it come from?"

The scene is nearly identical to one in Emmerich's book, where she describes a Jewish group, the Pharisees, egging on a mixed group of Romans and Jews to heighten Jesus' suffering. [1]

For many who watch the film, such extrabiblical revelation based on Emmerich’s book, will not be a problem. They will argue that this is just the producer expressing “artistic freedom.” However, I would suggest it is important to remember that “artistic freedom,” when it is inspired by a visionary, may not be inspired by God. And in the case of Anne Catherine Emmerich, it would be beneficial for people who plan to see Gibson’s film to check out Emmerich’s background and theology – particularly on the subject of Mary, the mother of Jesus. 


In order to do this, it will be necessary for you to read The Dolores Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ for yourself. But for now I will provide you with some interesting insights. For example, on the back cover of the book, the following statement is made: 


The Dolores Passion recounts with incredible precision the horrendous sufferings undergone by our Savior in His superhumanly heroic act of Redemption. Also illuminating is its description of Mary’s participation in the sufferings of her Son, so that this book gives the reader a poignant understanding of why Our Lady is often called our “Co-Redemptrix” and Queen of Martyrs.” [2]


Further, the introduction of the book includes the following dedication: “To the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Help of Christians, and Refuge of the Human Race.” [3]


With regard to how Anne Catherine Emmerich received her “gift” of revelation, the book states:


Her angel guardian used to appear to her as a child; and when she was taking care of sheep in the fields, the Good Shepherd himself, under the form of a young shepherd, would frequently come to her assistance. From childhood she was accustomed to have divine knowledge imparted to her in visions of all kinds, and was often favored by visits from the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven, who under the form of a sweet, lovely and majestic lady, would bring the Divine Child to be, as it were, her companion, and would assure her that she loved and would protect her… [4]


Finally, it can be documented that Emmerich’s vision of the crucifixion goes well beyond biblical parameters. The following is a portion of what the visionary claimed she saw at Calvary in her vision:


Magdelen, Mary of Cleophas, and John stood near the Cross of our Lord and looked at him, while the Blessed Virgin, filled with intense feelings of motherly love, entreated her Son to permit her to die with him; but he, casting a look of ineffable tenderness upon her, turned to John and said, “Woman, behold thy Son;’” then he said to John, “Behold thy mother.”


For this reason it did not appear to me in the least surprising that Jesus should call the Blessed Virgin “Woman,”  instead of “Mother.” I felt that he intended to demonstrate that she was that woman spoken of in Scripture who was to crush the head of the serpent, and that then was the moment in which that promise was accomplished in the death of her Son.


It would be good to keep your eye on “Mary” when you are watching “The Passion of The Christ”. There will be scenes showing “Mary” as portrayed in The Dolores Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Although these scenes will support the Roman Catholic view of Mary, her actions and statements will not always agree with the Bible.


Movies are produced by humans who have “artistic rights.” Unfortunately, humans can be deceived. The Bible is inspired by God and is always true, profitable for correction and reproof. [5] When it comes to the Mary and the Jesus of “The Passion, of The Christ” be careful to compare what is said and done in the film with Holy Scripture. Most importantly, when witnessing, be sure to point people to the gospel found in the Bible and to the biblical Jesus – never to a movie.


One more thing, just as I was about to send out this commentary to all those on my mailing list, I received a bulletin from Zenit, a news agency based in Rome. On February 22, 2204, Pope John Paul made a very significant announcement:


Pope Reflects on Lent as Time of Conversion

Looks Ahead to Ash Wednesday

Is this just a coincidence? What role will Icon Productions and "The Passion of Jesus" play?

My next commentary will be "The Passion" and the Eucharistic Jesus.



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