To the editor:
An article on Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion" in the Jan. 31 Journal-World contains this statement: "Gibson is said to have gone to great lengths to make the film as authentic and accurate -- both historically and scripturally -- as possible." I would like readers to know that Paula Fredriksen strongly disputes this claim. Fredriksen is professor of Scripture at Boston University.
She relates in the July 28, 2003, New Republic magazine how representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Anti-Defamation League asked her and other scholars last spring to review the film's script. This happened after an article in the New York Times Magazine asked whether the film would offend Jewish viewers. Gibson's company, Icon, knew of the group's work and provided copies of the script.
Fredriksen says that her group concluded that the script contained serious errors of historical fact and departed from the scriptural version of events. Their report to Icon included suggestions for changes in the script. When the scholars offered their findings to Icon, writes Fredriksen, Icon's lawyers accused them of stealing the scripts and threatened legal action. Icon chose not to follow the suggestions for correcting the errors cited in the report.
In Fredriksen's view, then, the film misrepresents the historical and biblical record. For example, the film inaccurately portrays Jews of Jesus' time as being responsible for his death. This misrepresentation will offend Jewish people and certainly offends me.
George Wiley, chairman,
department of philosophy
Baker University, Baldwin