Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

February 2004

February 29, 2004

This has been a long and somewhat difficult week. I spent the first part of the week stressing about The Passion of the Christ, wondering what the movie was going to be like and wondering if I should even see it. Finally Wednesday rolled around and against my better judgment I went to see it. I chronicled my disappointment and concerns in four rather long articles. I was gratified to see that there are many people who share my concerns with this movie. Many of these people took the time to post their concerns or to email me with comments and suggestions. The overwhelmingly majority were positive but there were few that were very challenging and led me to ask myself some important questions. I appreciate these as much as the positive comments provided they are posed in a constructive manner.

This week I hope to begin a new series that I am very excited about. Many times lately my thoughts and prayers have turned to a desire for wisdom and discernment – discernment to see what is right and what is wrong and wisdom to know what to do about it. I considered going to the Christian bookstore to look for a book that would teach me about discernment, but soon realized that God has given me the ultimate book on just that topic. Read the words that begin the book of Proverbs:

1The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
2To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

So through the month of March I hope to do a 31-day study of the 31 chapters of Proverbs. Though I will continue to post about other topics, this study will be the major focus of my site for the month. I am excited to learn what God has to teach me about wisdom and discernment.

February 28, 2004

The Passion of the Christ has been described by Protestant leaders as being �factually accurate,� �very accurate [in the details],� �realistic,� �biblical,� �an accurate account,.� �a true representation of Jesus� and �close to the Scriptures.� All of these quotes were taken from The Passion Outreach Web site, a resource dedicated to helping churches of all denominations capitalize on this movie. This movie is continually described as an exceedingly accurate portrayal of the gospel account of the passion of Jesus � an account that transcends denominations.

Mel Gibson has repeatedly acknowledged that He drew inspiration for The Passion of the Christ both from the gospels and from the writings of Anne Catherine Emmerich. He respects her to such an extent that he carries an Emmerich relic in his pocket at all times. Most Protestants pastors and leaders admit that Gibson has taken �artistic license� at times, but by reading Emmerich�s book The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ we will see that much of what is perceived as artistic license is actually following the words of Emmerich. It seems that it is impossible to reconcile Emmerich and the Bible. The movie must either follow the Word of God or the words of a human. Though the two seem to complement each other at times, far more often they contradict. A staunch Roman Catholic and devotee of Mary, Emmerich adds situations and theology which stand in direct contrast to the beliefs Protestants should hold dear.

Why?

Before we begin this examination I would like to answer the question of why I have decided to present this information. Certainly this could be construed as an attempt to just be critical for the sake of being critical. It could be seen as an attempt to lower other people�s perception of a man who claims to be a Christian. It could be seen as an attempt to discredit this movie.

I present this information for the sake of sharing what is true and what is false in this movie. This movie is being presented as truth, yet much of it is error. I seek to expose what is truth and what is error so people who see the movie can understand what parts of the story truly happened and are therefore important and part of the story of the Savior�s death. At the same time I wish to show which parts are inspired by false revelation supposedly revealed by God almost two thousand years after the writing of the Bible. The error adds elements to the story that detract from God�s glory and Christ�s purpose in suffering and dying.

Brief Biographical Sketch of Anne Catherine Emmerich

The following information is drawn primarily from the Catholic Encyclopedia. It is evident that her abilities are fiction, yet the Encyclopedia teaches they are fact.

Anne Catherine Emmerich was an Augustinian nun, stigmatic and ecstatic who was born in 1774 and died in 1824. She was forced to work from an early age and after a difficult twenty eight years of life entered the Augustinian convent at Agnetenberg, Dulmen. She soon began to display strange powers and ecstasies. Her convent was closed in 1812 and she was forced to find refuge in a poor widow�s house. In 1813 she became bedridden. It was during her long illness that her supernatural abilities became popular knowledge. Some of these abilities included conversing with the child Jesus, predicting future events, having knowledge of other people�s diseases and prescribing remedies that never failed. She soon experienced the stigmata with which she suffered for many years. In 1819 the poet Klemens Brentano visited her and she asked him to write down the many visions God had given her. In 1833 the “The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich” was released followed in 1852 by “The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Six weeks after her death a rumor surfaced that her body had been removed from its grave. She was disinterred and it was discovered that her body had suffered no decay.

Emmerich�s visions are considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be private revelations and not public revelations. Therefore, not all Catholics are required to believe them and the Church has no official position on their accuracy or truth. They are widely accepted amongst Traditionalist Catholics and relatively unknown to other Catholics.

Emmerich�s Influence in The Passion of the Christ

The following table details many of the scenes in the movie that are not described in the Bible and shows, where I have been able to find out, where the inspiration came from. This is not an exhaustive list of all the extra-Biblical material presented in the movie.

