Attack on Mr. Gibson
MEL DOESN'T STICK TO THE SCRIPTURE IN CRIME OF 'PASSION'
New York Post, June 13, 2003
THE film has yet to be released. But top Catholic and Jewish scholars who've read a script for Mel Gibson's $40 million The Passion - his self-financed epic about Jesus' death - told me they fear depictions of 1st-century Jews as money-grubbing Christ-killers will foment anti-Jewish violence.
The script has been reviewed by five advisory-board members of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with four members of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.
The result was a blistering report, in which the scholars uniformly condemned the script. A copy of the "confidential" report was obtained by Eric Greenberg of The Jewish Week.
One Jewish scholar told me that she got so upset about what she feels are the script's over-the-top depictions of Jewish characters as "wicked, wicked, wicked - scrupulously dishonest, enjoying causing pain" that she plans to throw out her collection of Gibson videotapes.
"I can't look at them," she said.
Gibson, who does not act in the film, responded to the criticism with the threat of a lawsuit.
Gibson claimed in a letter last month to the Conference of Bishops - the Vatican's arm in this country - that the script was stolen.
Yesterday, after weeks of negotiation, a conference spokesman told me, his group had settled with Gibson.
Monsignor Francis Maniscalco released a statement in which the Catholic body distanced itself from its scholars - saying they had acted without the authorization of the Catholic Conference.
Gibson's spokesman, Alan Nierob, told me only, "There is no lawsuit," and did not comment further.
Dr. Philip Cunningham, executive director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, told me: "Since Sept. 11, there has been an increase of recycling of old Christian anti-Semitic formulae; Jews as Christ-killers, Jews as money-lenders."
Dr. Paula Fredriksen of Boston University said: "Jesus was Jewish. But with this story, it's easy to forget."
One scholar who asked not to be identified due to legal fears told me Jewish characters seem to enjoy the Crucifixion, while the Romans participate reluctantly.
"There's a level of physical violence done to Jesus that far exceeds what the gospel presents," one said. "Whips, chains, beating, rods. I mean, he's absolutely pulped by the time he gets nailed."
Gibson has said his film was to tell the true story of Jesus' death.
There is still time, Mel, to tell the truth.
I also sent these comments to the author of the piece:
Re your smear of Mr. Gibson:
Yes, there is still time to tell the truth, Ms Peyser. When are you going to tell it? Mr. Gibson's account of the Passion of Christ is fully in accord not only with Scripture, but also with published accounts of Catholic/Christian saints who bore the stigmata - mystic visionaries who recounted ecstatic visions of the last hours of Jesus Christ on earth. The saintly lives of these visionaries remain an irrefutable testimony to their personal holiness and credibility. In case you are incapable of comprehending the matter, Christ did not suffer an easy death. He was an innocent man condemned by the Jewish leaders of his time, who orchestrated his death by falsely denouncing him as an 'insurgent' to the Roman governor of Judea. It is high time the Jews face up to the role played by their leaders in the death of Christ. In my opinion, they appear to be a people incessantly crying persecution and antisemitism whilst never acknowledging the role they themselves have frequently played in fomenting anti-Jewish feeling amongst Christians and Gentiles. Certainly Mr. Gibson is by no stretch of the imagination an antiSemite, and all the screeching of Jewish Talmudic deniers and their Christian collaborators will not reverse that fact nor alter one word of the Gospel accounts detailing the murder of Jesus Christ.
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