Thursday, July 08, 2004

Passion of the Christ Book Announced

This press release just in:


Contact: Claire England
212 953 5858

July 8 2004 (New York) - Viewers of "The Passion of the Christ" know that the movie is an overwhelming assault on the senses but is it also an assault on the Gospels? Is it accurate? Or is that question relevant since Mel Gibson set out to make not a history of Jesus but a film that compels us to experience Christ's sacrifice?

When the DVD of "The Passion" comes out on August 31, a new book will also be available to help readers answer these and other questions about the most controversial movie of the year.

"Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ: The Movie, the Gospels and the Claims of History" from Continuum is the first analysis of the movie by an international team of leading Biblical historians and critics.

Readers are guided by historical Jesus scholars who help distinguish between the contents of the film and the contents of the Gospels, and between the contents of the film and what might be historically reconstructed about Jesus. The book also places the movie in context as a work of art, assessing it alongside other portrayals of Jesus in different media.

The contributors give thoughtful, factual assessments of the historical and scriptural accuracy of the movie, including the contribution made by non-gospel sources, particularly the nineteenth century Catholic nun and visionary Anne Catherine Emmerich. In his essay "Hymn to A Savage God" John Dominic Crossan comments:

"In this film, about 5% comes from the Gospels, that is, the general outline and sequence of events; about 80% comes from Emmerich, that is, the details and characters that carry the best and the worst of the non-Gospel additions and expansions; and about 15% from Gibson, that is, everything that escalates the violence above that already prevalent in Emmerich.

"If Mel Gibson were to receive a Best Director Oscar for this film, it could well be argued that Emmerich should get a Best Adapted (or should it be Original?) Screenplay. If accuracy or even courtesy were followed, the opening credit should read: A Mel Gibson Film, followed by Based on the Book by Anne Catherine Emmerich.

"It is surely fascinating to consider that a magnificent publicity campaign has persuaded thousands of conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christians to support enthusiastically an early twenty-first century film based only indirectly on the Gospels but directly on an historical novel from the visionary meditations of an early nineteenth-century Roman Catholic nun."

"Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ" is edited by Kathleen E. Corley, Oshkosh Northwestern Distinguished Professor and Professor of New Testament at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Robert L. Webb, an independent scholar living near Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The other contributors are:

* Dr. Helen K. Bond, Lecturer in New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh, UK;
* Dr. Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada;
* Dr Mark Goodacre, Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the Department of Theology, University of Birmingham, UK;
* Dr. Glenna S. Jackson, Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio;
* Dr. Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University, Chicago, Illinois;
* Dr. Mark Allan Powell, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio;
* Alan F. Segal, Professor of Religion and Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York;
* Dr. W. Barnes Tatum, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Greensboro College, North Carolina;
* David J. Goa, Curator Emeritus at the Provincial Museum of Alberta and a Fellow of the M.V. Dimic Institute for the Study of Culture at the University of Alberta.

The 208 page book is a paperback original (ISBN 0-8264-7781-X) priced at $17.95. For further information, review copies or interview requests, contact: Claire England, 212 953 5858

Looks interesting, doesn't it? Can't wait to read it myself. The only thing I'd say about the press release is that the prominence given to John Dominic Crossan's essay gives the impression that the book is going to be unambiguously negative about the film. Well, I have not read the book yet myself, but I can say that there is at least one essay in there that sees the film in less negative terms than Crossan's.

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