The Passion of the Christ

The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Satan torments Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane

Chapter 1, pages 100-102

But Satan, who was enthroned amid all these horrors, and even filled with diabolical joy at the sight of them, let loose his fury against Jesus, and displayed before the eyes of his soul increasingly awful visions, at the same time addressing his adorable humanity in words such as these: ‘Takest thou even this sin upon thyself? Art thou willing to bear its penalty? Art thou prepared to satisfy for all these sins?’”

Mary wakes up, sensing Jesus’s arrest

Chapter 1, page 116

During this agony of Jesus, I saw the Blessed Virgin also overwhelmed with sorrow and anguish of soul, in the house of Mary, the mother of Mark. She was with Magdalen and Mary in the garden belonging to the house, and almost prostrate from grief, with her whole body bowed down as she knelt. She fainted several times, for she beheld in spirit different portions of the agony of Jesus.”


Chapter 11

THE Blessed Virgin was ever united to her Divine Son by interior spiritual communications; she was, therefore, fully aware of all that happened to him—she suffered with him, and joined in his continual prayer for his murderers. But her maternal feelings prompted her to supplicate Almighty God most ardently not to suffer the crime to be completed, and to save her Son from such dreadful torments.”

Soldiers throw Jesus off a bridge

Chapter 3, page 131

I saw our Lord fall twice before he reached the bridge, and these falls were caused entirely by the barbarous manner in which the soldiers dragged him; but when they were half over the bridge they gave full vent to their brutal inclinations, and struck Jesus with such violence that they threw him off the bridge into the water”

Jesus’ abuse when before the priests.

At this answer of Jesus the countenance of Annas flushed with fury and indignation. A base menial who was standing near perceived this, and he immediately struck our Lord on the face with his iron gauntlet, exclaiming at the same moment, ‘Answerest thou the High Priest so?’ Jesus was so nearly prostrated by the violence of the blow, that when the guards likewise reviled and struck him, he fell quite down, and blood trickled from his face on to the floor. Laughter, insults, and bitter words resounded through the hall. The archers dragged him roughly up again, and he mildly answered, ‘If 1 have spoken evil. give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou me?’”

Flashback: Jesus, as a young carpenter, is at home with Mary


During court scene, Mary prays, “It has begun Lord. So be it.”


After thrice denying Jesus, Peter runs to Mary, weeping and calling her, “Mother.”

Chapter 11, page 165

Mary approached him instantly, and said, ‘Simon, tell me, I entreat you, what is become of Jesus, my Son !’ These words pierced his very heart; he could not even look at her, but turned away, and again wrung his hands. Mary drew close to him, and said in a voice trembling with emotion: ‘Simon, son of John, why dost thou not answer me?’—‘Mother!’ exclaimed Peter, in a dejected tone, ‘0, Mother, speak not to me—thy Son is suffering more than words can express: speak not to me!’”

Mary walks about the now-emptied courtyard and then falls with her face pressed to the floor, directly above the cell in which Jesus is imprisoned

Chapter 11, page 166

John, therefore, led her and the holy women to the front of the prison where Jesus was confined. Mary was with Jesus in spirit, and Jesus was with her; but this loving Mother wished to hear with her own cars the voice of her Divine Son.”

Satan and his minions torment Judas

Chapter 5, page 144

I beheld the traitor, Judas Iscariot, wandering about, alone, and a prey to the tortures of his guilty con-science; he feared even his own shadow, and was followed by many devils, who endeavored to turn his feelings of remorse into black despair.”

An effeminate Herod is depicted amidst cushions

Chapter 20, page 194

Herod was expecting them. He was seated on a pile of cushions, heaped together so as to form a species of throne, in a spacious hall, and surrounded by courtiers and warriors.”


Chapter 20, page 195

the luxurious and effeminate prince turned away in disgust, uttered the name of God, and said to the priests in a tone of mingled pity and contempt, ‘Take him hence, and bring him not back into my presence in such a deplorable state.’”

Herod calls Jesus a fool and commands that Jesus be given a fool’s homage

Chapter 20, page 197

But he spoke in the most contemptuous manner to Jesus, and turning to the guards and servants who surrounded him, and who were about two hundred in number, said: ‘Take away this fool, and pay him that homage which is his due; he is mad, rather than guilty of any crime.’”

The scourging scene is very similar to that written by Emmerich. Jesus is scourged against a pillar in the center of a courtyard. The scourging culminates with the use of chains with barbs that tear chunks off his back. Jesus is then rotated so the soldiers can scourge the other side. Mary is prominent throughout the scene as if exhorting Jesus.

Chapter 22, page 206

This pillar, placed in the centre of the court, stood alone, and did not serve to sustain any part of the building”


Chapter 22, page 206

Jesus trembled and shuddered as he stood before the pillar, and took off his garments as quickly as he could, but his hands were bloody and swollen. The only return he made when his brutal executioners struck and abused him was to pray for them in the most touching manner: he turned his face once towards his Mother, who was standing overcome with grief; this look quite unnerved her: she fainted, and would have fallen, had not the holy women who were there supported her.”


