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The Passion of the Christ: Motives Revealed

Commentary by Roger Oakland
www.understandthetimes.org

For printer friendly version, please click here

The newly released “Definitive Edition” of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” confirms the film was produced with the specific purpose to promote a Roman Catholic agenda that would introduce viewers to the Roman Catholic “Mary” and the Roman Catholic “Jesus.”

Understand the Times has been sounding the alarm since the film was released in 2004, stating that “The Passion of the Christ” was not the dynamic witnessing tool that many Bible-believing Christians were touting it to be. With the release of this “Definitive Edition” it can be clearly seen what the true objectives of the filmmakers were and what these “artistic images” were intended to portray—namely the Roman Catholic view that Mary plays a key role in the redemption of mankind, and that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the heart and core of what Rome considers true Christianity.

One of the many special features in this “Definitive Edition” is a “Theological Commentary” with remarks by three Catholic theologians and producer Mel Gibson running concurrent with the film. Among those selected to participate in this discussion were Father William Fulco, professor of antiquity at Loyola University and translator of the script into Latin and Aramaic; Father John Bartunek, theologian, priest and scholar; and Catholic apologist (former Protestant pastor) Gerry Matatics.[1] 

Let’s allow these “Passion of the Christ” commentators to speak for themselves. For the complete transcript of this entire discussion:

The Passion Of The Christ: Theological Commentary

Emphasis on the Roman Catholic “Mary”

During the scene of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, the camera cuts away to Mary asleep in her bed. She bolts upright, wide awake; at the exact same moment that Christ is struck in the face by one of the soldiers. In the commentary tract, Mel Gibson says:

I specifically wanted the experience of the passion to be shared, as it would be by any mother. But this is more than a mother.

Another speaker comments:

Yes. And of course of all the movies about Jesus, this is the most Marian—the one that most connects Mary to Jesus. And so that femininity is there as a filter that the whole movie is shot through.

This “connection” is demonstrated consistently in the film by the locking of eyes between mother and son. As Jesus makes his way through the Stations of the Cross, he stumbles, he falls, he searches for the strength to continue. Then their eyes meet; he receives strength, gets up and continues toward the cross. This occurs no less than five times in the movie.

Father John Bartunek remarks:

And Jesus looks at Mary, who is his mother but also a symbol of the church, of every Christian, and he is going to suffer for us, so that we know that we are never alone. That he is never going to give up. So he gets that new burst of strength when he sees Mary. When he sees his mother he is reminded of what he is doing this for.

Gerry Matatics contributes the following:

You know, I did not understand when I was Protestant that Mary, as God’s masterpiece, as this first Christian—a Christian before Christ, as many of the church fathers called her—is herself the result of Christ’s saving work. You know, she wouldn’t be that if he had not done this for her. So when he looks at his mother, he is doing this for her.

Another commentator states:

Because of this bond between Jesus and Mary, not only is this his decision, but it is also her decision too. She gives that little slight, you know, inclination of the head. When he looks at her—just what we just saw about a minute ago. He looks at her, when the eyes lock and she nods, like, “Go ahead, let this be.” She is saying what she said when he first became incarnate in her womb— “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Mel Gibson clarifies:

So be it. Yes, she was cooperating with this, salvific work. I tried to make that obvious.

The Roman Catholic “Mary” and Her Role in Salvation

Mel Gibson stated that his goal in the film was to show that “Mary” shares a role in redemption. This crowning achievement of the “Definitive Edition” is clearly identified by one of the commentators, who said:

But again, that is something that no one else has done. This is such an enormous and important achievement of this film, that no previous—And I have seen, I think, every movie, silent and talking, about Jesus that has been made. None of them make this point, show the bond between mother and son. Show the participation of Mary in the suffering.

Earlier in the film, when Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, before the coming events unfold, there is a scene where the devil appears and tempts Christ to give up his endeavor. As a snake slithers out from beneath Satan’s robe, Christ rises up and stomps on the serpent’s head, eliciting this discussion from panel members—

Genesis 3:15 has the words of God to the serpent. The church fathers call [it] the proto evangelian, the first announcement of the gospel, the first prophecy of the redemption where he says, “I am going to put enmity or hostility, a state of warfare, between you—the serpent, the devil ultimately—and the woman. And between your seed and her seed.”

And again, there is a little debate in biblical studies about whether she will crush or he will crush. But in a sense they work together. That is the thing that is the point. Jesus and Mary are working as the new Adam and the new Eve to bring about the defeat of the devil. And so when the serpent is crushed there, you are giving the audience a visual clue—this is the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, that redemption that was predicted there is now set in motion.

This is clear. Mel Gibson and the supporters behind “The Passion of the Christ” are proclaiming Mary Co-Redemptrix. They believe that Mary participated with Christ in procuring the redemption of all mankind.

Extra Biblical Revelation

Another disturbing aspect that is revealed in the discussions on this theological commentary is the bold admission that many of the events portrayed are not found in the pages of the Holy Bible. In fact four times during this conversation Gibson comments that this event or that event was inspired by the writings of mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich.

The scene of the soldiers flipping the cross over with Jesus attached is attributed to a vision of Mary of Agreda. Here is an enlightening piece of dialog that occurred during the scene in which a character named Veronica wipes the blood from Christ’s brow and offers him a drink.

Gibson:

That is not scriptural of course.

