BUY ‘PASSION’ TICKETS NOW. Advance tickets for Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” are available now by calling (800) 353-6102. The more advance tickets are sold, the more theaters likely will carry the film.
The film is scheduled for release on February 25, Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.
Update, November 26, 2003—Mel Gibson screened his new film for 85-year-old evangelist Billy Graham. Graham said that the movie moved him “to tears.” “I have often wondered what it must have been like to be a bystander during those last hours before Jesus’ death.” “After watching ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ I feel as if I have actually been there. I was moved to tears. I doubt if there has ever been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus’ death and resurrection—which Christians believe are the most important events in human history. The film is faithful to the Bible’s teaching that we are all responsible for Jesus’ death, because we have all sinned,” Graham continued. “It is our sins that caused His death, not any particular group. No one who views this film’s compelling imagery will ever be the same.”
Update, October 22, 2003
Mel Gibson has changed the title of his upcoming movie from “The
Passion” to “The Passion of Christ.” The reason given is that the rights to the title “The Passion” are owned by another movie company.
After a private screening of the film with Gibson, evangelical Dr. Larry Poland (Mastermedia) declared “The Passion of the Christ” “will bring millions to Christ. I couldn’t be more optimistic about the film’s spiritual impact on everyone who sees it,” he said. Focus on the Family’s president Don Hodel has said, “It’s certainly the most powerful portrayal of the passion I’ve ever seen or heard about. The movie is historically and theologically accurate.”
Despite this, 20th Century Fox has now refused to distribute actor/producer Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ”—a film about the final 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life. The decision was disclosed during a rally against the film headed by New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who is demanding that all other film companies reject the movie. He claims that The Passion of Christ is antisemitism and “unhealthy for Jews all over the world.”
Jewish film critic and columnist Michael Medved has viewed the film and says, “No, it isn’t. And I think that the charge is ludicrous, and it’s unfair, and it’s inappropriate.” Medved is a former synagogue president. In a Washington Post interview he stated that the film is “intense, persuasive, believable. …Mel Gibson…has gone to some lengths to stress that Jesus and his disciples, as well as his primary accusers, were Jewish. …Mel is trying to make the greatest film he can, with uncompromised and uncompromising integrity.”
Gibson strongly denies all charges of antisemitism, “This is not a Christian versus Jewish thing. ‘(Jesus) came into the world, and it knew him not.’ Looking at Christ’s crucifixion, I look first at my own culpability in that.” Gibson is a devout Catholic and “belongs to a conservative Catholic group that rejects the modern papacy and Vatican II, including its overtures to non-Catholics and Jews” (according the Religious News Service).
The largest evangelical group in the United States, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), has publicly thrown its support behind “The Passion of the Christ.” In a news release they stated their affirmation of “the importance of the authentic retelling of the New Testament accounts in Mel Gibson’s latest film.” In interviews on CNN and various radio networks, NAE president Ted Haggard has described The Passion of Christ as, “a beautiful, wonderful account of the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus Christ. It is consistent with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”
CNN questioned Haggard on specific claims from the story, including Jewish leaders’ offering blood money for Jesus’ betrayal and Jewish people’s inciting hatred toward Jesus, leading to his crucifixion. Haggard responded,
“The movie portrays historical accounts realistically, but the Body of Christ worldwide does not blame Jewish people for the crucifixion. Evangelicals believe that our sins are responsible for creating the situation that required the crucifixion of Christ. Christ did not die because of the political and religious powers of the day, but for a far greater purpose. We are all responsible. This is why evangelicals view The Passion of Christ as a love story. It demonstrates the profound love Christ has for all people.”
Haggard emphasized that evangelical Christians—who have a high view of the historical accounts in the Bible as shown in the film—are some of the most ardent supporters of Israel and defenders of Jewish people worldwide.
The Weekly Standard published an August 25 article pointing out that…
“The hero of this movie is Jewish, his mother is Jewish, his apostles and followers are Jewish. But one misses the whole point of the Passion of Jesus unless one sees that he submitted to his suffering for all of us” (Michael Novak).
According to separate reports, during the filming, Gibson attended Mass every morning because “we had to be squeaky clean just working on this.” “I’m not a preacher, and I’m not a pastor,” he said. “But I really feel
my career was leading me to make this. The Holy Spirit was working through me on this film, and I was just directing traffic. I hope the film has the power to evangelize.” He claims that “everyone who worked on this movie was changed. There were agnostics and Muslims on the set converting to Christianity… (and) people being healed of diseases.”
In an August 17th (2003) article, it was reported that the director, “under heavy fire from Jewish groups for his $25 million movie on the death of Jesus, has ‘softened the story’ and made changes to make ‘The Passion of Christ’ more palatable to [Jewish] critics, according to a spokesman. Paul Lauer, marketing director for Gibson’s Icon Productions company, said Gibson has edited the film to show more ‘sympathetic’ Jewish characters who were not calling for Jesus to be crucified.”
“‘We believe we have softened the story compared to the way the Gospel has told it,’ Lauer said in an interview. He pointed to Matthew 27:25, in which the Jewish mob calls for Jesus’ blood ‘to be on us and on our children.’ ‘That’s in the Gospel,’ he said. ‘It’s not in our film.’”
The movie is scheduled for release during March 2004. There is a fan Web site for the film at www.passion-movie.com and another unofficial Web site for “The Passion of Christ” at www.sassiweb.it/thepassion .