Chapter 22, page 208

Two fresh executioners took the places of the last mentioned, who were beginning to flag; their scourges were composed of small chains, or straps covered with iron hooks, which penetrated to the bone, and tore off large pieces of flesh at every blow. What word, alas! could describe this terrible—this heartrending scene!

The cruelty of these barbarians was nevertheless not yet satiated; they untied Jesus, and again fastened him up with his back turned towards the pillar. As he was totally unable to support himself in an upright position, they passed cords round his waist, under his arms, and above his knees, and having bound his hands tightly into the rings which were placed at the upper part of the pillar, they recommenced scourging him”


Chapter 23, page 211

I SAW the Blessed Virgin in a continual ecstasy during the time of the scourging of her Divine Son; she saw and suffered with inexpressible love and grief all the torments he was enduring.”

During the scourging scene, Mary says, “My son, when, where, how will you choose to be delivered from this?”


Pilate’s wife hands white linens to Mary, who uses these to wipe Jesus’s blood from the floor

Chapter 23, page 211

I saw Claudia Procles, the wife of Pilate, send some large pieces of linen to the Mother of God.”


Chapter 25, page 218

Then it was that the Mother of Jesus, accompanied by the holy women, approached the pillar and wiped up the blood with which it and the ground around were saturated.”

Flashback: Mary Magdalene recalls Jesus preventing her from being stoned and writing on the ground (this is a misusage of John 8:1-11; the woman in this passage was never named)


Jesus prays, “I am your servant and the son of your handmaid.”


Jesus falls multiple times while carrying the cross (These correspond to the 3rd, 7th, and 9th Stations of the Cross. “The Stations of the Cross are a popular Catholic devotion. Each of the fourteen stations stands for an event which occurred during Jesus’ Passion and death at Calvary on Good Friday. A person making the Stations Of The Cross is to meditate about each event depicted at each station, and pray.”

Chapters 31-33

Mary meets Jesus while on the way to Golgotha (4th Station of the Cross)

Chapter 32

Then came her beloved Son. He was almost sinking under the heavy weight of his cross, and his head, still crowned with thorns, was drooping in agony on his shoulder. He cast a look of compassion and sorrow upon his Mother, staggered, and fell for the second time upon his hands and knees. Mary was perfectly agonised at this sight; she forgot all else; she saw neither soldiers nor executioners; she saw nothing but her dearly-loved Son; and, springing from the doorway into the midst of the group who were insulting and abusing him, she threw herself on her knees by his side and embraced him. The only words I heard were, ‘Beloved Son!’ and ‘Mother!’”

Flashback: Mary remembers a time when Jesus (as a child) fell and she came running with outstretched arms


The scene in which Simon of Cyrene is pressed into service is very similar to that written by Emmerich. One of Simon’s children is present. He is initially reluctant, exhibiting great disdain towards Jesus. Simon soon after experiences a change of heart.

Chapter 33

At this moment Simon of Cyrene, a pagan, happened to pass by, accompanied by his three children. He was a gardener, just returning home after working in a garden near the eastern wall of the city, and carrying a bundle of lopped branches. The soldiers perceiving by his dress that he was a pagan, seized him, and ordered him to assist Jesus in carrying his cross. He refused at first, but was soon compelled to obey, although his children, being frightened, cried and made a great noise, upon which some women quieted and took charge of them. Simon was much annoyed, and expressed the greatest vexation at being obliged to walk with a man in so deplorable a condition of dirt and misery; but Jesus wept, and cast such a mild and heavenly look upon him that he was touched, and instead of continuing to show reluctance, helped him to rise, while the executioners fastened one arm of the cross on his shoulders, and he walked behind our Lord, thus relieving him in a great measure from its weight”

Veronica wipes Jesus’s face (6th Station of the Cross; the cloth with the bloody face imprinted in it is now a relic)

Chapter 34

Seraphia was the name of the brave woman who thus dared to confront the enraged multitude; she was the wife of Sirach, one of the councillors belonging to the Temple, and was afterwards known by the name of Veronica, which name was given from the words vera icon (true portrait), to commemorate her brave conduct on this day.

Seraphia had prepared some excellent aromatic wine, which she piously intended to present to our Lord to refresh him on his dolorous way to Calvary. She had been standing in the street for some time, and at last went back into the house to wait. She was, when I first saw her, enveloped in a long veil, and holding a little girl of nine years of age whom she had adopted, by the hand; a large veil was likewise hanging on her arm, and the little girl endeavoured to hide the jar of wine when the procession approached. Those who were marching at the head of the procession tried to push her back; but she made her way through the mob, the soldiers, and the archers, reached Jesus, fell on her knees before him, and presented the veil, saying at the same time, ‘Permit me to wipe the face of my Lord.’ Jesus took the veil in his left hand, wiped his bleeding face, and returned it with thanks. Seraphia kissed it, and put it under her cloak. The girl then timidly offered the wine, but the brutal soldiers would not allow Jesus to drink it.”

