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Monthly Archives: July 2009

Just finished watching Episode 2 of the SBS series “Liberal Rule” entitled “Hearts And Minds”.

The story of this episode was how Howard tried to remake Australia into both an expression of the mythic Australia living in Howard’s own consciousness and to implement cherished Industrial and Economic reforms dear to Howard’s philosophical heart. In sum the episode was about how Howard attempted to make Australia into his personal paradise; where Australians would believe the things about Australia that Howard personally believed and work in the economic framework Howard personally believed was best.

It was a story about how one man attempted to implement a personal vision for a nation.

‘Hearts And Minds’ was very effective in showing how the Liberal Party became a vehicle for Howard’s personal beliefs and philosophies. As disturbing as it is that Australian politics could be so totally dominated by a single person, that every proposal of government for a decade in a supposed democracy emerged from a single mind, there are simple reasons to explain how this came to be.

Howard The Messiah

The first is the credibility and power of success. The Liberal Party in particular is a ‘messianic’ party, to use George Megalogenis’s characterisation. It believes its only business is to rule, it does not function well in opposition and while in opposition casts about for the messiah to bring them back to the promised land of power.

When Howard won the 1996 election, he gave the Liberal Party power after 13 years of Labor government. Those 13 years were like eons for the Liberals. Marooned like Marvin The Paranoid Android at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe for 20 billiion years, it was the first 10 billion years that were the worst with the second ten billion years also being the worst.

When Howard delivered power, his was the leadership for ‘as long as he wanted it’ as Nick Minchin said on the night. Delivering victory and power after such an elongated time in opposition, Howard also won the right to set the agenda for the Liberal Party.

Building on this, Howard’s personal machiavellian streak led him to progressively purge the Liberal Party and public service of dissenting opinion. One of Howard’s first acts was to sack any Departmental Heads he felt did not think like him, establish his alter ego Max Moore-Wilton as head of Department Of Prime Minister and Cabinet and direct all of the public service through his Maxness. ‘Tempered’ as Howard said, by his long and personal rejection by his own party for more than a decade, Howard bought a disposition 50% cold poison and 50% colder poison to the leadership. The only way to survive in Howard’s government was to toe the line. Thus the Liberal Party under Howard almost exclusively contained yes-men, toadies and like minds to Howard. Nothing else (Peter Georgiou a significant principled exception).

As Don Watson noted of the Keating-era view of Howard in opposition, ‘Howard was shrewder than his colleagues’ but the depth and brilliance of Howard’s finely tooled strategic mind to the end of securing personal power became a thing of marvel. Australia had no idea how superbly Howard would and could manipulate and wield power until we had seen ten years of his government.

Mungo MacCallum calls Howard ‘The Stonefish’: nothing to look at, unassuming, easy to underestimate, but absolutely deadly, vicious in the strike and a superb hunter of incredible rapidity when it counts.

Howard’s prestige and power was magnified by bringing home the 1998 GST election, which he bought home assisted by Beazley’s failed ‘small target’ startegy. Winning that election, on a new tax of all things showed again Howard’s strategic brilliance. He became not just party leader but Liberal Emporer. Two more election wins against crippled and untalented Labor opposition made him a demi-god. His word was law.

‘Hearts and Minds’ effectively illustrated how the Liberal Party was Howard’s personal vehicle in the conclusion of the episode by playing numerous excerpts of Howard speeches where he said “I have always believed…’ followed by a policy pronouncement. The government belonged to Howard and he intended to reinvent or – I think Howard would say ‘return’ – Australia into a John Howard utopia after 13 years of leftist Labor vandalism.

Correcting The Record

One of the most interesting parts of the doco. for me was Howard’s view of the ‘Culture Wars’ which he described as ‘correcting the record’. The record that Howard wished to correct was what he viewed as a treacherous, unfair, immature, damaging view of Australian history promulgated by Keating’s coterie of leftist elites, the ‘black armband’ view of Australia’s history, that Australians had something to be ashamed of in our past.

In particular, Howard nominated Keating’s 1992 Redfern Speech (here on video) given for the Australian Launch of the International Year for the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Here is the content that Howard found objectionable:

it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion.

It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me?

As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.

Now, Howard says that he agrees and recognises that Australia’s Black History is a ‘blemish’ on an otherwise great history, but he also said during the doco that Keating’s remarks ‘did great damage’ and that one of his great goals as Prime Minister was to ‘correct the record’.

