Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Scholars find fault with The Passion

On RogueClassicism, David Meadows draws attention to this Reuters piece (which you'll find syndicated elsewhere):

Scholars find fault in Gibson's "Passion"
Megan Goldin

John Dominic Crossan has again been on duty:
"Jesus talking to (Pontius) Pilate and Pilate to Jesus in Latin!" exclaimed John Dominic Crossan, a professor of religious studies at the Chicago-based Roman Catholic De Paul University. "I mean in your dreams. It would have been Greek."

Latin was reserved for official decrees or used by the elite. Most Roman centurions in the Holy Land spoke Greek rather than Latin, historians and archaeologists told Reuters."
Crossan adds that it was "so badly pronounced in the film that it was almost incomprehensible". And one of the points I made in the reconstruction of "the face" is echoed here by both Joe Zias (who also worked on "the face") and Lawrence Schiffman:
"He has a long-haired Jesus...Jesus didn't have long hair," said physical anthropologist Joe Zias, who has studied hundreds of skeletons found in archaeological digs in Jerusalem. "Jewish men back in antiquity did not have long hair."

"The Jewish texts ridiculed long hair as something Roman or Greek," said New York University's Lawrence Schiffman.

Along with extensive writings from the period, experts also point to a frieze on Rome's Arch of Titus, erected after Jerusalem was captured in AD 70 to celebrate the victory, which shows Jewish men with short hair taken into captivity.
The article goes on with more detail on the crucifixion and here again they are asking the right person, Joe Zias:
The depiction of the crucifixion was the part of the film most riddled with errors for Zias, who studied the skeleton of a crucified Jewish man from Jesus's time -- the only remains ever found of a crucified victim from antiquity.

Zias said Jesus would not have carried the entire cross to the crucifixion as vertical beams were kept permanently in place by the ever efficient Romans.

"Nobody was physically able to carry the thing (the entire cross).It weighed about 350 lb (159 kg)," Zias said. "He (Jesus) carried the cross-beam, maximum."

Nor would Jesus have worn a loin-cloth in the crucifixion as did actor James Caviezel who portrayed him in the film.

"Crucifixion was a form of state terror. They humiliated the crucified victim. Everybody was naked. Men, women and children," Zias said.

Jesus, he added, would have been tied or nailed to the cross through the wrists, not the hands as shown in the film.

"You cannot crucify a person through the hands because there is nothing there but skin and muscle. It will tear."
This picks up on earlier pieces about the crucifixion, also featuring Crossan and Zias (see blog entry February 20). David Meadows comments:
Seriously, though ... I haven't been able to find any mention of the historical advisers (if any) to this one. I'd be curious to know whether a Classicist was consulted ...
Agreed. One of my own repeatedly expressed concerns about this film is that it does not use an academic advisory board, unlike the two most recent Jesus films, The Gospel of John and The Miracle Maker, both of which avoided many of the problems now dogging The Passion of the Christ. The only named historical consultant on The Passion of the Christ appears to be William Fulco of Loyola Marymount University, who has been named as the person who did the retroversions to Latin and Aramaic. Whether he had any wider role (e.g. in a broader advisory capacity) is not clear, but appears unlikely.

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