The scene of Jesus and Simon of Cyrene is very similar to that written by Emmerich. Simon threatens to stop helping if the soldiers continue in their cruelty, saying that he will do so even if the soldiers kill him. Simon then places Jesus’s arm across his shoulders, supporting him.

Chapter 35, page 243

Their cruelty to Jesus so exasperated Simon of Cyrene that he at last exclaimed, ‘If you continue this brutal conduct, I will throw down the cross and carry it no farther. I will do so if you kill me for it.’”


Chapter 35, page 244

Jesus was on the point of again falling, but Simon, who was behind, perceiving that he could not stand, hastened to support him; he leant upon Simon, and was thus saved from falling to the ground.”

The scene in which Jesus is nailed to the cross is very similar to that written by Emmerich. After the first hand is nailed, Jesus’ other arm is stretched out with a sickening crunch to reach the hole provided for the nail. The soldiers also subject Jesus to more agony as they stretch his body out to the wooden footrest that they placed too low.

Chapter 38, page 250

The Blessed Virgin stood motionless; from time to time you might distinguish her plaintive moans; she appeared as if almost fainting from grief, and Magdalen was quite beside herself. When the executioners had nailed the right hand of our Lord, they perceived that his left hand did not reach the hole they had bored to receive the nail, therefore they tied ropes to his left arm, and having steadied their feet against the cross, pulled the left hand violently until it reached the place prepared for it. This dreadful process caused our Lord indescribable agony, his breast heaved, and his legs were quite contracted.”


Chapter 38, page 251

The executioners had fastened a piece of wood at the lower part of the cross under where the feet of Jesus would be nailed, that thus the weight of his body might not rest upon the wounds of his hands, as also to prevent the bones of his feet from being broken when nailed to the cross. A hole had been pierced in this wood to receive the nail when driven through his feet, and there was likewise a little hollow place for his heels These precautions were taken lest his wounds should be torn open by the weight of his body, and death ensue before he had suffered all the tortures which they hoped to see him endure. The whole body of our Lord had been dragged upward, and contracted by the violent manner with which the executioners had stretched out his arms, and his knees were bent up; they therefore flattened and tied them down tightly with cords; but soon perceiving that his feet did not reach the bit of wood which was placed for them to rest upon, they became infuriated. Some of their number proposed making fresh holes for the nails which pierced his hands, as there would be considerable difficulty in removing the bit of wood, but the others would do nothing of the sort, and continued to vociferate, ‘He will not stretch himself out, but we will help him;’ they accompanied these words with the most fearful oaths and imprecations, and having fastened a rope to his right leg, dragged it violently until it reached the wood, and then tied it down as tightly as possible. The agony which Jesus suffered from this violent tension was indescribable; the words ‘My God, my God,’ escaped his lips, and the executioners increased his pain by tying his chest and arms to the cross, lest the hands should be torn from the nails. They then fastened his left foot on to his right foot, having first bored a hole through them with a species of piercer, because they could not be placed in such a position as to be nailed together at once. Next they took a very long nail and drove it completely through both feet into the cross below, which operation was more than usually painful, on account of his body being so unnaturally stretched out”

As the cross is lifted up, Mary opens fists, releasing pebbles she had been holding (perhaps in a gesture of surrender)


Jesus is depicted as having long hair and being generally pleasing to the eye

Chapter 41, page 257

The complexion of our Lord was fair, like that of Mary, and slightly tinted with red; but his exposure to the weather during the last three years had tanned him considerably. His chest was wide, but not hairy like that of St. John Baptist; his shoulders broad, and his arms and thighs sinewy; his knees were strong and hardened, as is usually the case with those who have either walked or knelt much, and his legs long, with very strong muscles; his feet were well formed, and his hands beautiful, the fingers being long and tapering, and although not delicate like those of a woman, still not resembling those of a man who had laboured hard. His neck was rather long, with a well-set and finely proportioned head; his forehead large and high; his face oval; his hair, which was far from thick, was of a golden brown colour, parted in the middle and falling over his shoulders; his beard was not any great length, but pointed and divided under the chin.”

Mary begs, “Flesh of my flesh, heart of my heart, my son, let me die with you.”

Chapter 43, page 259

the Blessed Virgin, filled with intense feelings of motherly love, entreated her Son to permit her to die with him”

A soldier is showered by Jesus’ blood after piercing His side

Chapter 48, page 276

He seized his lance and rode quickly up to the mound on which the Cross was planted, stopped just between the cross of the good thief and that of our Lord, and taking his lance in both hands, thrust it so completely into the right side of Jesus that the point went through the heart, and appeared on the left side. When Cassius drew his lance out of the wound a quantity of blood and water rushed from it, and flowed over his face and body. This species of washing produced effects somewhat similar to the vivifying waters of Baptism: grace and salvation at once entered his soul. He leaped from his horse, threw himself upon his knees, struck his breast, and confessed loudly before all his firm belief in the divinity of Jesus.”