In my view this shows that Howard cannot reconcile what he intellectually recognises to be the truth about Australia’s race history with hi semotional need to believe in a heroic settler myth. In truth he prefers the truth about Australis race relations history to remain untold, hushed, swept over. Just speaking the truth makes Howard’s imagined record incorrect. And speaking the truth needs correction, namely Howard’s chocolate-box version of Australian History.

Howard cannot face the truth on this issue. It is too personally confronting for him, because he personally identifies with the supposed nobility of the British settlers and pre-war Australians who were happy to hunt and kill Aboriginals, to steal their children, and made plans for the Aboriginal race to die or be bred out.

Introduction

This is an essay I did for a Diploma-level subject at an Australian Bible College. It got an ‘A’, so it must be good 🙂

Why Do I Take Notice Of The Bible ?

I take notice of the Bible because it is God speaking and God speaking to me.

The Bible claims to be the written record of God speaking to humanity. If this is true, then the Bible is both authoritative and necessary for spiritual life.

By ‘authoritative’, I mean that the Bible has the right or power to command obedience (Milne, 1998, p.26). By ‘spiritual life’ I mean that the Bible instructs us how to enter into right relationship with God, that through the Bible we learn about God’s will for our lives and that the Bible instructs us how to grow in spiritual maturity and insight (Grudem pp. 116-119).

Phrases such as “God said” and “God commanded” fill the Old Testament (e.g. Gen 2:16, Ex. 9:1; Lev 12:1; Num 5:11, Josh 1:1, Judg 1:2, 2 Sam 7:4; Jer 66:1) which affirms that God’s speech and directive word was written down by His prophets and disciples beginning with Moses (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, pp. 138-140) (see Ex. 24:4 referring to Ex 20:22-23:31, Is 8:1, Jer 30:2). Similarly the New Testament (hereafter NT) attests that its own contents are the commands and words of God. For example, Jesus taught that He was bringing God’s message to Israel, that His teaching is superior to all those who preceded Him and is eternal (Matt 24:35; Matt 5:21-22; Matt 15:24).

While it is one thing for the Bible to claim to be the word of God, it is reasonable to ask how this claim can be tested. In my view the authenticity of scripture can be known by the person of Jesus, crucially hinging on His resurrection. (1 Cor 15:13-14)
As Milne puts it:

‘The resurrection is central to the entire Biblical revelation…To
deny it is to empty faith of all content and value’ (Milne, 1998, p.169)

Jesus claimed to be God. This can be seen in many ways including the unique way in which he expressed His relationship of sonship with God, His acceptance of worship and His jaw-dropping appropriation of the name of God through His famous ‘I AM’ statements (McDowell, 1986, pp. 89-102).(esp. John 8:58ff). Since only God has power over life and death then God’s action to resurrect Jesus ratifies His teaching and claims, especially since Jesus had the audacity to stake the authenticity of His teaching on His statements that He would rise from the grave Matt 12:36-42; John 2:18-22(Rom 1:3-4; Acts 2:29-36; Phil 2:9-11)

Given that Jesus’ teaching is ratified by God, let us then consider Jesus’ teaching on the Bible. I will consider this in three parts: The Old Testament (hereafter OT), the Gospels and the remainder of the NT

Jesus endorsed the entire OT as scripture, affirming the accepted categories and hence contents of “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44 NIV). He rebuked the Pharisees for nullifying the OT by their man-made traditions and had complete confidence in its plenary inspiration, even on obscure points such as the death of Lot’s wife. He used the OT to settle points of doctrinal contention, to provoke thought about Himself and passionately defended its verbal inspiration by stressing that not a jot or tittle of the Law could be “dropped out”. He saw his own ministry as confirming and establishing the OT. (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p. 141; Pinnock, 1985, pp. 37-39) Jesus high view of the OT is also demonstrated by how he constructed and understood the course of His Messianic ministry in relation to it. In this I agree with Milne that Jesus submitted to scripture, in distinction to Pinnock who, rightly affirming the scriptures’ witness to Jesus, then places Jesus in relative freedom to them. (Milne, 1998, pp. 41-42; Pinnock, 1985, p. 42).

As God, Jesus’ own teaching as contained in the Gospels are, by definition, scripture. There then remains to demonstrate why the remainder of the NT, written and/or sanctioned by the apostles, is also scripture.

