Mel Gibson's Passion and Philosophy
The Cross, the Questions, the Controversy
Edited by Jorge J. E. Gracia
Volume 10 in the Popular Culture and Philosophy® series
The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s spectacular, disturbing, and unusually violent film about the death of Jesus, has quickly become one of the most widely-viewed movies of all time—and one of the most fiercely vilified. It is more loved and simultaneously more loathed than any previous work of cinematographic art. While some maintain that this film has brought them to a new faith in Christ or a deeper understanding of the faith they already had, others criticize the work for its supposedly gratuitous gore, its alleged historical inaccuracy, or its debatable theological assumptions. In Mel Gibson’s Passion and Philosophy, twenty philosophers with widely varying religious and philosophical backgrounds examine all the most important issues raised by the movie, without ridicule or rancor. How can we decide what God intended to tell us? Why do Christians and Jews apparently report seeing two very different Mel Gibson movies? Was Christ a pacifist? Does the film truly follow the gospels? How can we blame Judas for doing what God wanted him to do? Did Georg Hegel answer Mel Gibson 200 years ahead of time?
"In contrast to the flood of immediate, often emotional reactions to Mel Gibson’s film from media gurus and others, too often with their own obvious axes to grind, this collection offers us a set of calmly thought out, critically reflective essays on the central issues, looked at from many different perspectives (historical, theological, ethical) and by a wide spectrum of contributors, including Christians, Jews, members of other religions, and some non-religious people. I had already seen the film, but I still picked up dozens of new and surprising insights and interpretations I would never have thought of by myself."
—W. Norris Clarke, S.J., Fordham University
"A provocative yet sensitively nuanced collection exploring the religious, political, and moral implications of Mel Gibson’s Passion . . . philosophically honed analyses of popular topics including whether the film is anti-Semitic in its portrayal of Jews, what roles women play in Gibson’s theology, whether there is a ‘truth’ about Jesus’s experiences, and whether the film is historically accurate."
—Tamar Rudavsky, Director, Melton Center for Jewish Studies
"A fascinating and much-needed collection of diverse and thoughtful essays. These essays cut through the hysteria and help the reader come to terms not only with the film but also with the life and death of Jesus."
—Kelly James Clark, Calvin College
"This volume discusses Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ from many perspectives, some religious and others nonreligious. A valuable feature is the diversity of Christian points of view on the film. Gracia’s book does a fine job of drawing on philosophy to cast light on an important element in popular culture."
—Philip L. Quinn, University of Notre Dame
"Test all things—and firmly hold on to that which is good."
—The Apostle Paul, Itinerant tent-maker and cult guru, around A.D. 50
Jorge J. E. Gracia teaches philosophy at the University at Buffalo. His thirty-five books include Old Wine in New Skins (2003), How Can We Know What God Means? (2001), and A Theory of Textuality (1995).