Jesus’ body is lowered by the soliders and other men

Chapter 48, page 285

Then Joseph and Nicodemus, having placed ladders against the front of the Cross, in a very upright position, and close to the body, untied the upper strap, and fastened it to one of the hooks on the ladder; they did the same with the two other straps, and passing them all on from hook to hook, caused the sacred body to descend…”

Jesus’ body is lowered into Mary’s arms and the camera focuses on Mary in the “Pieta pose” before panning and fading out (this suggests Mary as a co-redeemer)

Chapter 50, page 285

When the body was taken down it was wrapped in linen from the knees to the waist, and then placed in the arms of the Blessed Virgin, who, overwhelmed with sorrow and love, stretched them forth to receive their precious burden.”


Chapter 51, page 286

THE Blessed Virgin seated herself upon a large cloth spread on the ground, with her right knee, which was slightly raised, and her back resting against some mantles, rolled together so as to form a species of cushion. No precaution had been neglected which could in any way facilitate to her—the Mother of Sorrows—in her deep affliction of soul, the mournful but most sacred duty which she was about to fulfil in regard to the body of her beloved Son. The adorable head of Jesus rested upon Mary’s knee, and his body was stretched upon a sheet. The Blessed Virgin was overwhelmed with sorrow and love. Once more, and for the last time, did she hold in her arms the body of her most beloved Son, to whom she had been unable to give any testimony of love during the long hours of his martyrdom. And she gazed upon his wounds and fondly embraced his blood-stained cheeks, whilst Magdalen pressed her face upon his feet.”



Sources:

Emmerich, Anne Catherine. The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Read It Online

I am indebted to a brother in Christ for doing much of the comparison between the movie and Emmerich’s book.

�I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.� Revelation 22:18

February 27, 2004

This site has never experienced traffic like it has had over the past two days following my review of The Passion of the Christ. At the time of writing this twenty five people have posted comments about the story and I have received many more comments via email. Surprisingly it seems many people agree with my assessments in so far as I say that the movie is the gospel on a macro level but anything but the gospel on the micro level. It seems other people also worry about the way this movie blurs distinctions between Protestant and Catholic, the Bible and Tradition, Scripture and mysticism.

The question I have been pondering since Wednesday is this: how should the church react to this movie? Do believers have a responsibility towards this movie? In light of the movies obvious problems, what do we do? These questions have troubled me deeply.

I have a few thoughts on this I would like to share:

First I would like to say that I harbor no resentment towards Christians who watch this movie and even enjoy it and are inspired by it. That really should go without saying, yet I feel that I should point it out.

God uses weakness.

February 26, 2004

This is the second part of my review of The Passion of the Christ. The first part can be found here and is a scene-by-scene description of the film. In this part I am going to analyze the movie under several headings. I do not pretend to be an authority on movies so I will analyze the content of the movie - its quality as a representation of the Bible and not its quality as a movie.

Analysis

Is this the greatest opportunity for evangelism in the past 2000 years?

This movie has been characterized as the greatest opportunity for evangelism since Christ’s death but I believe that is an unfair statement. What other opportunities have there been in the past 2000 years that could even be categorized with this? Has there ever been something like this movie that has been able to reach the whole world in a matter of days? The only similar thing I can think of is the Jesus film and it is said to have converted 176 million people or some enormous number like that. If that is the case this movie has a long way to go.

February 26, 2004

This is part one of a two part review of the movie The Passion of the Christ. In the first part I am going to give a detailed scene-by-scene synopsis of the film. It will contain plenty of spoilers so if such things bother you, you may want to skip it. However, if you are at all familiar with the gospel stories you already know much of the story. Tomorrow I will follow the synopsis with a detailed analysis.

At 12:30 PM I met a friend in the foyer and we headed into the theater. When we arrived a few seats were filled in the 440 seat auditorium but we were still able to get seats right in the center, exactly where I wanted. Perfect.

At 1:00 the show began after only one G-rated preview (something about two tigers separated at birth - I think I’ll take a pass on that one). The auditorium was at about seventy five percent capacity.

Synoposis

The movie begins with the screen displaying the words of Isaiah 53:5 which reads “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The camera moves in on Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is obviously in anguish, pouring out His heart to God. It is probably the best scene in the entire movie as we see Jesus wrestling with what He knows is coming. His humanity and deity appear to be almost in conflict; His humanity knowing that what is coming will be unbearable, but His deity knowing it must be done for those He loves.

