Review of The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson

I've seen the movie. Here are my thoughts.
28 February 2004, revised 1 March 04
Trevor Mander


The movie will stimulate religious discussion - be ready to answer the questions people might have.
Points out the reality that Christ did die on the cross and that it was not an easy road to take.
He didn't just swoon. It really was him.
A reminder that we have to preach the whole Gospel, not just part of it.
Read the relevant sections of the four Gospel accounts before you go and see the movie. It'll probably take less than an hour and it'll really bless you.

From someone else: "On a personal level I was moved despite the overdone violence because I realised again what Jesus did for me. I want to live hard out for him."


1. Too dark, no balance for a movie about Jesus. You could chop the violence in half and have a good bit of time for some STORY. I felt Return of the King was many times more spiritually challenging and uplifting. I do not think the very short flashbacks save the movie from a lack of context and balance. I know others have different ideas to me as to the merits of inflicting a depressing experience on ones self in order to be spiritual. If you gain from such things as Gibson does, bless you. I don't have a problem with others finding value in that way. Some churches cover everything with black material on Easter Friday and insist on not remembering the resurrection until the following Sunday. The movie is like that. I personally find that manner of worship offensive to the Gospel and something that leads to depression. I choose to worship elsewhere where the death of Christ is inseperable from the atonement and resurrection which is the greatest gift and greatest joy given to mankind.

2. Deserves NZ R16 rating, so well done to chief sensor Bill Hastings - don't make children suffer by watching such violence. More violent than the historical biblical accounts. In the Gospels the soldiers began to hit Jesus much later than shown in the movie. In the movie Jesus is almost incomprehensible due to torture while in the Gospels he manages quite a long speech to a large group of women. In the Bible Jesus walks ahead of the cross, in the movie he carries it all the way (with help), ie. It seems extra, unnecessary, violence has been added. How many times do we have to watch Christ do the super slow motion fall? Do his wounds ever coagulate or does he possess more than the normal amount of blood?

3. Plays down the resurrection and the supernatural. No soldiers, no angels, body dissolves. Jesus says "I AM" and yet the people don't all fall over like they should have.

4. Misses the point of the death events and seems to reinterpret them. Temple breaks instead of just the curtain (and it seems rather a small curtain to me). A mild storm scares the observers away right when they should have been all standing around awestruck. No dead people raised and walking around Jerusalem. No statement from the Centurion and other passersby that "truly this was the son of God."

5. Crow chewing on the unrepentant thief's eyes is plain weird. A bit like being hit by lightening after cursing God.

6. A bit like walking into a Catholic church and seeing Christ siting on a cross. A whole movie from a Christ-on-the-cross perspective. Most evangelicals are not informed enough to discern and evaluate the shades of Catholicism present. One scene has Satan holding a baby. Is Gibson trying to say something about how evil Satan is by having him mock the Catholic imagery of the Madonna and child?

7. Tormenting demons are portrayed as children. And some evangelicals want to take their kids to see this movie? tisk tisk.

8. Relics, relics, and more relics.

9. Sometimes it seems more a story about Mary than her son Jesus due to being able to see her emotion. Mary also seems to be venerated, obeyed, and shows supernatural knowledge before the coming of the Holy Spirit. She is called "mother" by the disciples. It's not a bad interpretation really but it is obviously heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism.

10. Torture of Jesus should not be the main point. In fact, other people in the world have suffered worse things. The point is the atonement story, the context, both of which were absent in this movie. Actually, the passage in Luke 23 has Jesus himself making the point that the violence done to him is going to be little compared to the violence coming to the women of Jerusalem within their lifetime.

11. I never thought of Jim Caviezel as Jesus as I was watching the movie. The movie summarised is 90 minutes of beating Jim up. Painful to watch but not much spiritual depth in that.

12. The lack of context means that a non-Christian seeing this movie can only be baffled as to the point. New Zealand is very secular. All they know is that Christianity is about Jesus dying on a cross. Funnily enough, that's as far as the movie goes too.

Further Reading:

The catholic spiritualist perspective of Jim Caviezel. Apparently he was wearing a piece of the real cross of Christ during the filming.

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