Selected Works of Lawrence E. Frizzell

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

January 2004

Journal Title

Perspectives on The Passion of the Christ: Religious Thinkers and Writers Explore the Issues Raised by the Controversial Movie


Jonathan Burham


Miramax Books


New York


Whether he knew it or not, Mel Gibson touched on theological traditions formed long after the lifetime of Jesus in his movie, The Passion of Christ. To have them shape a movie that purports to tell a story set during the lifetime of Jesus – even if only in his last twelve hours – adds a confusing kind of anachronism to Gibson’s effort to “tell it like it was.” It (the movie) is as it (the history) wasn’t.To understand the place of the Temple in the lifetime and the piety of Jesus of Nazareth, we have to look beyond later Christian traditions, to the religious and cultural context in which Jesus himself lived. In other words, to understand where Gibson’s closing images of the Temple’s destruction come from, we have to begin where the Jerusalem temple enters Christian tradition itself: with the religious devotion of Jesus.