NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In contrast to what some critics have said, “The Passion of The Christ” portrays the biblical truth that all of humanity — and not just one group of people — is responsible for Jesus’ death, Morris H. Chapman told a national television audience Feb. 25.
The president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee was a guest on MSNBC’s “Deborah Norville Tonight” along with Philip Blackwell, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, and Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. (Watch the video clip.)
Some critics have accused Mel Gibson’s new movie of reflecting anti-Semitism, but Chapman said it does not.
“History does not accuse the Jews — some who are misinformed may — but the Christian does not accuse the Jews of killing our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “The Romans didn’t kill him. We all killed him by our sin, because the Bible says — as is said in the beginning of the movie — that He is wounded by our transgressions and that the Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.
“Therefore, we all nailed Jesus to the cross. He shed His blood in order that we might know Him and that He would pay for our sins if we would trust Him. And that is the way through Him to eternal life.”
Hier disagreed, saying that the “only possible conclusion” is that the Jews were “mainly” responsible for Christ’s death.
“Pontius Pilate is weak and timid,” Hier said. “He’s supposed to be in charge but he’s not. He looks to take orders from the high priest and the mob, and that is a distortion of history. It makes the Jews in charge rather than the Romans.”
Much of the discussion focused on the movie’s meaning and possible impact on both believers and unbelievers. Blackwell said he was “disappointed” and “disheartened” by the movie and that he doubts an unbeliever could be touched by it.
“I wondered what would someone who had not read the Scriptures in any detail come away [with] from this movie?” he asked. “… The violence is really the main character in the movie. … Jesus is really one-dimensional in this movie, because there’s really nothing for Him to do except to receive the suffering.”
Chapman, though, said he was “deeply moved” by the movie and the portrayal of Christ’s scourging and crucifixion.
“I believe that the movie is so powerful and so dynamic and reaches so deep into the souls of men that it may become the catalyst for spiritual awakening in America,” he said. “And we’ve not had a spiritual awakening in over a hundred years.”
The Passion reflects the biblical truth that Christ “was born to die,” Chapman added.
“That was His primary purpose for coming,” he said. “For the Christian to see what He went through for our sins is just such a convicting experience. But also I believe that the unbeliever who sees the film will go away from the film deeply touched, and as God moves in his heart, he will be saying, ‘What is the rest of the story?'”
Blackwell and Chapman differed on their interpretation of the Gospels. Blackwell said the four Gospels don’t “agree in all the facts,” while Chapman said the Gospels are “the truth” on which the movie is based.
“The movie is not the Gospel,” Chapman said. “The movie does portray dramatically what Jesus did, but we must not begin to think of the movie as the actual truth. It’s a portrayal of the truth as drawn from the four Gospels and some Catholic tradition.”
Blackwell said he “tend[s] not to be so moved” by theology that portrays the blood of Christ as healing mankind. He said he prefers the “love of Christ that is portrayed in John 3:16.”
“I would not, for instance, agree with [Chapman] that the only way to talk about Christian theology is to say Christ came in order to die,” Blackwell said. “I would be more inclined to say Christ came in order to love, in order to show us eternal life, and as a result of that, and maybe as a necessary result, he came to die.”
But Chapman said that the cross reflects the love of Christ.
“I respect what Rev. Blackwell is speaking about,” Chapman said. “Jesus, as He was going up the hill to Calvary, I think as He glanced to one side or another, and hung His head most of the time, He was thinking, ‘I’m doing this because I love you, I’m doing this because I love you.’ This is all about love.”
Watch Dr. Chapman’s video clip. For more information on “The Passion of the Christ,” visit BP’s story collection at: