Monday, April 19, 2004

Schmisek, Chancey and Osiek on The Passion of the Christ

Bible and Interpretation point to this article in the Texas Catholic Newspaper:

'The Passion of the Christ'

Biblical scholars discern fact from artistic license

The article features the views of Carolyn Osiek (Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School); Brian Schmisek (Director of the University of Dallas’ Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies in Irving); and Dr. Mark A. Chancey (Southern Methodist University). Chancey's views can be read in full in his Bible and Interpretation article An Unacknowledged Passion. In this newspaper review there are some enjoyable comments, especially Osiek's summary:
“Artistically, it gets an ‘A,’ historically a ‘B+’ and theologically a ‘C.’ I recommend it, as long as one keeps a balanced theological mind. If one has never taken seriously the brutality of a Roman crucifixion, this is a good learning experience. . . . If the film will help us understand Jesus’ great act of love and his solidarity with the victims of torture, it is well worthwhile.”
Given many scholars' overreactions to the film, this article overall is quite refreshing, especially the acknowledgement of the artistic value of the film:
“If you want to portray it in cinema, there’s a lot that you want to fill in,” Schmisek said. “I’m not watching the movie thinking that’s the way it really happened. This was an artistic portrayal of (Gibson’s) interpretation. I would think most people know that it’s not a literal portrayal.”
There is also the frequently mentioned criticism about Jesus carrying his own cross:
Osiek and Chancey had difficulty with the carrying of the cross and crucifixion scenes. One of the inconsistencies, according to Osiek, was Jesus carrying the entire cross, whereas the two prisoners carried just the crossbeam. Jesus would likely have carried the crossbeam, she said.
But, as I have pointed out here before, the source for Jesus carrying the entire cross is the role played by Simon of Cyrene who can then carry the cross for Jesus. That is why in the Gospel of John film, with no Simon, one can have Jesus too carrying the crossbeam only.

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