Errors in Mel Gibson’s
Movie: Do We Have Artistic License?
Updated March 8, 2004 (first published March 7, 2004)
(David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368,
Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions
about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the
information paragraph at the end of the article) -
Press for March 4 ran an article “'The Passion': Assessing its accuracy”
by James R. Wicker, associate professor of New Testament at Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary. This is one of the seven seminaries funded
by the Southern Baptist Convention. Professor Wicker admits that Mel
Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ contains many
inaccuracies, many things added that have no scriptural support and many
other things that are openly contrary to the biblical account. He admits
that Mary is exalted in the movie in a fashion that conforms to Roman
Catholic doctrine and that Gibson inserts several scenes from the visions
of Catholic mystics.
Even so, he says, “We ought to give Mel Gibson
some leeway for ARTISTIC LICENSE in The Passion of The
He says further, “Do not let the inaccuracies or
artistic license scenes overshadow the fine ways in which the movie
portrays the beatings and crucifixion of Jesus in a vivid and mostly
accurate manner. [Note from Brother Cloud: We do not agree on the “mostly
accurate” part of that statement] Both evangelical Christians and Roman
Catholics alike can embrace this film as a powerful tool for getting the
message of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection to the
Artistic license? Inaccuracies should not overshadow the
“good.” Where does the Bible tells us that God accepts “artistic license”
on the part of those who write or otherwise portray Biblical scenes and
If a pastor stood up on Sunday morning and Sunday evening
and preached two one-hour sermons that contained as many inaccuracies and
heresies in his sermons as Mel Gibson has in his movie, (we would hope
that) the professor would not take such a flippant attitude. But when it
comes to movies, we suddenly have lots of license.
Show me that in
the Bible. I am curious to see the authority for such a philosophy. Of
course, the Bible can be made to support anything if texts are lifted from
their context, but I have been studying the Bible for these past 30 years
and what I have found there directly contradicts what this professor is
What about the following verse: “Your glorying is not good.
Know ye not that A LITTLE leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6).
Why did Paul warn the Corinthians that even a small amount of error is
dangerous, that the little, in fact, leavens the whole? Why didn’t he tell
them, rather, to weigh the good against the bad and if the good is
preponderant, they should not worry so much about the little
Why did the Psalmist say, “Therefore I esteem all thy
precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate EVERY false way”
(Psalm 119:128)? Why did he not say, rather, that he hated false ways only
when there isn’t enough good to outweigh them? Why was he so narrow in his
testimony and strict in his judgments? Why didn’t the Psalmist recognize
the need for “artistic license”?
And why did Paul instruct Timothy
in the following manner? “That thou keep this commandment WITHOUT SPOT,
unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14).
Why did he not rather instruct Timothy to keep the truth of God in a more
general and less strict manner, granting “artistic license” as the case
And why did Paul instruct the believers at
Thessalonica as follows? “Prove ALL things; hold fast that which is good.
Abstain from ALL appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21-22). Why didn’t he
tell them to prove only some things and to abstain only from some evil
while making certain that they granted plenty of “artistic license” for
Why did Paul instruct the believers at Ephesus in this
fashion? “And have NO fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). Why did he say, rather, that they
should avoid most or many works of darkness but that they
should, at the same time, not be overly strict and always be ready to
grant artistic license?
As you can see, I am having a difficult
time finding this “artistic license” doctrine in the Bible.
way, we have dealt with this in other articles, but the very fact that
this movie is being used by evangelicals and Roman Catholics alike as “a
tool” for anything is a loud warning to those who have ears to
(I have another question for Professor Wicker. You say, “Both
evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics alike can embrace this film as
a powerful tool for getting the message of Jesus’ suffering, death and
resurrection to the masses.” Do you believe that Roman Catholics preach a
message that will result in help to the masses?)
and almost entirely uncritical support of this Roman Catholicized
Hollywood movie and this uncritical statement about Roman Catholics using
it by a professor at a Southern Baptist seminary demonstrates that all is
not well in that convention, that, in fact, the spiritual compromise is
The following list of inaccuracies and
extra-biblical things in The Passion of Christ are gathered from
published reviews on the web as well as from e-mails I have received
personally from people who have seen the movie.