Jesus ceases praying and goes to check on His disciples. Three of them are under a tree sleeping so Jesus rebukes them and returns to prayer. It is here that we are introduced to the female character that plays Satan. She tempts Him and tries to convince Him that no one can bear the wrath of God poured out against sin. She tries to tell Him that His sacrifice will be a waste and He will not succeed. Jesus calls upon His Father, refusing to believe the devil. He falls on His face praying and as He does so a serpent crawls from Satan. Jesus, after seeing this snake, stands up and crushes it under His foot.

Jesus is arrested by a small detachment of soldiers and led towards the city to face the Sanhedrin while his disciples flee. There is an excessive use of slow-motion in these scenes, especially when Peter slices off one of the soldier’s ears. As Jesus is arrested and brought into the city we see Mary wake up, knowing in her spirit that something is wrong. While Mary is sharing her fears with Mary Magdalene, John bursts in and tells the women that Jesus has been arrested.

As Jesus is dragged through the city He is struck and pushed by the crowd. At one point He is thrown from a bridge, and suspended from chains just above the ground He sees Judas cowering beneath. They make brief eye contact and as Jesus is hoisted back up a demon appears behind Judas. Jesus is led into the temple courtyard and before the Sanhedrin. Peter, Mary, Mary Magdalene and John are all present as Jesus is questioned. At this point there is an odd flashback where we see Jesus the young carpenter building a strange kind of table. Mary laughs at Him and scolds Him about going into the house with His apron on and without washing His hands. I cannot discern the meaning of this scene unless it is to show the love of Jesus and Mary, son and mother.

As the court scene continues we see Mary pray to God saying “It has begun Lord: so be it.” We also see Pilate’s wife tossing and turning in bed, moaning in terror as she has a bad dream.

The Sanhedrin asks what accusations people can bring against Jesus and person after person throws ridiculous, false accusations at Him. Finally some of the members of the council grow tired of the charade and say that Jesus is innocent and should not be punished. These dissenters are attacked and pushed out of the courtyard. Ciaphas takes leadership, allowing people to continue beating Jesus, charging Him with blasphemy and deciding that they will present Him before Pilate.

The movie’s attention turns briefly to Peter who is in the courtyard following the proceedings. A man recognizes him and screams out that He was a disciple of Jesus. Peter denies this as well as two subsequent charges. There is then a flashback to Jesus’ prediction of this very event. As Peter remembers this he runs, pushing his way through the crowd. He sees Mary and falls on the ground before her. She reaches her hand down to comfort him and he cries out to her, calling her mother and saying that he is unworthy because he denied Jesus. He falls on his face weeping.

Judas is shown trying to return the silver to the Sanhedrin. They refuse, of course, so Judas throws the money at them and runs outside. Some small children begin to tease him, telling him that he is cursed. Soon a crowd of children gathers around him, attacking and mocking him.

The movie returns to the courtyard, which by this time has been cleared. Mary walks slowly around the courtyard as if searching for something. Finally she falls with her face to the floor. The camera moves down through the floor to show that Jesus is chained immediately below her. He looks up, knowing she is there.

We return to Judas who by now is chased by a hoard of children as well as the character playing Satan. He finally frees himself of the children and then spies a rope tied around a dead, rotting animal which is crawling with maggots. He takes the rope and hangs himself.

By this time Jesus has been brought to Pilate’s palace. Pilate’s wife is speaking with her husband telling him that she has had dreams about Jesus and asking him not to let them kill Him. Standing in the courtyard Jesus sees a dove flying overhead. Pilate sees no reason to punish Jesus, and learning that He is from Galilee realizes that he can simply defer the decision to Herod. Jesus is dragged before Herod who is apparently in the midst of an orgy, with drunken men and prostitutes all around him. He asks Jesus who He is and asks Him to perform a miracle. When Jesus refuses to answer Herod labels him a fool and commands him to receive a fool’s homage.

Jesus is once again dragged before Pilate. Pilate and his wife converse about truth and we learn that Pilate is scared of rebellion, knowing that if a rebellion occurs Caesar will hold him responsible and have him killed. He has Barabbas brought before the crowd, asking who they would rather have freed. Barabbas is a crazy, disgusting man with wild hair and strange eyes who continually laughs hysterically. The crowd, of course, chooses Barabbas. Pilate then commands that Jesus may be beaten severely but not killed.

Jesus is dragged into a courtyard where we see a selection of implements used for punishments, ranging from poles and whips to clubs with nails in them. Mary, John, Mary Magdalene and Satan are all in the crowd watching. The scene is one of terrible brutality as Jesus is beaten again and again and again. The Roman soldiers are crazed with hatred and bloodlust, laughing and enjoying every stroke of the rod. Each blow is accompanied by sprays of blood and groans from Jesus. After 29 strokes (if I remember my Latin correctly) they put down their rods and pick up whips. When Jesus finally collapses they roll him over and begin to beat his arms, stomach and chest. Flesh is torn and blood flows freely. As she watches Jesus be beaten Mary whispers “My son, when, where, how will you choose to be delivered from this.” Pilate’s wife comes quietly into the courtyard and without making eye contact hands a white cloth to Mary. We also see the devil walking around carrying some sort of terrible, deformed child that I presume represents an evil spirit.

