Comments by Those Who Have Seen "The Passion of Christ"2004
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: A film by Mel Gibson and Icon Production is a vivid depiction of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life with James Caviezel and Monica Bellucci.
Fan Website for Mel Gibson and Icon Production Film "The Passion of The Christ"
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Comments by Those Who Have Seen "The Passion of Christ"
Motion Picture Association: Jack Valenti - CEO
I thought 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)
Excerpts 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 Icon)
Dean Devlin Producer of Independence Day, The Patriot, Godzilla
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)
Variety Peter Bart Editor
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.
Peggy Noonan Author, Columnist
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 Icon)
Drudge Report - Matt Drudge
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)
Rush Limbaugh - 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 - Michael Novak, President
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)
Cal Thomas - Syndicated Columnist
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 Protestants. 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. And soon.” 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)
David Klinghoffer Author, Historian
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 him."
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 today: "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.
David Horowitz - 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 their beliefs?).
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)
Toward Tradition - Rabbi Daniel Lapin
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 see. 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. 25, 2003)
Michael Medved - Film Critic Radio Show Host
Recently 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)
The Vatican Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop John Foley President
A senior 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 anti-Semitism.
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," Foley said. "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)
The Vatican Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, Worldwide Prefect of the Clergy
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 possible.
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, 2003)
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
Supreme Knight - 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)
Santa Clara University Jesuit Community Rev. Matthew Carnes
I found “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)
Thomas Aquinas College - Thomas Dillon, President
I have 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)
Evangelization 2000 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)
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua
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.
National Association of Evangelicals Ted Haggard, President
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 John."
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 people."
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)
Focus on the Family - James Dobson Chairman
It is 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 Donald Hodel, 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 as possible. 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)
The King’s Seminary Jack W. Hayford, Chancellor
“The 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. As a 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.
Focus On The Family Del Tackett, Executive Vice President
It has 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)
Rick Warren, Pastor – Saddleback Church Author – “Purpose Driven Life”
Brilliant, biblical – a masterpiece. (Comments following a screening)
Southern Baptist Convention Jack Graham, President
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 - Dr. Jerry Falwell
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 should miss.
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 Pat Robertson, 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 wonderfully authentic.
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 March. 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)
Faith Television Network Jim West President
It took 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)
Young Life Denny Rydberg President
As 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 - Roger Cross, President
I feel 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. From a 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 - Stan Kellner
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)
Harvest Crusades 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 - 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 this movie. 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 to date.
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)
Chuck Colson - Break Point
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)
Dallas Theological Seminary - Dr. Darrell Bock, Research 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)
Northern Baptist Theological Seminary - Chuck Moore, President
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)
Mastermedia International Larry Poland, 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)
Christian Leaders Vanguard Church - Kelly Williams, Senior Pastor
Our 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)
American Life League - Judie Brown, Founder and President
Please rest assured that we at American Life League will do all we can to help promote this amazing film. (From an email to Icon)
Evangelicals For Social Action - Ron Sider, President
“The 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)
Pat Boone, Singer, Actor
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., Pastor - Dallas-Area Fellowship Church
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)
Youth Specialities - Michael Yaconelli, CEO
I 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. We heartily recommend this film and will do everything we can to mobilize our constituency to see it. (From an email to Icon)
Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) - Elisa Morgan, 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)
Berean Christian Stores - Roger Feenstra, President
This is 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)
Mission America Coalition - Paul Cedar, Chairman/CEO How 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. I was 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.
Mark Mittelberg, Author – “Building a Contagious Church”
Film 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.
Promise Keepers - 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.
Outreach Inc - Doug Martinez, 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.
Max Lucado, 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 - Chuck Fromm
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.
Lee Strobel, Author - “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.
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