Analyzing the Roman Catholic Movie 1

In case you didn’t know which movie I’m referring to, it’s the Passion of the Christ movie. Many Christians I’ve talked to saw nothing wrong with the movie. I’m a little dumbfounded, as there’s a lot wrong with the movie. I should raise right off the bat – is it right to make a movie featuring the Lord Jesus Christ? I hadn’t thought of this, until I’d read something that Dave Hunt wrote on the subject, and he had VERY good points that it was idolatry to portray a living man as the Lord Jesus Christ.

Which ruined everything, as I’d toyed with the idea of (finally) writing a Biblical movie script of the Gospels, something that would portray the Lord corrrectly! I promptly gave up on that idea.

Let me start off by saying that although my Hebrew is okay, my Aramaic is completely poor. But my watching of the Passion of the Christ movie recently was partially hampered by the subtitles. By a complete coincidence, I’ve either studied or had classes in all three languages present in this movie – Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin. Latin was 9th Grade, and I goofed off in that class because, well, it was 9th Grade.

The subtitles do not completely match the words.

I was unsure, because the music drowns out the opening words of “Jesus” in the beginning. The first word he says sounds like “Salakh’ti.”

That means, “forgive me.”

If that’s true, we have a problem right off the bat. Jesus Christ is completely without sin. And therefore, needs no forgiveness.

Indeed, Jesus Christ prays for the forgiveness of others – not himself.

So, let’s get a couple of things out of the way.

I’m really confused on something in the movie.

Jewish men with long hair.


That’s… not something historically I can verify. Only Nazarites (Nazarim) had long hair. Nazarim, as opposed to Netzarim (Nazarenes). Nazarenes and Nazarites are not the same thing. King David’s son, Absalom, who was extremely vain, had long hair that he cut once a year. We cannot infer from that fact alone that he was a nazirite.

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 1 Corinthians 11:14 (KJV)

Long hair in 1st Century Judea (NOT Palestine – I am sick to death of teachers who call it Palestine) meant the same thing it did when I was growing up. Men would look at you and sneer, “What are you, a girl?”

Priests were forbidden to have long hair – and yet, all of the priests had long hair in the movie as well. The Talmud made that clear, it was not permitted. Don’t ask me for the reference, I spent last weekend searching every reference to hair in the Talmud, and probably read 1100 passages or so to examine whether this was something culterallly accepted or not.

I’ve read books where they refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as styling his hair and beard in the traditional Galilean style. Unless I’m missing something, the traditional Galilean style was short hair for men. Why did Paul make an issue of it??? And I just searched through Edersheim and through Josephus, and there’s nothing there about long hair except for Nazarites. I’ll point out that there’s many artists who tend to paint Biblical characters in effeminate ways, because they themselves were effeminate. My seminary simply dismissed most paintings and woodcuts as being “wicked”. I do have to agree wtih them. There is ZERO evidence that the Lord had long hair.

Did Jesus Wear Long Hair? Contrary to what we see in artists’ portrayals, we know that the Lord Jesus Christ did not have long hair for the following reasons: (1) The Lord Jesus Christ was not a Nazarite; He was a Nazarene, meaning He lived in Nazareth (Mt. 2:23). (2) Christ would not have lived contrary to His own instructions in 1 Co. 11:14-15. (3) We know from history that it was common in the days of Christ for men to have short hair. “Several pictures of busts of numerous Roman emperors during and after the time of Christ—General Pompey, the Emperor Trajan, Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus and King Herod Agrippa the First of Judaea, a Jew by religion, who ruled shortly after the time of Christ—all show the men to have short hair. These men set the example and the pace for men during the time of Christ” (Philip Vollmer, The Modern Student’s Life of Christ, pp. 286). (4) Christ is a Priest, and the Jewish priests wore their hair short (Eze. 44:20). “The Jewish Talmud states that all priests should have their hair cut once every thirty days. The Talmud further tells us exactly what hairstyle—the ‘Julian’—or what we would call a Caesar cut. There are numerous other references to cutting hair in the Talmud” (Ibid., p. 187). Isn’t it strange that artists’ portrayals of the Apostles typically depict them with short hair; whereas their Master looks like an effeminate hippy? It is more than strange; it is ungodly! (David Cloud, Way of Life Encyclopedia)

So, the Lord Jesus Christ would most likely not have had long hair. I know, we’re all so used to the famous paintings. I used to carry a little card someone gave me of a famous painting of Jesus Christ in my wallet. But, the New Testament says it is a shame for men to have long hair. The laws say it is a sin for a man to wear that which pertaineth to a woman. I’m surprised that people can read their Bibles and still debate this.