Finally Pilate’s deputy arrives and berates the soldiers for being too harsh with Jesus, reminding them that they are not allowed to beat him to death. Jesus is released from His chains and dragged from the courtyard. He has a robe placed on Him and a crown on thorns is pressed into His head. Mary walks to where He was beaten and begins to wipe up the blood with the cloth Pilate’s wife gave her. Mary Magdalene soon begins to help her. As Magdalene does so there is a flashback where she remembers falling on her face before Jesus and receiving His forgiveness.

Jesus is once again brought before Pilate and there is the first of many flashbacks to the Last Supper. Pilate, realizing that to protect Jesus means there will be a rebellion, washes his hands and tells Caiphas that he can kill Jesus as Pilate will have nothing more to do with it.

Jesus, knowing that the die is now cast, prays to God saying “I am your servant and the son of your handmaid.” In contrast to His present situation is a flashback that shows Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem just five days earlier where He was received with great joy and celebration.

Jesus is forced to carry His cross and He slowly drags it through the city streets, all the while receiving blow after blow from Roman whips. Mary, John, Mary Magdalene and Satan follow the crowd. There is another flashback where Mary remembers a time when Jesus was a child and He fell to the ground. She was able to help Him then but realizes there is nothing she can do now. She runs to His side and tells Him she is there. Jesus looks at her and says “Behold I make all things new.” He then stands up and continues carrying the cross.

Finally the cross becomes too heavy to bear and Simon, a bystander, is forced by the Romans to help Him. At one point Jesus falls and a woman from the crowd rushes to Him. She gives Him a cloth which He uses to wipe His face. As He gives it back the woman kisses it and is then immediately thrown out of the way by belligerent soldiers. Simon, angered by the continual beatings, screams at the soldiers, threatening to stop carrying the cross if they don’t stop punishing Jesus. Though they laugh at him, they do stop. Simon helps Jesus back up and they link arms, continuing to move up the hill. As they begin walking Jesus looks to the woman who is holding the cloth which contains a bloody likeness of Jesus’ face.

Jesus once again falls to his knees, unable to continue. The movie turns to a flashback of Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount. This flashback is important as we hear Jesus’ words about His death and how it is voluntary. No one has coerced Him into this awful situation - He does it willingly for those He loves. Jesus opens His eyes and sees his mother. As He sees her He finds the strength to stand up. There is another flashback to the Last Supper, and this time Jesus speaks about there being no greater love than a man who is willing to die for His friends. He also says that no one can come to the Father except through Him.

The crowd finally reaches Golgatha. The crucifixion scene is as bloody and disgusting as anything the big screen has ever seen. Blood spurts as the nails are pounded into His hands. Bone crunches as spikes are driven through His feet. As the cross is lifted we see Mary releasing a handful of stones she had clenched in her hands. I am not sure of the significance of this except to suggest it is an act of surrender on her part as she comes to peace with Jesus’ death.

Ciaphas stands before Jesus and mocks Him, saying that Jesus should prove He is the Messiah by coming down from the cross. One of the thieves crucified next to Jesus believes and receives assurance that He will be with Jesus in paradise while the other mocks. As he mocks a raven lands on his cross and begins to attack his face, tearing out pieces of flesh. The Roman soldiers quickly drive off the bird, but not before it has left some ugly wounds on the man’s face.

Darkness settles over the land. It is not sunless darkness but stormy darkness with thick clouds covering the sun. As the wind picks up and seemingly a storm brews, the crowd leaves until only Mary, John and Mary Magdalene are left with a small detachment of soldiers. Mary walks towards Jesus but is blocked by a soldier. She stares at him until he steps aside. Mary then walks to Jesus and kisses His feet. Jesus cries out “I thirst” and the Romans lift a wet sponge to Him which he tastes and then rejects.

Mary, looking at Jesus in anguish says “Flesh of my flesh, heart of my heart, my son, let me die with you.” Jesus ignores her plea, instead pointing her towards John and saying “Behold your son.” To John He says “Behold your mother.”

After a few camera angles showing Jesus hanging on the cross He cries out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” A few seconds later He says “It is accomplished.” Finally Jesus says “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” and His head falls to His chest. Immediately there is an earthquake that tears the temple in two, leaving a huge crack through the midst of it.

As the earthquake rolls on the Roman soldiers panic. They immediately set about making sure the other two condemned men die quickly, breaking their legs. The centurion commands that they ensure Jesus is dead, so a soldier pierces Jesus’ side. As he does so a spray of blood and water comes forth and the man kneels reverently in this torrent of blood. Suddenly we see Satan screaming in anguish. This is a rather detached scene and I am not sure of its significance, though I suspect it indicates that Satan realized he had defeated himself (or herself in the case of this movie).

