Who Does the Movie Say Killed Jesus?

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This article explores the controversy surrounding Jewish guilt in Christ's crucifixion in Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ

Much of the controversy about The Passion of the Christ centers around one question: Who killed Jesus? The Anti-Defamation League feels the movie lays the blame at the feet of the Jews. Mel Gibson, the movie's director, producer and cowriter, says that our sins killed Jesus. With this question as a backdrop, I viewed the film with a scrutinizing eye. But I soon forgot the question.

I do not want to discount the feelings of Jews and the centuries of anti-Semitism they have endured. However, as I viewed the film, I noticed that any blame placed at the feet of Jews was quickly overshadowed by the barbaric and gruesome brutality of the Roman torturers. It is very clear that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus gone. They urged Pontius Pilate to kill him. Without doubt, they are cast in a negative light. However, the movie does not indict all the Jews in one fell swoop. Many Jews, particularly Jewish women, lined the Via Delarosa, demanding that the Romans stop torturing Jesus.

I found the Jewish population in the film to be representative of all of humanity. Many regarded Jesus as a holy man. I view the world, and indeed viewed the film, through Christian lenses, and I can honestly say that the movie stirred no anti-Semitic feelings within me. The history of the Jewish people is, however, fraught with hatred against them. That history is real, and the feelings of anxiety about the film are real within the Jewish community. That should not be dismissed. Rather, Christians should take this opportunity to learn of the suffering that the Jews have endured at the hands of Christians.

Jews are asking Catholics to return to the documents of the Second Vatican Council. We are being asked to return to the dialogue between our traditions and the reconciliation that has emerged. This is an invitation that should be accepted. Let the film be the film. But let Christians be Christians--people of justice, peace, joy, and reconciliation.


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