Bernard Duree's Response To My Review of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

By Bernard Duree
March 1, 2004

Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004 17:07:05 EST
Subject: Re: THE PASSION - Shlomoh's review

Thanks Shlomoh for sending me your extremely probing and scholarly review. I found it utterly riveting, disturbing and above all masterly. I haven't seen the movie nor will I. While I'm not squeamish I'd never choose to watch anything so gory. As for the substance of the story, I defer to your scholarship and will confine myself to the few following points, based on what I've read about the movie, including your review -- by far the best I've read -- and my own readings on the time and place.

It's obvious to me that if the Romans hadn't been there Jesus would never have been subjected to the brutal execution he endured. I cannot conceive of anything like that happening in an all-Jewish environment. The Romans ruled their outposts with savage efficiency and used the cross as a routine tool of their rule. The more rebellious the ruled, the more crosses went up. I agree Jesus probably was -- or was seen as -- a subversive, a troublemaker -- as you note, not the only one -- who was made an example of "in terrorem". I cannot believe Pilate was a mild-mannered waverer who sought to mollify a few Jewish leaders (why would he?) by having Jesus punished (for what?). He acted as the agent of an imperial power ruthlessly cracking down in the style of the time. "Pax romana" was anything but peaceful. Under Rome the Jews, as all other conquered peoples, lived in fear, those who rebelled were barbarically dealt with, and the leadership who interacted with the Roman rulers did not want to "u pset the apple cart" . The Romans killed Jesus, as they did countless others, period.

So much for the historical side. As for the religious story I can tell you that the Church -- as I experienced it in my early years, long before Vatican II -- insisted that Jesus died for ALL mankind's sins and that ALL humans were somehow to blame -- a shocking disclosure when you're 7 or 8 and you feel suddenly incriminated without having done anything wrong. The reason? Adam and Eve had disobeyed God so all their offspring were born as sinners (!) and needed to be cleansed (baptism) and redeemed (through Jesus' death which thus was foreordained). At no time in my experience were the Jews singled out for blame, being depicted as mostly perplexed by Jesus' pronouncements. As for the Pharisees and the crowd that chose Barrabas, they may have been Jews but they were not THE Jews. (In another context nobody would blame THE English for Joan of Arc's burning at the stake by a number of Englishmen.)

I agree with your discerning contention that the Christian establishment found it expedient to blame the Jews while exonerating the Romans the better to convert the latter. Thus the individual tragedy of one Jew in Roman hands was compounded immeasurably by the Machiavellian scapegoating of the Jewish people over two millennia. It amazes me that anybody now -- for whatever reason, even in good faith -- would want to reverse the self-cleansing process the Church finally embarked upon, and by accident or design bring back the thinking, if not the behavior, of a benighted era.

Shlomoh's review of the film, PASSION OF THE CHRIST can be read HERE --

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