Okay, moving on… There’s some things in the movie that as a purist, I am absolutely thrilled about. Someone who REALLY knew Aramaic got them to speak Aramaic correctly. There’s a difference in the pronunciation between the Galileans and the Judeans. That’s correct. Kayafa (Caiaphas) saying “Yay-shuwa” and Kefa (Peter) saying “Yeh-shooa”. Those kind of details are, well, great.

The next point (I’m giving the good parts before I rip this movie to pieces!) is that – it’s great to hear the movie in partial Hebrew and in Aramaic because – well, you get to hear the plays on words. The first thing you should notice is that Caiaphas and Peter’s name is similar. I’m not sure if this is an example of a joke by the Lord or not. See Matthew 16 for the details of Peter’s remaning from Simon (Shim’on) to Peter (Petros, Kefa).

If you’re comfortable with Hebrew and Judean Aramaic, you’d notice right off Kayafa (Kai-Yaffa) and Cephas (Kay-fa) are very similar in sound. The Lord may have been making a subtle joke – “Not Kayafa, a man who purchased the right to illegally represent God, but Kefa, a foot in the mouth bumbling but loveable guy who can be counted on to say the wrong thing at the wrong time”.

What’s right with the film is a lot shorter than what’s wrong with the film.

The Pharisees are shown as separate from the Saduccees, and indeed, there seems to be a portrayal of the Pharisees objecting to an illegal midnight trial of Jesus Christ. This may or may not have happened, as well… the Gospels do show a split among the Pharisees concerning Jesus Christ. Luke 12, Mark 12 and John 12 all show that some of the Pharisees supported and believed on Jesus, but were afraid to be public. John 3 shows that one of the Sanhedrin was a Christian (Nicodemus), and Joseph of Arimathea was one as well. The Pharisees are seen as dressing richly. Considering only one or two of the Pharisees were wealthy, this is inaccurate.

All right. Having dealt with languages and such, let’s deal with what’s wrong with the film.

  • Annas seemed to be missing from the movie. Considering that according to Jewish law he was really the High Priest at the time, his absense to me is noticable
  • Jesus is walking around with his head uncovered. This is not something the Lord would have done.
  • Jesus and the disciples have no tallisim. The Tallis is the Jewish “Prayer shawl” (I really hate that phrase). The enemies of Jesus are portrayed with them, none of the apostles have them. The Lord clearly had a tallis, as it was gambled over by the Romans. His Tallis, not his robe. It’s an anachronism in that the Levites tended to call the Tallis a “garment”, “Begedim”. Matthew was a Levite, and used this designation. When translating over to Greek, Matthew kept the designation. Compare Matthew 23 and 27. John refers to it as a “coat” χιτών Khiton, a coat or cloak. More in keeping with the Galilean tradition of using it to wrap against winds and chills. For me, a major issue. Apparently, the scriptwriter and Mel Gibson never bothered to read the King James, which makes a distinction between Jesus’s robe and his cloak or coat.
  • The other Mary spends almost half the movie with her head uncovered. If she was trying to get stoned to death, that was the right way to do it. Jewish women did not walk around with their headds uncovered in those days.
  • There is no Mezuzot in the film. That’s a small cylinder which should be in the doorway of every Jewish house. I saw none.
The Lord Jesus Christ was scourged. This was done with a device called a Flagellum.
Here’s the horrific part. The Flagellum was correctly portrayed in the movie. No matter how you may feel about the errors in this movie, and the greivous heresies present in it, if you can watch the scourging scene and not be reduced to tears, my thoughts are this – you have zero empathy, and might be a sociopath. I’ve preached on this (I’ll do the entire sermon this April on the Crucifixion), and it’s sobering to even think of it. But the scourging was correctly portrayed, right down to the block you’re strapped to being low to the ground. I’ll have more to say on this subject tomorrow.
You can even hear the Proctor admonish the two men doing the scourging in Latin, “No, you idiots – the Flagellum.”
The Flagellum was simply strips of leather with small metal balls on the ends. One kind of flagellum had hooks on the other sides of those metal balls. By flipping it around the other way, you could hook it into someone’s skin and rip out… well, chunks.
What was wrong with this portrayal?
The Lord was never beaten with rods. That was the Apostle Paul.
Here’s where this movie gets one thing right I’m sick of correcting… the two thieves were never scourged. I read in many other books that they were scourged prior to execution – scourging was not common for someone to be crucified. It actually would be more merciful, as the dying man would last nowhere near as long as a healthy man.
So, these are my first thoughts. more tomorrow.

Author: philipdean2013

Seminary graduate with a Ba. in Theology/Pastoral Studies, Happily married, Independent Baptist. I can't keep silent about what I see going on in Christianity any longer! Apostasy reigns around us, churches are sliding into worldiness, a whitewashed Gospel is preached everywhere... "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV) So, I'm speaking out. ...Why aren't you???

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