Happy Easter

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AuthorTopic: Happy Easter
Shock Trooper
Member # 455
Profile #50
The historical Caiaphas served at the pleasure of the historical Pilate. He was appointed by Pilate, and when Pilate's term as Prefect ended, he lost his job. The Romans allowed the Jews -- alone among their subject peoples -- to observe their religion independent of the Roman cult of the Emperor, provided the Jews ceded the naming of "Jewish leaders" to the Romans. Caiaphas was thus no more or less a "Jewish leader" than Ahmed Chalabi is an Iraqi leader. It is one of history's more impressively skulking lies that has succeeded in flipping this patronage on its head, giving us instead the prototype for future scheming and protocol-ing Elders of Zion in Caiaphas and a weak-willed, conscience-stricken (eventual saint, in some quarters) Pilate. For a movie to show us "Jewish leaders" manipulating pliable gentile leaders from the shadows is, to put it politely, for it to show us something difficult to distinguish from a particularly popular, long-lived and virulent anti-semitic slander.

Both before and after Jesus' crucifixion, Pilate proved willing enough to crucify suspected Jewish insurrectionists by the hundreds. Moreover, the mocking inscription on Jesus' cross wouldn't do much good as a scheme for consolidating the authority of the Temple priests, but it's a fine device for humiliating Jewish aspirations to self-rule. And even the biblical accounts are subtler on this score than Gibson. See the discussion between Caiaphas and the priests in John 11:47-52. Far from Caiaphas threatening Pilate, as he does in the movie, with a Jewish uprising unless Jesus is executed, Caiaphas and the priests here worry that, unless they turn Jesus over to the Romans, the Romans will annihilate their nation and religious insitutions. Of course, that they are motivated by fears about national self-preservation does not make their subsequent reasoning any less cynical. But if we wanted to list cynical policies motivated by sincere fear or perceived threats to national survival, we'd have far closer examples to discuss, at which point, we'd be required to identify with "Jewish leaders" in a rather more concrete and complicated sense than some abstractly-shared sinful humanity.

And is it clear what a craven little joke it is for a movie to represent Jews bullying a Roman administrator with threatened revolt when, within a generation of Jesus' crucifixion, the Romans would smash every institution of Jewish cultural and political life and slaughter and scatter the Jewish people for attempting to rebel? And does anything need to be said about the scene in which all that is needed to assemble a Jewish crowd is a little money? Or the script's decision to have the cross built IN THE TEMPLE???

Alec is absolutely right: Gibson is pushing a good old dualistic deicide of a passion play in the name of a salvation theology that, whatever might be said against it, at least claimed to consign scapegoat narratives of deicide to the pagan past. And you can't pull off dualistic videogame battles of good and evil without employing some temporal Power to provide amoral backup for the side of good, which means, ultimately, offering apologies for empire and vaseline-lensed sentiment on behalf of poor, conflicted Pilate.

EDIT: Should've waited minute, and just said Alec is still right.

[ Monday, April 12, 2004 15:09: Message edited by: Boots ]

Winter comes: game over -- he's in the driveway removing snow with a flame-thrower.
Posts: 265 | Registered: Saturday, December 29 2001 08:00
Bob's Big Date
Member # 3151
Profile Homepage #51
'The Jewish leaders' did nothing of the sort. The leaders of a conservative, Roman-bootlicking stratum of the Palestinian community collaborated with Roman authorities who felt Jesus was too powerful for the Empire's good to capture and execute him.
The simple fact is that I know of three people in this discussion who seem to have internalized the fact that in ~33 AD, making a distinction between 'Jews' and 'Christians' would have been similar to making a distinction between 'squares' and 'quadrilaterals' -- in other words, there was such support for Jesus in the Jewish community that a conversion from a pagan to Christianity would have essentially entailed a conversion to Judaism as well.

The point of Jesus's appearance is of tremendous metaphorical importance; in making a handsome Greek out of a homely Jew, we have basically made Christ into a physical part of the group which drove his actions (a good readover of the NT will tell you that Jesus was, for many, one of the biggest hopes for a more independent Palestine) and eventually killed him. Tell me this: if Jesus hadn't posed a political-separatist threat to the Romans, would they have crucified him? The Jews held near to no direct political power in the Roman government of Palestine, and the Roman government of Palestine were the only people legally allowed to kill Roman subjects.

Jesus was executed because he was, in the eyes of Rome, a traitor to the Roman Empire. The system killed him, not the Jews. If any did, it was for political reasons.

'The Passion' doesn't, unless I miss my mark, take any lengths to portray the Jews who followed Jesus, who were as legion as his enemies and more likely to show up at the torture and execution.
As for the Romans, I have some sympathy for them; they would have been the sons of settlers, or themselves Greeks or Italians or what have you. Their job was to protect the security of the Roman Empire; Jesus was a threat to it. We as Americans want to string 'terrorists' up by the testicles, and at the same time we villify the essentially ignorant Roman soldiers who did their equivalent of the same.

People are bloody ignorant apes.

AnamaFreak (3:59:56 AM): Shounen-ai to the MAX
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Shocking, isn't it?
Posts: 2367 | Registered: Friday, June 27 2003 07:00
Member # 3804
Profile #52
Okay i'll just be short xD

Happy belated easter! Easter seems to be over here in Australia anyway. I haven't watched the passion of the christ in cinema yet, but i'm fairly sure it'll probably be back there again to see in a 10 year aniversary or something.