Panel member:

No, but it is one of those traditions. I mean, even the Scripture writers remind us that there were many things that John, that father has been mentioning so many times here, says twice at the end of his Gospel in John 20:31 and John 21:2—that there were many other things that Jesus said and did that were not—The world couldn’t hold the books. And of course Luke starts out his Gospel and the Acts the same way too. In fact John says in two of his letters, his second and his third epistle, in 1 John 12 and 3 John 13, he says, “I have many more things I wish to teach you, but I do not wish to do so with pen and ink. I will do it when I come to you face to face.” And that is a verse that really hit me between the eyes when I was rereading the Bible as a Protestant minister, realizing, wait a minute. These apostles did all kinds of teaching about the events of Jesus’ death, the meaning of his death, that they did not put down in the four written accounts. I want to have access to all of it. I want the full message. And I have to read what their successors, the apostolic fathers, wrote.

Gibson:

Well, the written accounts weren’t available for a long time and to most people, even after they were written. So I guess that sort of petered your notion of Scripture as solas.

Panel member:

Yeah, Scripture alone is something the Bible itself doesn’t even teach. In fact Paul said, “Hold fast to all the traditions, whether they came to you written or in oral form” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). And this, you know, Veronica’s encounter that is coming up here is certainly an example of one of those.

The Roman Catholic “Eucharistic Jesus”

Another controversial portion of the film is the juxtaposition of Christ being placed on the cross with the flashback scene of Jesus’ teaching in John chapter 6. As his garments are being removed, the image changes to a loaf of bread being unwrapped as the actor who portrays Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.”

Similar cutaways occur with the spurting of blood as the nails are driven and the sharing of the “chalice” in the upper room. Understand the Times has been criticized for attempting to alert others that these scenes were intended to promote the false doctrine of transubstantiation.  We were told that we were scrutinizing the film hoping to find something we could object to. In reading the transcripts of the panel discussion accompanying these scenes it becomes clear that our assessment was accurate.

Panel member:

Yeah, taking the cloth off of the bread and now stripping the garments off the one who said in John 6, “I am the bread of life.” You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood if you want everlasting life.

Gerry Matatics:

Which is another one of those Bible verses that I, as a Protestant, really wanted to just reduce to a mere figurative language until I really had to wrestle with the implications of what Jesus is saying there in John 6 and realizing, you know, who am I? What authority do I have to turn this into a figure of speech when Jesus, all the indications are he meant this literally.

Panel member:

Of all the New Testament, John 6 is about the hardest to escape, isn’t it?

Gibson:

The idea of transubstantiation staring you right in the face, right?

Another panel member:

Clearly all of his audience took him literally. They said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And they left him for that reason. He doesn’t run after them saying, “Wait, wait, you misunderstood. I was just using a nice little metaphor, a little bit of poetry.” They would have said, “Fine, we’ll come back. We love simile and metaphor and poetry.” The Psalms are full of it. But they understood him literally and he let them go because that was the true understanding. And that is certainly how the apostles took it. I mean, Paul is very clear about that in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. He says that communion is a communion in the body and blood of Christ, not in something that is a symbol of his body and blood, or represents. In other words, the Bible never says this symbolizes or this signifies my body. This is a representation of my blood. That is something that I, as a Protestant minister, had to impose. And I realized that the Bible didn’t warrant that.

Panel member:

I think the flashbacks in this film are really excellent in pulling that together. That the Eucharist embodies the passion of Christ.

The transcript of this commentary runs nearly fifty pages. Within the discussion are teachings on the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, the elevation of tradition and mystic visions to the same status as Holy Scripture, and the proclamation of Mary as Co-Redeemer with Christ. The quotations that I have included in this commentary should be sufficient to document that “The Passion of the Christ” was, from its inception, intended to draw people into the fold of the Catholic Church.

Let me include two final comments made by former Protestant pastor Gerry Matatics that will underscore my conclusion.

The Marian theme of this film and the Eucharistic theme are so beautifully interwoven that a devotion to Mary and a devotion to the Eucharist really involve each other. They are inextricably intertwined.

Quite a few spokespeople for the various Christian denominations commented that although they had never appreciated the role of Mary in redemption, that this film caused them to take a brand new look at it. And to develop a new appreciation for Mary that they didn’t have before. And I think it is one of the most important achievements of this movie. And I say that as someone who was a Protestant minister, who converted to Catholicism later.

“Definitive Edition” Definitely Roman Catholic

Documented factual statements made by Mel Gibson and his panel in the “Theological Discussion” explaining how and why “The Passion of the Christ” was made, speak loud and clear. No further comments are required.

However, there is still one area that requires comment that has not been discussed in this commentary. Previous to the public release of the “Passion of the Christ”, Gibson personally showed previews of his film to thousands of Protestant Evangelical pastors. Many of these pastors enthusiastically promoted the film to their churches, claiming it was one of the greatest evangelistic tools they had ever witnessed.

Apparently, Mel Gibson was careful during these preliminary promotional viewings not to reveal all that has now been revealed in the “Definitive Edition”. How many of these pastors would have promoted this film if they had known what we know now?

While it is not yet evident that this Roman Catholic film has been instrumental in winning many souls to (or back to) the Roman Catholic Church, it is still significant that an important precedent has been established. Pastors who have been called to protect their sheep from harmful predators need to be on the alert.

According to the Bible, the Last Days will be characterized by strong deception and many will be deceived by many. [2]  Further, “lying signs and wonders” will be very instrumental in promoting “the lie” that so many will accept. [3]

Will pastors learn a lesson and be more discerning in the future? Based on the current trend that is underway towards ecumenism and a move away from the authority of the inspired Word of God, I do not hold out a lot of hope. In fact, it is apparent that discernment is becoming a rare quality within the body of Christ.

Now that the “Definitive Edition” has revealed the true motives behind “The Passion of the Christ”, I hope and pray the light of God’s Word will shine brightly into the darkness and more and more people will see the truth.

 


[1] Note: Because the commentary is only audio, running concurrent with the film, it is not possible to distinguish which of the panel members is speaking at any given time.

[2]   Matthew 24: 3-5

[3]  2 Thessalonians 2: 3-9

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