SOME THINGS IN
MEL GIBSON’S MOVIE THAT ARE ADDED TO THE BIBLE ACCOUNT
* Jesus is imprisoned in a room under the temple.
confronts Judas after his arrest. (Gibson got this from the visions of
Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.)
* As they are escorting
Jesus after his arrest, the soldiers hang Jesus off of a bridge by
chains and then brutally yank him back up again. (Gibson got this from
the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.)
soldiers are depicted as being extremely vindictive toward Christ; they
refuse even to stop whipping him until forced to do so by their
commander, and they continue to beat him along the way to the cross. One
reviewer rightly observes: “The Roman government had no qualms with
Christ. Pilate said so. The soldiers thought it was a big joke, and they
mocked him and put the crown of thorns upon His head. They dressed Him
in a purple robe and mocked Him, but there is no indication that they
had any vindictive spirit toward Him that would lead to beating Him
along the way.”
* The Roman soldiers call Jesus “King of worms” and
* The soldiers hammer the crown down on Jesus’ head,
but the Bible says nothing about this.
* Mary is near Jesus all
during His suffering. The Bible says nothing about this.
Pilate’s wife gives some cloths to Mary. (Gibson got this from the
visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.)
* Mary and Mary
Magdalene wipe up Jesus’ blood after He is whipped.
* A young woman
tries to give Jesus a drink of water on the way to the cross, but a
Roman soldier stops her. Before she tries to give him a drink, she wipes
his face with her cloth and the image of his bloody face is imprinted on
the cloth. She is shown cherishing the cloth close to her body as she
watches Jesus continue his way toward the cross. This is based on the
Catholic legend about Veronica, which claims that Jesus rewarded
Veronica’s charity in wiping the sweat from his brow by imprinting his
image into the cloth. There is no evidence of this myth prior to the 4th
or 5th century. The alleged Veronica image of Jesus’ face, which began
to appear perhaps in the 8th century, shows the typical longhaired
Catholic Jesus. Reproductions of the image have long been used as
“healing relics.” The legend became one of the Roman Catholic Church’s
14 Stations of the Cross.
* Simon, who carries Jesus’ cross,
confronts the Romans in Jesus’ defense.
* After Jesus is nailed to
the cross, it is raised, turned over and dropped face down. One person
who saw the movie observed: “They lift the cross up, turn it over and
drop in on him! That would have killed him. Then they turn it over and
drop it back down again. This would have likely broken the back of a
healthy man, let alone one who had his back flailed with that cat.”
A crow pokes out the eye of the unrepentant thief on the cross. (Gibson
got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine
* Blood gushes out of Jesus’ side like a waterfall after
the soldier thrusts in his spear. (Gibson got this from the visions of
Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.)
* The names of the thieves
on the cross are said to be Gesmes and Dismas.
Many argue, “While these things are not in the Bible, they also are
not contrary to the Bible. Who is to say, though, that these things
do not somehow change the message of Scripture? The scene of the crow
picking out the eye of the unrepentant thief, for example -- who can say
that this extra-scriptural scene might not leave in the heart of a viewer
some type of lasting but wrong impression about God and the Bible? The
same is true for every type of addition that is made to the Bible
narrative. We simply have no authority for such additions.
THINGS IN MEL GIBSON’S MOVIE THAT ARE CONTRARY TO THE BIBLE
* In Gibson’s movie the characters speak Aramaic and Latin. The
descriptions of these things in the New Testament, on the other hand,
are written in Greek.
* Jesus is depicted as wearing long hair, which
is contrary to His own standards for men in 1 Corinthians 11. The only
men of God in the Bible who wore long hair were the Nazarites, such as
Samson. The Lord Jesus was not a Nazarite; He was a
Nazarene, meaning that He grew up in the town of Nazareth. In
The Passion of the Christ most of the men, such as the soldiers
and Pilate, have short hair, which is historically accurate. Yet there
is “Jesus” with the long, stringy, hippyish hair!
* Mary Magdalene is
depicted as the woman caught in adultery in Jn. 7:53 - 8:11, whereas
there is no biblical evidence for that.
* Satan is depicted as a
woman with a man’s voice.
* Satan tempts Jesus in Gethsemane. The
devil offers many temptations. In one of those the devil asks Jesus, “Do
you take this sin upon yourself? Are you prepared to die for all these
sins?” (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic
Anne-Catherine Emmerich.) According to the Bible, the only time that
Jesus was tempted by the devil was at the beginning of his
* Satan also appears to Jesus at various times during His
* Jesus and the disciples are seated at the Last Supper
instead of reclining. (Actually John leaned on Jesus’ breast Jn.