The key to judging the apostles as inspired writers is in recognizing the special commission and empowerment given to them by Jesus. The commissioning of the apostles took place at the Passover Feast prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. They were commissioned to testify about Jesus using the teaching from the Father that Jesus had passed to them and were also promised additional truth by the agency of the Holy Spirit. After His resurrection Jesus gave the twelve a special endowment of the Holy Spirit to carry out the task of proclaiming this teaching. (John 15:27; John 17:8; John 16:12-15; John 17:20; John 20:21-23)

As Erickson points out, there is a strong sense in which many aspects of Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apply to believers as a whole (Erickson, 1983, p. 251), but this does not permit us to ignore the localized context of the original commissioning or the manner of the training of the twelve through their three years of intimate personal engagement with Jesus. Jesus personally chose the twelve then employed rabbinical methods of training which impressed on them the fact of being groomed to be carriers of His teaching (Lewis and Demarest p. 144) Jesus also gave the twelve privileged, deeper instruction. (See Matt 13:16). Viewed thus, the Passover passage constitutes the climax of their training – a real handing-over of the task of teaching, training and proclamation.

The apostles clearly understood that they had received the delegated authority to teach with the authority of scripture. Paul distinguished between apostolic writings and the general insights available to the common believer and described his epistles as “the Lord’s command” (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Cor 13:3). He instructed his letters to be read to all believers, who were then exhorted to stand firmly on the truths therein. Those disobedient to Paul could righteously be excommunicated. Peter affirmed Paul’s writings as scripture, who for his part, submitted himself to the apostles of Jerusalem to confirm his own apostolic credentials. (1 Thess. 5:27; 2 Thess 2:13-15; 2 Thess 3:14-15; Gal 1:11-13; 2 Pet 3:16; Gal 2:1-10; 2 Peter 3:2; Eph 3:4-5 )

The connection between apostleship and authoritative teaching is keenly appreciated by Paul who takes pains to demonstrate that he too fulfills the criteria for apostleship by being an eyewitness to the resurrection, by the reception of teaching directly from Jesus the Lord and by the reception of a divine commissioning from Him (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p.106). (Gal 1:11-15; 1 Cor 15:8-9; 1 Cor 9:1)

While not all the books of the NT were written by the apostles, all were validated by the apostles because they were written under apostolic sanction. As Warfield puts it,

“God’s authoritative agents in founding the church gave them
[the non-apostolically authored NT books] as authoritative to the
church which they founded.’ (Reformation Ink website, 2007)

Our friend has also objected that the Bible was written by ordinary people. In what way can human writings be said to originate with God? Theologically, this point addresses the concept of ‘inspiration’.

Inspiration

Milne canvasses the major conceptions of inspiration, namely dictation, accommodation and supervision (Milne, 1998, pp. 49-51). While the Bible does contain instances of divine dictation (Rev 2:8), the model which best fits the biblical data is that of ‘supervision’. This conception of inspiration sees that God exercised control over the biblical authors in their selection and redaction of words and ideas and indeed in their entire life development to fit them for the portions of scripture they were to write (Jer. 1:5; Rom 9:17).

The ‘dictation’ view cannot be reconciled to the Biblical data that shows the source of scripture are as varied as documentary research, collation, redaction, dreams, vision and memory. (Grudem, 1994, pp 81-82; Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p. 140).

The ‘accommodation’ view, on the other hand, is inadequate to explain the high view of scripture displayed by Jesus and the NT writers and sets us on a slippery slope (Erickson, 1983, p.226) ending in the kind of Biblical vandalism demonstrated by Bishop John Shelby Spong (Australian Broadcasting Commission website, 2007), whose idea of a Christian reformation begins with the disembowelment of scripture (Diocese Of Newark website 2007)

In distinction to other conceptions of inspiration, supervision provides both a holistic and high view of the divine-human partnership in scripture. The Bible states that scripture is inspired, meaning literally ‘breathed out’ by God, thus underlining its divine origin (2 Tim 3:16). Complementary to this is Peter’s description of the impetus for scripture being the Holy Spirit who ‘carries along’ the scripture writer.
( 2 Peter 1:19-20). Jesus’ endorsement of scripture validates for us that the process of human mediation of scripture does not compromise the integrity of the inspiration.

Conclusion

The veracity of the Bible hinges on Jesus. Jesus validated all scripture in existence at the time of His incarnation and, as God, provided additional scripture. He also trained, specially commissioned and empowered twelve apostles to deliver all remaining necessary truth. Admittedly, the process of inspiration is a mystery and it is difficult to know where or how the divine ends and the human starts. For example, in Exodus 34:1 Moses was commanded to chisel two stone tablets on which the Lord would write and yet in verse 28 we learn that Moses did the actual writing. All that we can say with certainty is that the origin of scripture is divine – God provides the inspiration and impetus – but that human vessels are used.

