Gospel Truth

On March 11, Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, called for the Vatican to condemn Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ as anti-Semitic. According to the Zenit news agency, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Vails responded, "the film is a cinematographic transcription of the Gospels. If it were anti-Semitic, the Gospels would also be so."

Rome, apparently, has spoken. But that is not quite the end of the story. The Passion does not rely exclusively on the Gospels. The movie contains many scenes either not found in gospel accounts, or biblical scenes embellished by (or simply lifted from) extrabiblical sources. For one, it draws heavily from The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which records the visions of nineteenth-century German religious Anne Catherine of Emmerich. Her account is extrabiblical with a passion.

When Jesus is brought before Pilate, Emmerich’s vision imagines that Pilate "saw the tumultuous procession enter, and perceived how shamefully the cruel Jews had treated their prisoner." Then, according to Emmerich, Pilate "arose, and addressed them...’Why have you ill-treated this prisoner so shamefully? Is it not possible to refrain from thus tearing to pieces and beginning to execute your criminals even before they are judged?’" Similarly, in Gibson’s film, Pilate remarks, "Do you always beat your prisoners before they are judged?"

Other Emmerich epithets include: "the...

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