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The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Starring Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Maia Morgenstern
based on an amalgamation of the four Gospels and the visions of Mary of Agreda and Anne Catherine Emmerich whose revelations appear in the book "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ"
Reel Face: Real Face:
September 26,
Mount Vernon,
Jesus of Nazareth lived a secluded life in the town of Galilee (Nazareth) until he was thirty years of age. He had taken up his father's trade of carpentry [Matthew 13:55]. The duration of his public life has been debated, but is believed to have been under three years, during which time he performed numerous miracles while on his journeys. The Jewish High Priests grew uncomfortable when Jesus proclaimed that he was the Messiah. Led by Caiphas, they had Jesus arrested and urged Pilate for his crucifixion.
May 1,
Mary, Mother of Jesus The early years of Mary's life are uncertain. Some apocryphal writings indicate that she stayed at the Temple of Jerusalem, while the Church believes that she resided at home with her parents. Regardless, at a young age Mary made a vow of virginity. Jewish custom implies that the parents of Joseph arranged his marriage to Mary. She agreed because it was God's inspiration for her. She conceived a son, Jesus, through the divine intervention of the Holy Ghost (to protect her virginity).
September 30,
Citta di
Perugia, Italy
Mary Magdalene In the Bible, Jesus cast seven demons from her [Luke 8:2.16]. She is thought to have been present at the Passion (suffering). The Bible also places her at the Crucifixion [John 19:25] and at Jesus' Resurrection [John 20:18]. Saint Mary Magdalene is thought by some to have been an adulteress. This may be because two women anointed Jesus' feet in the Bible, one likely was an adulteress and the other was Mary of Bethany. It is not certain that Mary of Bethany was indeed Mary Magdalene.
Hristo Shopov
Pontius Pilate The fifth Roman procurator to rule Judea, the part of Palestine adjacent to Jerusalem. Pilate ruled from A.D. 26-36, and is infamous for his decision to crucify Jesus in A.D. 33. Most procurators under the Roman Empire at that time did not have supreme judicial power like Pilate. Instead, they acted primarily as financial administrators. The Jews saw Pilate as a severe and merciless ruler, even though writings in the canonical Gospels stress his efforts to acquit Jesus.
Mattia Sbragia
Joseph Caiphas was appointed High-Priest of the Jews around A.D. 18 by Pontius Pilate's predecessor Valerius Gratus. Although he believed in the coming of a savior [John 11:51-52], Caiphas is known for his discreditable part in the death of Jesus, employing desperate means to rouse his followers. The meeting that resulted in the decision to apprehend Jesus was held at the house of Caiphas. By tradition it is said to have stood on the hill south of Jerusalem, known as the "Hill of Evil Counsel."

"I pray for the people who are upset. I sincerely believe that their suspicions are wrong. This movie will bring people closer together, not incite violence and hatred. That was our experience in making it, and that has been the experience of the people who have seen it so far."
- Mel Gibson, Director

Questioning the Story:

(the film)

Before being asked to play Jesus, did actor Jim Caviezel really think that he was meeting for a surfing movie?
Yes. Jim Caviezel met with producer Stephen McEveety for lunch to discuss what he thought was going to be a role in a surfing movie. After a few hours however, Mel Gibson showed up and began talking about Christ's suffering. Shortly afterward, Caviezel caught on, "You want me to play Jesus," he said. -Newsweek

Was the actor who played Satan a man or a woman?
Most people who have seen the film seem to believe that the character is a man. Before researching the movie, when I told my girlfriend that I thought it was a woman, she glared at me accusingly and replied, "There is no way that Satan is a woman." Rosalinda CelentanoI'm still not sure what she meant. After all, I did make her dinner on Valentine's Day. In reality, we can only assume that Gibson intended the character's gender to be indecipherable, just like how the infant-looking creature that Satan carried during the torture scene was neither young nor old. The creature's body appeared to be that of a baby, but its face was much more aged. The truth is that the part of Satan in the film was played by a woman, actress Rosalinda Celentano (left, click to enlarge). -IMDB

Where was The Passion of the Christ filmed?
The Passion of the Christ was filmed on various locations in Italy, including Rome's Cinecittà studios
. The movie's director, Mel Gibson, had visited several other locations prior to filming, which had been previously used for similar films. In the end Gibson wanted to find locations that had been relatively unexplored through the lens of a movie camera. He found these ideal areas in Italy, including the towns of Rome, Lazio, Craco, Matera, and Basilicata. If you watch the film's credits, you will notice an abundance of Italian names, including Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Reloaded, 2003), the popular Italian actress who portrayed Mary Magdalene in the film.