The ground for our trust in Jesus is ultimately His resurrection. This is the Father’s great attestation to Jesus, God the Son, and hence ratification of all His claims including Jesus’ endorsement of the Bible as God’s word. That is why I take so much notice of the Bible.

Finally, though, it is admitted that the Bible does not provide a formal proof of its own character. It simply provides assertions about itself. (Grudem, 1994, p. 171) The proof of the divine origin of the Bible is only found in the witness of the Holy Spirit to scripture and this is available only to those redeemed through faith in the object of its message. In the meantime, sin obscures the apprehension of the divine virtue of scripture, a condition even the redeemed must battle until He comes again.

Reference List

Australian Broadcasting Commission website (cited 17 March 2007), ‘Sunday Nights
with John Cleary: Bishop Shelby Spong’, transcript, 17 June 2001,
http://www.abc.net.au/sundaynights/stories/s815368.htm

Erickson M.J, 1983, “Christian Theology”, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids,
Michigan

Grudem W., 1994, “Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine”,
Intervarsity Press, Leicester.

Lewis G.R and Demarest B.A, 1987, “Integrative Theology”, Vol. 1, Zondervan,
Grand Rapids, Michigan

McDowell, Josh, 1986, Revised edn, “Evidence That Demands A Verdict”, Vol. 1,
Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardin, California

Milne B., 1998, 2nd edn, “Know The Truth”, Intervarsity Press, Leicester

Pinnock Clark H., 1985, “The Scripture Principle”, Hodder And Stoughton, London

Spong, John.S., Diocese Of Newark website (cited 17 March 2007), ‘A Call For a
New Reformation’, May 1998, http://www.dioceseofnewark.org/vox20598.html

Warfield B.B, 1889, Reformation Ink website (cited 17-March 2007).
‘The Authority & Inspiration of the Scriptures’,
http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/bbwauthority.htm

What I like best about ‘Insiders’ is the Paul Kelly segment.

I love the way Barry Cassidy says ‘Now let’s hear from Paul Kelly’ and the screen is immediately filled with the giant head of Paul Kelly , his imposing grey eyebrows and that pervading aura of impending doom.

It’s just like Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series where Hari Sheldon appears at century-wide intervals on holographic video to prophetically apply his findings of PsychoHistory to the current predicament of the Foundation Galactic Fringe and to guide and warn them, the saviours of civilisation.

Paul Kelly would make a great Hari Sheldon or Obi-Wan-Kenobe.

Anyway, I thought the avuncular prophet of the great grey eyebrow made some very penetrating remarks about Kevin Rudd in his half-term assessement of the Rudd government. For those who missed them:

PAUL KELLY: I don’t think the people are having a great love affair with Kevin Rudd, but Rudd is a most interesting political commodity. He looks like a policy wonk who’s actually a populist. He’s a new generation modernist.

Coming from a farm in Queensland, he’s got a keen understanding of the conservative nature of the Australian people, like John Howard did, and he plays to that.

He doesn’t polarise, he doesn’t polarise and divide the community. He wants to keep everybody happy. He appeals to all constituencies. He doesn’t like to take hard choices. He likes to keep all choices open.

Now this is a fascinating way to govern but you can’t govern this way indefinitely. He has brought to a peak the Howard technique of incumbency. Kevin Rudd runs a permanent election campaign every day.

Kevin Rudd – Howardesque populist conservative, leading his party to an inevitable electoral train wreck as the tensions inherent in populism pull cataclysmically apart.

Strewth – I wonder if Kelly is right ?

Anyway, what’s your favourite part of ‘Insiders’ and why ?

Those of TEH LEFT often criticise Christianity or the Bible for supposedly teaching that Eve was responsible for corrupting Adam and that therefore that Christianity or the Bible teach that women are the corrupters of men. In this way, TEH LEFT imply or plainly state, the Bible is a misogynistic document.

In this post I would like to argue that the Bible does not teach that Eve corrupted Adam and that therefore the Bible does not teach that women corrupt men.

An Example

The blog Still Life With Cat (SLWC) posted an article “Biblical world view legitimised: Australian feminist icon turns in grave” in which the above view, that the Bible teaches that women corrupt men, was posited. The author wrote:

I’m not really all that surprised that the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award has been won by what was by far the safer choice of the two front runners, a novel in which a bitter, twisted woman called Eva (geddit? geddit?) corrupts the young hero, takes away his innocence and warps his psyche for life with her nasty dangerous bent sick non-missionary sexing-on ways. She robs our hero of Paradise, that’s what she does; she pushes him into his fall from grace.