"This......is a TREE! What's it for?" -Exile III
Posts: 75 | Registered: Saturday, December 20 2003 08:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #53
Just for fun, at this point...
And is it clear what a craven little joke it is for a movie to represent Jews bullying a Roman administrator with threatened revolt
From the King James Version, Luke 23:13-24,
"Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people,
said to them, 'You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him;
no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him.
I will therefore chastise Him and release Him'
(for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast).
And they all cried out at once, saying, 'Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas' --
who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.
Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them.
But they shouted, saying, 'Crucify Him, crucify Him!'
Then he said to them the third time, 'Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.'
But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.
So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested."

So far as I can tell, this is the historically impossible Jews-manipulating-Pilate perspective. Regardless of whether this really could've happened, it is there in the Bible, which I think is reasonable justification for Gibson including it.

It seems unlikely that Luke's account really is correct, IMO. Crucifixion was a punishment for treason to the Roman Empire, no? It would've been a strange punishment for what Luke claims Jesus was accused of. Still, it's the Bible. If Gibson wanted to portray the story as it appears in the Bible, I can't really fault him for that.

Now, granted, there are four versions of the story in the Bible, but that's a whole different can of worms. John 19:4-16 seem to indicate that the Jews forced Pilate to crucify Jesus, too. Mark 15:6-15 indicates much the same, adding that Pilate released Barabbas and gave Jesus to be executed "wanting to gratify the crowd." Matthew 27:15-26 runs along similar lines, too. Matthew goes so far as to say, "Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising." Yes, indeed, according to Matthew, the crowd did in fact intimidate Pilate into doing what he did.

For me, it's mostly a problem of intertextuality (maybe because I am not a Christian, so the issue of who killed Jesus and why does not hold the same charge for me as it might for others). I look at the Passion in a similar way to, say, the Great Gatsby movie. I complained about it because it wasn't as faithful to the book as I might like. Honestly, now that I'm reading the Bible, I would have to say that any other portrayal of why Jesus was killed wouldn't've been faithful to the book (although perhaps more historically accurate).

Of course, this is just my uneducated, layman's perspective. Please correct me if I'm misinterpreting here.

I have forgotten the scene in which "all that is needed to assemble a Jewish crowd is a little money," but if it played on that stereotype, then I think that is another legitimate gripe with the movie. I also don't quite understand the significance of "the script's decision to have the cross built IN THE TEMPLE," though. Please explain.

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 455
Profile #54
Cross = tool of Roman state violence. Invented (as far as I know) by the Romans. Used exclusively by the Romans. Intended to maintain the imperial order through exemplary punishments. Roman commentators tend to be precise on that point: they've got no shortage of ways of killing inconvenient people; if they kill by crucifixion, they do so in order to demonstrate something to a larger population.

It should be clear what it means for Gibson to present the central institution not of Roman power but of Jewish religious and cultural life as a cross factory. Though remind me: I can't recall whether this scene survived the final cut -- my patience for the movie wavered; it was definitely cause for objections from Jewish and Catholic theologians who saw the script.

The point isn't that anything is or is not historically impossible. The point is that one thing at least is historically inescapable (until the so-called "postmodern" thread leaks into this discussion): from among a wealth of intertextual material, Gibson has chosen exactly that selection and arrangment of possibilities which -- as recently as Hitler's glowing words about Oberammergau, if we're going to drag him into the conversation -- were the stuff of the Christian passion plays that again and again fueled pogroms throughout Europe (in the late-1500s, to take one of several examples, the Pope banned stagings of the passion in Rome because too many Jews were being murdered after the show).

For that reason, Vatican II instructs Catholics to understand the Gospels in historical and polemical context: working with, rather than papering over, the differences among them and acknowledging that they are themselves written after the fact in very different social and theological circumstances than those in which the events they describe took place (the representation of the Pharisees is the usual example of such retroactive, anachronistic projection on the part of the Gospel writers). By this logic, "faithful" interpretation of scripture is precisely interpretation that doesn't wish away fractures in the text. If you want to read a nuanced and thoughtful approach to intertextual and historicizing interpretation of the Gospels, read those links in my first post. I don't propose that they "succeed" -- though they strike me as more forthright about Jesus' place among the diversity of Jewish resistance movements, as well as the normalizing agendas of the Apostles, than Alec earlier suggested. Not much more, but a bit.

In any event, I offered them to illustrate what Gibson rejects. He can claim that there exist earlier Church denunciations of anti-Semitism. Such denunciations do exist, though they're not nearly as demanding as Vatican II, which is itself still coy on the subject. But what he -- or at least "traditional" Catholics -- do not accept is the requirement to treat the Gospels in all their apparently conflicted historical instability. In the face of that scandal, easier to tell the same old "you're with us or you're agin us" story (which, it has to be added, he can only do with liberal helpings of neither the Gospels nor "history," but a 19th century German mystic, who is the source of a good deal of the film's imagery).

EDIT: When quoting from the KJV, it's probably also worth accounting for its agenda, esp. with respect to the relationship between political authority and church officials, but I'm in the same boat having no other version ready-to-hand.

[ Monday, April 12, 2004 21:27: Message edited by: Boots ]

Winter comes: game over -- he's in the driveway removing snow with a flame-thrower.
Posts: 265 | Registered: Saturday, December 29 2001 08:00