Did the actor Jim Caviezel really get struck by lightning when shooting the Sermon on the Mount?
Yes. According to Caviezel, who portrayed Jesus in the film, this really happened. In the Newsweek interview, Jim Caviezel said the following about the bolt from above, "We were shooting the Sermon on the Mount. About four seconds before it happened it was quiet, and then it was like someone slapped my ears. I had seven or eight seconds of, like, a pink, fuzzy color, and people started screaming. They said I had fire on the left side of my head and light around my body. All I can tell you is that I looked like I went to Don King's hairstylist." Caviezel then implied that the strike might have been God's way of telling him that he (God) was unhappy with the take. When you think about it, God and directors are not all that dissimilar.

What motivated Mel Gibson to make a movie about Jesus' final hours?
In an interview that appeared in the February 2004 issue of the Knights of Columbus magazine Columbia, Mel Gibson said the following about deciding to make the film, "About 13 years ago I came to a difficult point in my life, and meditating on Christ's sufferings, on his passion, got me through it. ... And when I did that, through reading, and studying, and meditating and praying, I began to see in my own mind what he really went through. ... The story, the way I envisioned the suffering of Christ, got inside me and started to grow, and it reached a point where I just had to tell it, to get it out."

Did the Vatican, fearing the controversy, really change its position on the film?
Yes. As reported on the Fox News Channel, this appears to be true. In December of 2003, reputable newspapers reported that the Pope was behind the film. For example, New York Newsday reported, "Pope: Gibson's Passion Is Authentic; Pontiff moved by controversial film." Then, on Januray 20, 2004, the New York Times reported that the Pope had not endorsed the film. The following day an article appeared in the Washington Post that suggested the same thing, "No 'Passion' Reference; Aide Says Pope Never Commented on Gibson Film." The Pope, who is much too old to defend his original statement, appears to have been muffled by the other officials at the Vatican. Gibson responded to this by saying, "Their just people I guess, you know institutions come down to people, and you can't blame the institution for what people..."

Was The Passion of the Christ really advertised on a NASCAR racecar?
Passion NascarBobby Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR champion, displayed a paint scheme featuring the film on the hood of his Chevrolet (right, click to enlarge) for the 2004 Daytona 500. Jim Caviezel attended the race to cheer on the controversial No. 18 Interstate Batteries car. Caviezel, who was in the car's pit on race day, is no stranger to racing. He drove the 50th Anniversary Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car at the start of the 2002 Indianapolis 500.

What did director Mel Gibson use as the basis for his interpretation of the story of Jesus?
In making The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson based his interpretation of the story on a mixture of accounts from the four Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. He also drew inspiration from the visions of two nuns: Mary of Agreda (1602-1665) of Spain and Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) of France. The latter, Emmerich, experienced the stigmata, which is the collective term for unexplained wounds that imitate those suffered by Jesus. Emmerich discovered such wounds on her head, hands, chest, and feet. Some even bared the markings of the thorns (the film). -Newsweek
In 1819, six years after she first experienced external signs of the stigmata, the famous poet Clemens Brentano came to visit Anne Catherine Emmerich. To his astonishment, as she lay ill and confined to her bed, she recognized him as the man who had been pointed out to her to fulfill God's command, specifically, to translate to text the revelations that had been conveyed to her. Brentano's dictation first appeared in 1833 as "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich" (Sulzbach). Mel Gibson used this translation as inspiration for his version of the Passion (the suffering of Christ).

Does director Mel Gibson appear in The Passion of the Christ?
Yes. In the movie, it is Mel Gibson's hand that we see holding the spike that the Roman soldier hammers through Jesus' hand.

Questioning the Story (the history):

Was Pontius Pilate really as morally conscious as he was portrayed to be in the film?
In all of the articles that I have read in my research for this page, almost all of them point out that Pilate was
not nearly as kind and humane as he was depicted to be in the film. "Isn't [Jesus] the prophet you welcomed into the city?" Pilate asked in the movie. "Can any of you explain this madness to me?" In the movie Pilate was almost forced into handing down the crucifixion sentence as a result of Caiphas' determination to rid himself and the high priests of Jesus. Historical references contradict this notion. The earliest known extra-Biblical sources that refer to Jesus are those by the historians Josephus and Tacitus, which say that Pilate executed Jesus. At that time Rome executed for the civil crime of sedition and not the religious crime of blasphemy. Early texts refer to the two men who were crucified with Jesus as being "thieves." This word can also mean "insurgents," those who were suspected instruments of riot or revolution. Thus, if Pilate was really cruller and also saw Jesus as a threat to Roman order, then he likely carried out the sentence with less hesitation. For just five years after Jesus' execution, Pilate used cavalry to break up a large group around a prophet in Samaria. He slaughtered such a large number of people that he was called to Rome to justify his actions. -Newsweek

Did Judas really hang himself?