Because, as we all know, that’s what women do. The Bible tells us so.

Here’s another example on the prominent Australian Left blog, Lavartus Prodeo, in the comment by ‘Acerbic Conehead’.

A Challenge
I challenged SLWC to provide a scriptural reference that supported her assertion; she came back with Genesis 3:11-13.

And God said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

In addition to the above scripture, SLWC adduced that the church has centuries of teachings and songs that state that Eve corrupted Adam.

Genesis 3:11-13 does not teach that women corrupt men.. The passage in question records Adam trying to blame Eve for his actions in eating the fobidden fruit, God asking Eve her side of the story who, in turn, blames the serpent.

God is unimpressed with the cowardly blameshifting of both Adam and Eve and punishes them both. Both are banished from the Garden. Nowhere does the text say that Eve corrupted Adam. Rather, both are found guilty for their own actions.

The Bible is clear that Adam was complicit in the fruit incident. From Genesis 3:6

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Adam was there all along. He should have tried to prevent Eve from eating the fruit and he certainly should not have eaten the fruit himself. Eve at least had the partial excuse that she had been deceived by the serpent. Adam ate in the full, clear knowledge that what he was doing was wrong.

Both ate. Both did wrong. Both were punished. There is no suggestion in God’s reaction to the incident that Adam was a victim of Eve.

Who Was Responsible ?
In fact, contra the position of Still Life With Cat and many leftists, the Bible explictly ascribes responsibility for for Original Sin to Adam, not Eve (and also not the serpent). As Romans 5:12-14 puts it:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man…Adam…

So SLWC and leftist fellow travellers have actually reversed the teaching of the Bible. The Bible says Adam was the responsible party in Eden; SLWC says the Bible blames Eve. That is simply a reversal of the Biblical text.

Now, SLWC asserted in correspondence that the traditional Church has taught that Eve corrupted Adam That may be correct; but in her original post the blogger stated that the Bible teaches that Eve corrupted Adam. That is simply not true.

Eve is presented in scripture as a model of the danger of becoming spiritually deceived (see 2 Corinthians11:1-4), not as the corrupter of Adam and not as the author of Original Sin. That distinction is reserved for Adam.

The Garden Of Eden passages thus cannot be asserted to be misogynistic.

Introduction

I wrote this little essay around the time ‘The Passion Of The Christ’ came out. I still assert that ‘The Passion’ is not Anti-Semitic but, in light of Gibson’s anti-semitic comments he made at the time of his arrest for drunk-driving in July 2006, I was obviously wrong about Gibson’s personal anti-semitism.

Is The Passion Of The Christ Anti-Semitic ?

Many critics consider Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of The Christ”
to be anti-Semitic.Gibson, they say, presents Jews as venal and
vicious, ugly, hook-nosed Christ-killers, deserving of hatred. One
has gone so far as to say that the depictions of the Jewish priests
and the high priest Caiaphas in particular are “exact, blatant
replicas”
of sub-human Jews portrayed in Nazi propaganda films, and
that “The Passion” has a “startling fidelity to the conventions of
anti-Semitic Hitlerian cinema”.
Another has written that “The
Passion” is a manifesto for incitement against Jews, the cinematic
equivalent of “yelling ‘fire’”, “little wonder that Jews across the
world are frightened by its phenomenal success”.

“The Passion” is not anti-Semitic. Jewish individuals and groups,
like all individuals and groups in the film, are presented in
spectrum of moods: positive, negative and neutral and as many are
depicted positively as negatively. The Sanhedrin is showed as split
on the legitimacy of Jesus’ trial , with some calling the trial a
sham and walking out on it. Ordinary Jewish women wail for Jesus as
he drags his cross along the Via Delarsso, Veronica wipes his
bloodstained face, Simon of Cyrene helps him and persons in the
crowds call out their support and are physically prevented from
helping (or attacking) him along the Via Dolorossa. Those Jews
portrayed negatively are in the main limited to members of the
Jewish religious establishment and their supporters, but not even
all of these.

Jews are not the only people in the film portrayed negatively. The
Roman soldiers, for example, are depicted as monstrous, sadistic
thugs and, in sum, Roman persons are depicted as uglier and crueller
than Jewish persons. In the film, in fact, the depiction of any
individual or group in the film whether Jew or Gentile depends not on
that person’s ethnicity, but on that individual or group’s attitude
toward Jesus.