Jesus is lowered from the cross and into Mary’s arms by John and the soldiers. The camera alternates between this scene and one of the crown of thorns and the blood-covered spikes lying on the ground together. Finally the camera stays with Mary, slowly pulling back and fading out.

The next scene shows the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb being rolled away. The camera moves up and we see Jesus, alive again, smiling. He stands up and as he does so we see a hole in his hand.

And that is how the movie ends. The final scene lasts only a few brief seconds.

As the lights came up I immediately began to look around the crowd to see how people were reacting. There was a small smattering of applause (far less than at the end of The Return of the King, the last movie I went to) and most of the people immediately stood up, put their coats on and left. I quickly walked out into the hall to study the faces of those who saw the movie. I did not see a single red or tear-filled eye. The crowd headed towards the bathroom and then the door. My wife attending a screening this evening with our church and said many more people were emotional with several openly weeping. I cannot say which reaction is more the norm.

That is a brief synopsis of the film covering all of the major scenes. Tomorrow I will write a detailed analysis. If you have specific questions you would like me to address please email me or post a comment and I will attempt to answer them.

February 25, 2004

I have seen The Passion of the Christ and will have a full review later this evening. I have a prior committment this evening but will post the review when I return.

February 24, 2004

Reviews are finally starting to pour in for The Passion of the Christ. I have been looking forward to reading some of the reviews since to this point the vast majority of people who have seen the movie are either Christians or are at least religious. They are hardly able to objectively judge and evaluate the movie. Now, though, we have hoards of secular reviewers who will be writing reivews.

The site I go to for movie reviews is Rotten Tomatoes. They do not actually review the movies, choosing instead to simply compile a list of other reviews and assign them either a positive or negative score (a fresh tomato or a rotten tomato). With just a glance you can see how the average reviewer is rating the movie. As of this moment in time the site has compiled 25 reviews, 14 of which are fresh and 11 rotten.

Some of the rotten reviews are definitely missing the point of Jesus’ life and death. They complain that the violence outweighs the message of Jesus’ life which is to love oneanother. That, of course, was not his main message at all. If it was I don’t think he ever would have been crucified. Certainly the overwhelming complaint is that the violence is over the top, far beyond even the worst horror movie.

I have long wondered what the impact of this movie will be on non-Christians. As Christians we may see the movie and have our souls stirred simply because we have the Spirit indwelling us. Unbelievers do not have the Spirit so I wonder if they might not just see another murder…another man dying in a world where we see death on the big screen all the time. I found the following quote interesting as it addresses that point. “A film so narrowly focused as to be inaccessible for all but the devout.” Another reviewer said “With a pervasive NC-17 level of gore, it’s simplistic and relentlessly pedantic but effective with its single theme that Christ suffered. But where is its spirituality?” I wonder if all the hype from the Christian world about this movie being an incredible outreach opportunity will fall flat and this will instead be another inreach opportunity.

Another possibility is that many unbelievers will be moved and stirred by this movie - but only those that the Spirit is beginning to work in. Perhaps for them this will be one more tool God uses to draw people to Himself.

A friend bought me a ticket for the 1 PM showing tomorrow, so 24 hours from now I will finally be able to draw my own conclusions. I read all four gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and intend to do so another two or three times before the show so I will be able to report back on what is the gospel and what is clearly not.

February 23, 2004

A few weeks ago I read and reviewed the book When Good Men Are Tempted. It is a book that deals with sexual purity, attempting to both explain the cause and the solution to the struggle every man faces. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and gave it a recommendation.

Yesterday the author, Bill Perkins, happened across this site and posted his thanks for the review as well as some information about his new project, Six Battles Every Man Must Win.

I just read your review of my book and thought you did a good job. I appreciated the balanced evaluation and understand your search for a magic wand that will cause the problem of lust to disappear—or something like that. Anyway, if you find that wand, please email me because I talk to a lot of guys who would love to use it. By the way, the strategies I suggest men use actually work when they’re implemented. Identifying rituals and getting rid of them, connecting with a few friends, and of course, tapping into God’s grace. The problem I’ve seen is once a ritual is removed, another one may grow in its place. It’s an ongoing battle in a changing world. When I was in seminary someone asked Dr. Pentecost (great name for a seminary professor) if men ever reach an age when they don’t’ struggle with sexual lust. He said, “I asked Dr. Lincoln that question last week. He’s 85 and said he didn’t know.” After the laughter died down, he then said, “I’m only 65 and don’t know yet either.” I’ve got a new book coming out that I think will help men: Six Battles Every Man Must Win.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read my book and provide your readers a summary.

The new book is based on the story of David’s mighty men.

I, of course, had to respond with “If I do find the magical key to removing lust you can rest assured that I will not simply let you know. I will first trademark it, have some pens, t-shirts and posters made up, turn it into a 40 day program and create a study guide for it.” After all, sooner or later I need to get the Christian marketing machine working for me!