The New Testament contradicts itself regarding this occurrence. According to the Gospel of Matthew, "So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself." [Matthew 27:5]
This indicates that he returned the money to the temple and then committed suicide. However, according to Luke in Acts 1:18, "With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out." This implies a more guiltless Judas. Mel Gibson, using an amalgamation of the books from the Bible, obviously chose the version from Matthew.

Did Jesus really carry the entire cross to Golgotha?
No. Contrary to the film, Jesus most likely only carried the patibulum (cross-arm). The stipe (upright portion) of the cross was generally fixed securely into the ground prior to the arrival of the condemned individual. This was still by no means an easy task. The patibulum weighed around 110 pounds.
To see the site of Golgotha today, click here. The familiar term for this site is Mount. However, the use of this term did not start until the 4th century, after the surrounding rock had been stripped away, leaving the isolated rock of the Crucifixion, which stands approximately six meters high.

Why did Mel Gibson define Simon of Sirene heroically when the Bible only depicts him as protesting against helping Jesus carry the cross?
In the interview with Bill O'Reilly, Mel Gibson said the following about his depiction of Simon, "He's in the Book as protesting. He (Simon) didn't want to do it. He's saying, 'Hey, remember, I'm not the criminal here. He (Jesus) is. I'm just helping him.' And it's like the journey that we all have about choices we have to make. I wanted to take that opportunity to take this man, and have him have a burden put on him that he didn't necessarily want but that he ended up taking and that he ended up engaging with and that he ended up learning from and that he transcended any kind of self-concern and became a true hero. I think people have the capacity for that."

What do the Latin letters "INRI" on the top of the cross mean?
The letters in the inscription "INRI" overtop of Jesus on the cross are the Latin first letters to the phrase "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

How did Jesus die, and how much pain did he feel?
Medical examiner Dr. Frederick Zugibe examined Jesus' death for the Trinity Pictures video "How Jesus Died: The Final 18 Hours." First, as Dr. Zugibe stated, the position of the body on the cross was designed to make breathing very difficult, and as an individual's time on the cross wore on, which could last several days, one could eventually die from suffocation. Jesus' wounds from his torture (the film) however were much too severe to indicate that he lasted that long. The nailing of the hands would most likely pierce the median nerve. As Dr. Zugibe stated for the video, this would cause a "severe, excruciating, burning pain, like lightning bolts traversing the arm into the spinal cord." Rupturing the foot's plantar nerve with a nail would cause a similarly horrible pain. In the end, Dr. Zugibe believes that Jesus died from shock due to loss of blood and fluid, as well as traumatic shock from his injuries, plus cardiogenic shock, which caused his heart to fail.

I heard that the spikes were hammered through Jesus' wrists and not his hands, is this true?
Yes. Historical Roman accounts and experimental work have provided evidence that the nails were hammered between the two small bones of the wrists (radial and ulna) and not through the palms. This is because the palms cannot support the weight of the human body, and as a result the nails will strip out between the fingers. Throughout history, artists and sculptors have depicted the Crucifixion with the nails through the hands. This may be because they have misunderstood Jesus' words to Thomas, "Observe my hands." Ancient anatomists considered the wrist to be part of the hand. Modern anatomists still agree with this notion. In Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, we saw the spikes going through Jesus' hands. However, in the film Jesus' wrists were also attached to the patibulum (the cross-arm) with rope. I can find no evidence of this use of rope during the Crucifixion. It is more than likely Gibson's way of explaining how spikes could be put through the hands with the body's weight still supported, even though the majority of the evidence points to the wrists.

Was the cross that Jesus was crucified on shaped like the letter T instead of the Christian cross symbol ()?
Yes. Archeological and historical evidence suggest that it was the Tau Cross (shaped like the Greek letter "T") upon which Jesus was crucified. 1st century Palestine Romans commonly used the Tau Cross as an instrument of torture. The popular Roman style cross that we see in Christian jewelry, artwork, and sculptures did not come into Christian symbolism until after the 1st century.

When Jesus was on the cross was he really pierced with a soldier's spear, causing the sudden release of a large amount of blood and fluids?
Evidence of this appears in the New Testament, which reads, "But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." [John 19:33-34] According to respected physiologist Samuel Houghton, this helps to prove that Jesus was already dead as the large amount of blood is strong evidence of a cardiac rupture.

Passion of the Christ Video Interviews:
Watch Jim Caviezel discuss the hardships he endured while making the movie.