In the Western genre of film the good guys wore white hats and the
bad guys black hats. Gibson employs a similar Manichean dichotomy to
tell his story. His good guys are those who are allies of, or
sympathetic or favourably disposed toward Jesus while the baddies are
those who oppose or assault Jesus or who fail to minimally consider
Jesus’ message. But the baddies are certainly not confined to Jews.
Even two of Jesus’ own followers, Judas and Peter, are shown with bad
or flawed moral character: Judas as Betrayer and Peter as Denier. It
is therefore simply incorrect to say that Jews are collectively shown
as evil simply because they are Jews. Jew, Roman or “Christian” the
film has goodies and baddies (or waverers) in each camp.

Contrary to the voices of many critics, “The Passion” does not affix blame collectively to “the Jews” or “all Jews” for the death of Jesus. The Passion does show that the group most determined to condemn Jesus to crucifixion were the chief priests of the Sanhedrin,
led by Caiaphas, in conjunction with the other most respected members of the Jewish religious establishment, the Pharisees. This is in accordance with the Gospel accounts.

The Passion also, however, ascribes responsibility for Jesus death to
all other parties. As Father Di Noia of the Vatican Doctrinal
Congregation has said:

“each of the main characters contributes in
some way to Jesus’ fate: Judas betrays him; the Sanhedrin accuse him;
the disciples abandon him; Peter denies knowing him; Herod toys with
him; Pilate allows him to be condemned; the crowd mocks him; the
Roman soldiers scourge, brutalize and finally crucify him; and the
devil, somehow, is behind the whole action.”

In other words in “The Passion”, no-one is innocent. While the
Jewish religious establishment of Jesus’ day are the prime movers in
Jesus’ death, the Romans and Christians too share guilt for what
happened to Him.

In addition, “The Passion” is quite clear in showing that Jesus’
crucifixion is the prophetic fulfilment
of the Old Testament festival
of Passover. Jesus is the embodiment of the lamb in the Passover rite
whose blood sacrifice provided forgiveness for the community. In
other words The Passion shows, in agreement with Christian theology,
that Jesus death was pre-ordained by God.

This fact about the film alone should make it plain that “The Passion” does not blame “the
Jews” for Jesus death or that they should be punished or hated for
the nonsensical crime of Deicide. Jesus dies, according to “The
Passion”, because it is his God-given mission to do so. As “The
Passion” agrees, no-one forced Jesus to the cross. He went to
Golgotha in obedience to God, in love for mankind and, by act of
personal will, declined opportunities to save Himself.

Finally, however, so there can be no doubt at all that Gibson does
not blame the Jews for Jesus death, and so that it can be seen
crystal clear that Gibson is not trying to inflame anti-Semitism,
Gibson in “The Passion” has declared himself, not “Jews”, to be
personally responsible for Jesus death
. It is Gibson’s hand shown in
the movie holding the spike which is driven through Jesus’ palm as He
is nailed to the cross. In this way, Gibson makes a plain statement
about his personal culpability for the death of Jesus.

When Gibson was asked by PrimeTime reporter Diana Sawyer “Who Killed
Christ?”, he replied “The big answer is, we all did. I’ll be first in
the culpability stakes here”
It is a strange anti-Semite indeed who
wishes to incite hatred against Jews by blaming them for Jesus’ death
yet proclaims himself guilty of the self-same crime.

Some critics of The Passion claim that the anti-Semitic nature of the
film can be deduced by comparing the physical and moral depictions of
the Romans (supposedly shown as handsome and noble) as opposed to the
Jews (supposedly ugly and wicked). Viewers who have seen the hideous,
bestial, Roman soldiers and their commanders will immediately dismiss
this accusation.

Critics also pay particular attention to the film’s handling of
Pontius Pilate,
claiming here that the film’s supposed anti-Semitism
is evident since that Pilate was an especially cruel man historically
but his cruelty is not referred to in “The Passion”. While this is
true, neither is Pilate’s cruelty referred to in the Gospel
narratives of the crucifixion. Since “The Passion”, by artistic
intention, confines itself to these final hours of Jesus life
Pilate’s historical cruelty is not germane to the story. The overall
tone of Pilate’s interactions with Jesus, if not every single word
uttered by Pilate in the film, is an accurate reflection of the
Gospel record.

