Saturday, February 21, 2004

Crossan and Witherington on the Passion: Round 2

Beliefnet has now published round two of John Dominic Crossan's and Ben Witherington III's email exchange about issues arising from The Passion of the Christ:

Scholarly Smackdown: 'The Passion'

[Click on Round 2: Dom]. The exchange features some discussion of the anti-Semitism issue and Crossan has an interesting bit of exegesis on the way that "the crowds" function in Mark's Passion Narrative. Crossan asks:
I emphasize immediately that even if all of Jerusalem was responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion, anti-Semitism would always have been as invalid as anti-Italianism arising from the Roman roots of Pilate and his soldiers. But, granted that, my question is how, as a conscientious Christian, knowing what has happened across two millennia, one should tell or film "The Passion of the Christ" so as to cauterize the potential venom of anti-Semitism.
But Witherington does not tackle this head on, not least because he feels:
"I don't think there are any anti-Semitic texts in the New Testament, which was, after all, written entirely or almost entirely by Jews (Luke-Acts might be an exception)".
My own attempted answer to Crossan would be that we can be informed by looking at other Jesus films and asking which have most successfully avoided the charge of anti-Semitism and how have they done this? And one does not have to look very far. As I have commented repeatedly, it is really worth thinking about why The Gospel of John has avoided the charge, and in a film based word-for-word on the Biblical text which -- along with Matthew -- has tended to be most open to the charge of anti-Semitism.

One further comment to echo what I also said last week: it seems clear that Ben Witherington III has still not seen the film. Surely beliefnet need to get a preview copy to him or get him to a preview screening as soon as possible; it does not make a lot of sense having an exchange about a film that one of the participants has not seen.

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