* Peter is depicted as seated beside Jesus at the Last Supper,
but actually he had to motion to John to have him ask Jesus a question
(see Jn. 13:24-25).
* After Judas betrays Jesus, he goes out into the
streets of Jerusalem. As he is sitting alone, two children come to ask
him if he is okay. He tells them to go away. They start mocking him, and
their faces turn into hideous demon-like faces. They start tormenting
and biting him. One of them tears flesh from Judas' hand with his teeth!
Judas is pursued to his death by demonic children!
* When Jesus is
arrested, the movie depicts several disciples fighting, but the Bible
mentions only Peter.
* During an earthquake the floor of the temple’s
Holy of Holies is cracked and the temple otherwise damaged and “a flimsy
veil-like thing falls down in front of the altar.” The Bible and history
tell us that the temple was not damaged in the earthquake; rather the
heavy veil between the holy place and the holy of holies was rent in
two, thus showing that Christ has opened the way to God through His
death and blood. This happened when Jesus cried, “It is finished” (Matt.
27:50-51; Jn. 19:30).
* At one point as the female Satan is watching
Jesus suffer, she is holding a baby, which is supposed to be an evil
parody of the Madonna and Child. The baby turns its head and reveals a
* The whipping depicted in the movie is contrary to the
Bible. In the movie Jesus is beaten two separate times with 39 lashes
each, and the soldiers continue to beat him as they walk to the cross.
The Bible says only that he was scourged one time. (The visions of
Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich contain lengthy detailed
descriptions of Jesus’ whippings.) One person who saw the movie
observed: “The flogging scene is over exaggerated. The cat-o'-nine-tails
with the stones/bones would do much more damage than they showed for all
the flogging they showed; I doubt if anyone could have survived it. The
whole thing [the punishment that Jesus endured prior to the cross] was
just too unbelievable for anyone not biased. This creates a loss of
credibility for the story and I see it as very harmful for trying to get
unbelievers to accept it.”
* While Jesus is on the cross, Mary comes
up and kisses his foot. The blood runs down into her mouth, and she
backs away “almost licking her lips with blood all over her face.”
In the resurrection scene the angel rolled away the stone before Jesus
comes out. Contrariwise, in Scripture the stone was rolled away so that
the disciples could see that Christ was not there; He had arisen and
left the tomb before that (Matt. 28:1-6).
* In the resurrection
scene, when Jesus starts to walk out, you get a shot of actor Jim
Caviezel's naked buttocks! One reviewer said, “Thus the last impression
you get of the movie is this thought of a naked 'Jesus' walking
SOME THINGS IN MEL GIBSON’S MOVIE THAT ARE HERETICAL
* In the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus said, “I am he,” nobody
falls over backward (contrast John 18:6).
* In the Garden of
Gethsemane, after Jesus is tempted by the devil, a snake slithers from
underneath the female “devil’s” robe. And Jesus crushes its head beneath
his foot. This is a reference to the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, but the
Bible does not say that any of these things actually occurred. In fact,
the Bible says that Jesus destroyed the devil by His death, not in the
Garden (Heb. 2:14).
* Peter and John call Mary “Mother” and the word
“Mother” is capitalized in the subtitles.
* After Peter denies Jesus,
he is leaving the courtyard and sees Mary, Mary Magdalene, and John. He
gets on his knees before Mary, calls her “Mother,” and confesses his
denial to her. She holds out her hand to him (as if she is going to
forgive him), and he runs away saying that he isn't worthy. Peter twice
tells Mary not to touch him after he denied Jesus. (Gibson got this from
the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.) This is rank
heresy. It was Jesus against whom Peter sinned that night, not
* Mary is the only person other than Jesus who can see Satan.
This gives her supernatural abilities akin to those of Christ.
goes to a specific place in the temple and lays down on the floor with
her head on the stones because she sensed the presence of Jesus chained
underneath the floor. She knew where he was. The camera pans through the
floor and shows Jesus hanging from shackles and looking up into the
stone ceiling toward Mary.