Critics also point to anti-Semitic sensibilities in the movie’s crowd
scenes.
In the trial before Caiaphas, for example, Jesus is
physically assaulted by a large group of Jews, many wearing prayer
shawls. This scene however is not the product of an anti-Semitic
viewpoint. The prayer shawls identify the Jews present as “religious”
and thus as members of the Jewish religious establishment or their
supporters. It was these Jews specifically that were most opposed to
Jesus, who looked for opportunities to kill him and who finally
engineered his crucifixion. This group is not meant to be identified
with “all Jews”. In other crowd scenes where the general Jewish
population are represented a wide range of attitudes toward Jesus are
present. As Prof. Peter Haas, Abba Hillel Silver Professor of Jewish
Studies at Case Western Reserve University writes

“the Jewish community watching Jesus carry his cross down the Via
Dolorossa display a whole range of emotions. Some are happy, some
are indifferent, some are horrified, some run out to help him.
Gibson doesn’t play up the anti-Jewish content. In some cases, he
rounds the edges.”

A further way in which critics claim “The Passion” magnifies and
distorts the role of Jews in Jesus’ death is a supposed inversion of
the power relationship between Caiaphas and Pilate
. In “The Passion”
Pilate laments being trapped between the wishes of Caiaphas to
crucify Jesus and those of Jesus’ followers to have him released.
Pilate describes his predicament this way “If I don’t condemn him
Caiaphas will start a rebellion; if I do, his followers will.”
Critics argue that Pilate wielded absolute power in Palestine at that
time and would not have feared Caiaphas in any way.

The critics’ analysis of the power relationship between Caiaphas and
Pilate is well-based but the Gospels do record that Caiaphas
nevertheless successfully manipulated Pilate to grant the crucifixion
order. Caiaphas did this by insinuating to Pilate that he, Caiaphas,
would see to it that Pilate was reported to Rome for supporting an
alternative King (Jesus) than Caesar should Pilate fail to order
Jesus crucified. (John 19:12). In this way Caiaphas does successfully
exert pressure over Pilate, albeit in a manner not related accurately
by Gibson.

Selectivity

This question of Biblical accuracy leads us to the more sophisticated
criticisms of “The Passion”, namely that Gibson has selected from
amongst the Gospel narratives in order to present the most anti-
Semitic version of events possible. There is also a parallel claim
that the extra-Biblical material inserted by Gibson was specifically
selected in order to heap vilification on Jews.

Gibson chose to insert the following material which is present in
only one Gospel narrative:

  • The acceptance of generational blood guilt for Jesus’ death.by a
    Jewish crowd assembled in Pilate’s courtyard.
  • Pilate scourges Jesus in an attempt to satisfy the hostility of
    the Jewish crowd enough for them to refrain from demanding
    crucifixion. They insistently demand crucifixion. Only Jesus’ death
    will satisfy them.
  • Gibson chose to omit the following which is present in one or more
    Gospel accounts

  • Jesus arrested clandestinely at night because of his popularity
    amongst the people
  • Jesus arrested by a combined squad of Temple guards and Roman soldiers. The film shows the arrest detail beingcomprised only of (Jewish) Temple guards.
  • Overwhelming sorrow amongst the general population immediately after Jesus’s crucifixion

Inclusion Of Anti-Semitic Writings

Gibson also chose to insert the following extra-Biblical material
found in the writings of Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) an
Augustinian nun who lived in Westphalia, Germany. Emmerich lived in
a time and place where Jews were hated as Christ-killers and her
visions, endorsed by the Catholic Church, include horrible anti-
Semitic references
including the assertion that Jews used the blood
of Christian babies in secret rituals. None of the Emmerich
material below, selected by Gibson for use in “The Passion”,
appears in the Gospels.

  • <Jesus thrown over a bridge by the Jewish Temple guards
  • Jesus’ shoulder is dislocated by his crucifiers
  • Barabbas depicted as physically and morally monstrous, making the crowd’s choice to release him instead of Jesus even more culpable.
  • If we begin with Gibson’s choice of the blood guilt and pre-crucifixion scourging passages these elements certainly do heighten our awareness that the forces behind Jesus’ death were implacable.

    They were prepared to accept generational blood guilt and not prepared to accept anything less than the complete annihilation of Jesus. The question is, who does Gibson finger as the forces arrayedagainst Jesus? Jews…or everybody? Over to you Mr. Gibson

    “This film collectively blames humanity [for] the death of Jesus. Now there are no exemptions there. All right? I’m the first on the line for culpability. I did it. Christ died for all men for all times.”

    Yes, the Jewish crowd insistently bays for Jesus’s death and accepts
    blood guilt but in doing so represent the voices of all men. As Jesus
    stands for the Passover lamb, the Jewish voices here stand for the
    voice of all mankind. “We are guilty”.

    In a similar way, the overall effect of Gibson’s selections from the
    Gospels and his use of the writings of Catherine Emmerich are to
    emphasise the amount of suffering Jesus experienced and the guilt and
    culpability of all. The only exception I can see to this is the
    omission of Roman guards from the arrest detail. This is a glaring
    error and director Gibson needs to explain it.

