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The Gospel According to Mel
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Hitchens has a new article in this month's Vanity Fair (print only, I believe) about Mel Gibson's direction of The Passion of Christ, and very violent recounting of Jesus' crucifixion.

In particular, Hitchens discusses the movie's implication that the Jews are to blame for the death of Christ, primarily with the following quotation from the Gospel according to John appearing while the camera is framed on the face of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest:

Then saith Pilate unti him, Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have had no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

Hitchens points out that this partiuclar verse has done an extreme amount of historical harm, by in effect, laying the blame for killing God's only begotten at the foot of the Jews. And he criticizes Gibson for shamelessly employing the quotation to reinforce this view.

I think it's an interesting quotation, and I'm sure Biblical scholars have wrangled over it more than a few times. But honestly, the way it reads to me, Jesus was delivered to Pilate, and the one who did the delivering was God.

Pilate is basically saying, "Don't talk back...I alone decide if you live or die." And Jesus certainly seems to be replying, "You don't have the power to do anything that God doesn't let you have." So if Pilate is not really granted the free will and power to decide whether Jesus lives or dies, then how could Judas be held accountable? Or anyone else but the man upstairs?

Seems to me, if you're going to blame anyone for the death of Jesus, don't blame the Jews...blame his dad.

p.s. There's much more to the article, but I chose to focus on the central criticism. But my favorite section was actually Hitchens' mini-review of Signs:

Mel Gibson is an odd man, and has been getting odder. In Signs, which would be on any list of the 10 worst films of the past decade, he played an ex-priest who recovers his faith after seeing little green men.

Actually, he recovers his faith after realizing that God actually killed his wife, not for no good reason, but so that she could mystically whisper the line that would save the rest of his family from little green men when they showed up. Which, when you think about it, isn't all that much sillier than Christianity itself.

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