leans strongly toward a biblical worldview
|Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
|view our criteria|
Released in theaters nationwide on Ash Wednesday, February 25, 2004, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST draws primarily from biblical accounts from the four Gospels as well as Genesis, Isaiah and Revelation to tell the story of the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life. Director Mel Gibson (BRAVEHEART, APOCALYPTO) also integrates traditional and extra-biblical sources from Catholic devotional literature into this highly artistic yet brutally graphic depiction of the passion and suffering endured by Christ on the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) to His death by crucifixion for the sins of mankind. Produced independently by Icon Productions, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST begins in the Garden of Gethsemane with the agonizing prayer of Jesus coming to terms with what lies before him and ends hopefully with the resurrected Jesus exiting the empty tomb.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
As the pivotal event upon which human and biblical history hinges, there is nothing more relevant to the Christian faith than the long-prophesied and atoning death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world and His subsequent resurrection to new life. At its essence, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is a 126-minute artistic interpretation of twelve of the fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross – with flashbacks to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper and washing of the disciples’ feet, and scenes showing the deep bond between Jesus and His mother Mary from earlier in His life.
While the extended and gruesome scourging scenes are difficult to watch, given Satan’s rebellion against God and hatred for humans made in His image it is doubtful he would have treated Jesus any less brutally. Here, Gibson makes it clear that while key Jewish leaders and Roman authorities orchestrated and carried out the execution of Jesus, Satan is the adversarial force behind the events.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
As the story of Jesus’ last twelve hours unfolds in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, Gibson’s rendering of key figures remains largely true to biblical and traditional depictions of Mary, His mother, Mary Magdalene, John, Peter, Judas Iscariot, Simon of Cyrene, Caiaphas, Barabbas, the two criminals, Roman authorities such as Pilate and Herod Antipas and Roman soldiers in their various roles. While the dropping of Jesus over a bridge and the affliction of Judas Iscariot by demonic children leading to his suicide by hanging are extra-biblical – as are faint hints of Mary as Co-Redemptrix – each character is depicted in a faith-compatible way that does not diminish the biblical narrative.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
While some may see THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST as unnecessarily bloody and violent, history teaches that death by Roman crucifixion was horrifyingly brutal. And the Bible teaches that the human heart – without the remedy of faith in Jesus as Messiah – it utterly depraved and set against God in all of its ways. In this sense, Gibson’s graphic depiction of the crucifixion is realistic – though exceedingly difficult to watch for moviegoers.
Set in the context of the Passover Feast, Gibson portrays well the complicated political intrigue between a Jewish leadership threatened by a Galilean Messiah with a large following and Roman authorities attempting to quell uprisings in the province. Here, the exchanges between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas – both of whom find no reason to execute Jesus of Nazareth – set the stage for Gibson’s artistic vision of the vicious scourging and flagellation as Pilate attempts to punish but not execute Jesus. When this proves unacceptable to the Jewish leadership, who see Jesus as a blasphemer, Pilate appeals to the annual tradition of releasing one criminal at the feast – thinking that the crowd will pick Jesus over the murderer Barabbas. When the crowd, prompted by the Jewish leaders, calls for Barabbas to be released instead and Jesus to be crucified, Pilate washes his hands of the situation and concedes to their demands in order to keep peace in the province and save his own head with Caesar in Rome.
Despite the graphic reality of crucifixion, interspersed throughout THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST are faith-compatible flashback scenes in the Garden of Gethsemane, at the Last Supper including the foot washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus, at the attempted stoning of the woman caught in adultery, and in the deep and loving bond between Jesus and His mother, Mary.
Family Viewing Suitability
With an R rating for graphic content, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is not for the faint of heart. However, for those who are mature enough to handle the harsh reality and excruciating suffering associated with a Roman crucifixion, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is a must-see film that offers a sobering reminder of the weightiness of human sin and our need for faith in a savior whose atoning sacrifice on the cross makes the way for reconciliation back unto a holy, sinless and loving God.
With its spectacular artistic direction and vision, sweeping cinematography and high-quality production values, musical score and writing, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST sets a standard for biblically themed movies that is difficult to surpass. While the cast is superb overall, Jim Caveziel as Jesus is magnificent. The decision to use reconstructed Aramaic and Hebrew for Jewish speakers and Latin for Romans and bilingual elites – as opposed to Greek, which was the historic regional lingua franca – works well and lends an air of authenticity, time and place to the film.
Every scene in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is like a masterful work of art, carefully and exquisitely painted by Gibson. And the single teardrop that falls from the eye of Heaven when Jesus has borne the sins of mankind and been forsaken by God – unleashing the earthquake that rips the temple veil in two and vanquishes Satan once and for all – is an emotionally stirring representation of God’s awesome power, love, grace and forgiveness. Ultimately, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST clearly presents the hopeful, redemptive, reconciling Gospel message of Jesus’ death and resurrection on behalf of all who believe in Him.