    In relation to Emmerich, Gibson does not follow her visions as
    collected in Dolorous Passion slavishly, and at many points he
    chooses details that conflict with Emmerich’s account
    . Nor is his
    choice of extra-Biblical material limited to Emmerich. Some is drawn
    from wider Catholic tradition, for example the story of the woman
    Veronica, who ran out of the crowd and gently wiped sweat from the
    face of the exhausted Jesus with her veil on which remained imprinted
    his visage.

    Nevertheless, given that Emmerich is so un-selfconsciously anti-
    Semitic, Gibson’s use of her visions raises valid questions about
    Gibson’s own views toward Jews. Raising further concern is that Mel
    Gibson’s father is an unabashed anti-Semite who blames Jews for all
    manner of nefarious conspiracy.

    If Gibson is an anti-Semite, however, this is not shown in his film.
    “The Passion” does finger the Jewish religious establishment as the
    prime movers behind Jesus death, but this is in accordance with the
    Gospel record. The Passion, in accordance with Christian theology,
    holds all men accountable for the death of Christ and shows that this
    death was pre-ordained by God as Jesus’ saving mission on behalf of
    humanity. Jews are depicted as neither less nor more venal or ugly or
    morally flawed than anybody else and the film crticises even those of
    Jesus’ inner circle including Peter. Finally Gibson has made clear
    that he holds himself as guilty as anybody for the death of Jesus by
    filming himself in the act of crucifying Jesus and by very plain
    statements to this effect on the public record.

    It is a strange anti-Semite indeed who wishes to incite hatred
    against Jews by blaming them for Jesus’ death yet proclaims himself
    guilty of the self-same crime.

    But could Gibson still be an anti-Semite even if an unconventional
    one? He carries a relic of the anti-Semitic nun Emmerich and publicly
    honours his father, Hutton, even in the context of Hutton’s anti-
    Semitic remarks. Peggy Noonan of Reader’s Digest asked Gibson whether
    or not he believed the Holocaust was historical fact because of
    reports that Mel’s father doesn’t believe Hitler killed 6 million
    Jews. Gibson told Noonan: “My dad taught me my faith, and I believe
    what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life.”
    Noonan also
    asked Gibson “You’re going to have to go on record. The Holocaust
    happened, right?”
    Gibson told her:

    “I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in
    France. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The
    Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were
    Jews in concentration camps…”

    Some critics consider Gibson’s responses to Noonan to be shameful, amounting to little more than a nuanced version of Holocaust denial. In his PrimeTime interview, though, Gibson plainly said that the Holocaust was the result of an evil
    racist pogrom

    “You know, do I believe that there were concentration camps where
    defenseless and innocent Jews died cruelly under the Nazi regime? Of
    course I do. Absolutely.
    It was an atrocity of monumental
    proportion… It’s like, it’s obvious. They’re killed because of who
    and what they are.”

    In other interviews, Gibson categorically denies holding anti-Semitic
    beliefs
    pointing out that anti-Semitism is anathema under many Papal
    Councils and Encyclicals and that racism is incompatible with
    Christian faith. Gibson’s views on the Holocaust appear then to be
    largely mainstream with some question as to whether he agrees with
    the generally accepted figure of 6 million killed. If Mel Gibson does
    not do enough for some critics to criticize his father Hutton for anti-
    Semitism then in all probability it is due to Mel’s desire to honour
    his father in accordance with the Ten Commandments or out of filial
    respect but neither Gibson nor his film “The Passion Of The Christ”
    are anti-Semitic.

    Jewish community opinion about this film is not
    nearly unanimous.
    It is not hard to find Jews who do not consider
    either Gibson or “The Passion of The Christ” anti-Semitic. A cursory
    “Google” search returns a number of comments in this vein. For
    example, Professor Haas, quoted above, Rabbi Norbert Samueson of
    Arizona State University “For the most part, the persecutors of Jesus
    are Romans- especially the soldiers – and not Jews”
    and Abraham
    Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League “The film,
    per se, is not anti-Semitic”.
    Critics too sure of their ground would
    do well to consider remarks such as these.

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    Gordon Moyes, “The Crucifixion of Mel Gibson”, Wesley Mission, Sydney
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    Peter J. Boyer, “The Jesus War: Mel Gibson’s Obsession”, The New Yorker, September 15,
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    “Pain and Passion. Mel Gibson Tackles Addiction, Recovery and the
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