* Jesus falls six times on the way to the
cross, whereas the Bible mentions no falls. Further, Simeon had to
repeatedly help Jesus up when he fell, saying things like, “You are
almost there,” helping the weak Jesus to the cross. I believe this shows
a weakness in Christ during His suffering that is not only contrary to
what the Scriptures teach but is heretical in regard to His person.
Once when Jesus falls down, he is depicted as not having the strength to
rise until he looks at Mary and gains strength from her. He is depicted
as receiving strength from her at other times as well.
* Once Mary
runs up to Jesus when he falls and there is a flashback at that point
showing the child Jesus falling and hurting himself and being comforted
by Mary, thus directly associating Mary’s aid with Jesus’
* On the way to the cross, Jesus tells Mary, “Behold, I
make all things new.” Actually, that is not spoken until about 50 years
later when John writes the book of Revelation.
* The movie portrays
Jesus as somewhat bewildered at times as he is being beaten and hung on
* As she is looking up at the cross, Mary asks Jesus if
she can die with him. One reviewer admits, “There is that identity of
Mary with the death of Christ as well; not just in mourning His death
but in wanting to participate in it.” The Bible says that Jesus Christ
BY HIMSELF bore our sins (Heb. 1:3), and the reason why the Bible has
none of these depictions is because Mary had nothing to do with Christ’s
suffering for our sins. The way that Mary is placed everywhere with
Jesus in His suffering is blasphemous.
* Mary is depicted as holding
the dead Jesus at the foot of the Cross, which is a reenactment of the
unscriptural Roman Catholic Pieta. It was not the women who took Jesus
down from the cross and buried him. It was Joseph of Arimathaea and
Nicodemus (John 19:38-42).
* At the end of the movie Lucifer appears
in “a desolate wasteland reminiscent of Hell,” but the Bible is clear
that Satan will not be banished anywhere until after the return of
Christ and will not be cast into the lake of fire until after the final
rebellion at the end of the Millennium.
* There is also heresy in
what is left out of the movie. The Passion of the Christ focuses
on Christ’s physical suffering, but the Bible focuses on His spiritual
suffering. The greatest suffering that Jesus endured that day was being
made sin, was being abandoned by the Father because of sin. The darkness
covered the earth for three hours and in that impenetrable darkness the
mysteries of redemption were acted out between God the Father and God
the Son. This is the focus of the prophecies such as Isaiah 53, but a
movie that focuses on Jesus’ physical sufferings misses the main point
of the whole affair.
It is obvious that this movie is full of errors and outright demonic
lies (see 1 Timothy 4:1-4, where God’s Word warns us that devils teach
Even if the movie did not contain all of these
heretical things and things contrary to the Scriptures, where does God
give us permission to add our human imaginations to the Gospel story? The
Bible warns, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those
things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever,
that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).
It is not
our business to try to delve beyond the pages of Scripture with our
uninspired, easily-deceived imaginations. We have no divine authority to
do such a thing.
While it is true that the Bible does not tell us
everything that happened that day, IT DOES TELL US EVERYTHING GOD WANTS US
TO KNOW THAT HAPPENED THAT DAY!
The Bible is the infallible and
complete Revelation of God, and it is able to make the man of God
“perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim.
Everything about the Bible is an important part of God’s
message, not only what it says but also what it does not say, the smallest
details, even the repetition.
Unsaved men are not afraid of adding
to and modifying the Bible. They think that they can make it better. While
it is obvious that God did not want to focus on the details of Christ’s
suffering, the makers of this movie imagined that they could better
amplify the message by doing exactly what God did not do. This is the sin
This movie takes the Roman Catholic approach to the
Bible and Christianity by allowing the addition of uninspired, man-made
tradition. The concept of “artistic license” in regard to biblical things
is a Roman Catholic concept.
The Bible-believing Christian has no
need for any of these
truth-intermingled-with-error-and-extra-scriptural-tradition things. The
Bible believer has the infallible Truth in ALL of its pure loveliness and
glory in the Scriptures. Why should he be satisfied in any sense with some
incredibly shallow, vague, distorted Hollywood shadow of the
Wake up, my dear friends in Christ.
"Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John
I cannot be emphatic enough about the danger of this Hollywood movie.
It is causing a great stir and a lot of conversation, and that can surely
be used as an evangelistic opportunity, but there are many serious
warnings that church leaders need to be giving their people about this