Thursday, August 19, 2004

Another Passion of the Christ Book

Perspectives on the Passion I have mentioned Robert Webb and Kathleen Corley (eds.), Jesus and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, due out at the end of this month, on several occasions. I am familiar with it because I wrote one of the essays in it. Quite by chance, I noticed a kind of rival book on Amazon the other day, and the book cover, with a link to Amazon, appears to the left. So the cover's less interesting than ours, but what else does it have to offer? No editors are listed; the publisher is Miramax and the full title is Perspectives on the Passion of the Christ: Religious Thinkers and Writers Explore the Issues Raised by the Controversial Movie.
Well, I ordered my copy several days ago but it has not arrived yet, but I'm impressed that they've beaten us to publication given that our book is the result of intensive, concentrated hard work in a very short period of time. I'm less impressed with their publicity machine. This book has been out for over a month and I, who have more than a passing interest in the subject, had not even heard of this until I chanced upon it by accident. There have been no press releases that I've seen, no media coverage, no attempts to publicise through the internet -- at least as far as I am aware. It's pretty low in Amazon's rankings too, which suggests that it has not been successful yet in reaching a wider audience.

Here is the blurb:
Since its release on Ash Wednesday 2004, The Passion of the Christ has become a commercial success of astonishing proportions, already ranking as one of the highest grossing films of all time. At the same time, it has created a torrent of controversy and debate, provoking passionate responses — both negative and positive—from people of widely divergent backgrounds and beliefs. It has exposed fundamental differences of opinion and belief about everything from the historical truth of the Bible to the political power of Hollywood.

Perspectives on the Passion of the Christ gathers together contributions from theologians, journalists, academics, and philosophers representing a wide spectrum of views and backgrounds. From the film's theological and historical underpinnings, to its cinematic and cultural implications, here is a balanced and thought-provoking exploration of the vital questions raised by The Passion of the Christ. Jews and Christians, evangelicals and agnostics, filmmakers and scholars—the film elicits fascinating responses from all. Among others, Jon Meacham of Newsweek looks hard at the historical record and asks, "Who Really Killed Jesus?" Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite asks why such an exceptionally violent movie has been embraced by so many conservative Christians and argues that The Passion of the Christ presents Jesus as a hero in a war movie; Rabbi Eugene Korn considers the movie's potential impact on interfaith relations; and Steve Martin offers an oblique comic view, from the perspective of a Hollywood insider.

Full of insight into a phenomenon that has raised so many burning and complex issues, this collection is the indispensable guide to understanding the cultural lightning rod that is The Passion of the Christ.
Perhaps the major difference from our volume (and I hope the editors will allow me the use of "our" here, though I need to add that I am only a contributor to the volume; I have not even read the other essays, except for one) is that it features contributions from several of those who were involved with the controversy surrounding the film from the beginning, including several members of the "ad hoc committee". The list of contributors is:
Contributors include: Mary C. Boys, Deborah Caldwell, Philip A. Cunningham, Paula Fredriksen, Lawrence A. Frizzell, Eugene Korn, Linda Kulman, Amy-Jill Levine, James Martin, Steve Martin, Jon Meacham, John T. Pawlikowski, Stephen Prothero, Adele Reinhartz, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Jay Tolson, Jim Wallis, Leon Wieseltier, Ben Witherington III
Of those, Boys, Cunningham, Fredriksen, Korn and Levine were all members of the ad hoc committee. So the book will clearly have something of a view from the inside of the controversy. The down side of that may be that that the views of all of those authors are all pretty well publicised now; Fredriksen alone has written several articles on the film and the controversy, and Boys recently published an article in Cross Currents on which I still have a half-written response for this blog. Witherington's views are known from the Beliefnet "Scholarly Smackdown", now no longer available for free on the net; his dialogue partner, John Dominic Crossan, on the other hand, contributes to our volume.

More anon when I have received my copy.

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