What I don't like about The Passion

I mentioned in my last post that I quite liked The Passion, despite them putting words in Jesus’ mouth on one or two occasions. Well, having watched the third episode this evening, I still think it’s quite good – but I do wish they would stop messing around with Jesus’ words!

It seems quite clear to me that whoever wrote the screenplay for The Passion doesn’t actually have an appreciation for why Jesus used the words he actually did. I can understand then making up some dialogue to fill in the bits of the account which aren’t covered by the gospel writers, but why did they actually change what the gospel writers recorded Jesus having said? I don’t understand it.

Case in point: at the last supper, in The Passion, when Jesus gives his disciples the wine he says: “This is my blood, given for the healing of many” (or something similar).

According to Mark’s gospel, what Jesus actually says is: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:24, ESV). Matthew makes it even more explicit: “…this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28, ESV).

Theologically, what was in The Passion and what is in the gospels are quite different. Now, I realise that the makers of The Passion are trying to make a film about the life of Jesus which is accessible to everyone, not just students of theology – but surely if they’d have just used what Jesus actually said – from the gospels – that would have checked both those boxes? I actually think “dumbing down” Jesus’ words like that actually empty what he said of a lot of its power.

Another example was on the cross – in The Passion Jesus didn’t say to the thief, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43, ESV).

I like The Passion, I just wish they would have stayed a little truer to the gospel accounts of what was actually said – changing the words just seems so pointless. It spoils what is otherwise an excellent production – they’ve obviously gone to a lot of effort, and it shows. The characterisation is just about right, the acting is good, I like how they have really brought out the difference in what the disciples expected Jesus to do against what Jesus actually came to do.

Ah well, you can’t have it all, I just hope and pray that people watching will want to find out for themselves a bit more about Jesus, and come to know who he really was!

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