Review: The Passion of the Christ

Not Recommended. Who you are depends on the effect The Passion of the Christ will have on you. For the Christian, it may show you how Jesus physically gave His utmost to redeem us. But for the unsaved, it is utter brutality, lacking a clear spiritual context and needing a thorough preface.


The Passion of the Christ inspires a variety of emotions and conclusions among those who view it. For some, it seems to help them understand the deep love of God by showing how much Jesus suffered. For others, it may well confuse or repulse them by its sheer brutality — forgive the repetition of this word, but nothing else quite describes it.

If chosen as an evangelistic tool, Christians should give their unbelieving friends a background on the gospel and why Jesus came in the first place. The film begins with the Garden of Gethsemane and carries no preface so those who are unfamiliar with the story may indeed be lost. With the proper information, and if God should open their hearts, this portrayal could be a tool of salvation, letting them see the extent of the love of God.

Believers may be helped and/or strengthened in their faith by seeing how much Jesus suffered for them. It is a heart-wrenching and even repulsive depiction because it leaves no pain hidden. From the flogging with two cat-of-nine-tails to the nails being driven into His hands, you will see and feel His pain…His passion.

Being that the movie was produced by a Catholic and inspired by a Catholic mystic (from the 1600s), it carries several inaccuracies and unnecessary elements. The details are given below and in spite of what appears to be numerous fallacies, the story is not affected in any significant ways. Please beware of subtleties.

Editor’s synopsis: I cannot say that I recommend the movie to other believers or non-believers. It’s overwhelming brutality nearly stifles the underlying spirituality of Christ’s actions. Remember, the true work of Christ was His assumption of the sins of the world — past, present, and future — and the Father’s forsaking His Son in judgment. Satan did not send Him to the cross. He chose that road, obeying the will of the Father, and saved us from God’s wrath.

Elemental Breakdown:

Satan’s appearances:
– Garden of Gethsemane, trying to tempt Christ not to give Himself up for mankind. Effective.
– In and amongst the priests and Temple court, directing the evil intentions of the Pharisees/Sadducees. Unnecessary.
– Driving Judas to the hill where he hung himself, seemingly embodied in devilish children who were attacking Judas. Bizarre and excessive.
– At the flogging of Jesus, holding an ugly child which resembled the head torturer, perhaps symbolizing Satan’s possession of the man. Strange and unnecessary.
– Along the Via De La Rosa (path to Golgotha), appearing to face off against Mary on the opposite side of the road, showing his apparent influence of the proceedings. Unneeded and inaccurate.
– After Jesus dies, Satan is in a desert-like place screaming assumedly at his own defeat by Christ. Questionable and unclear as to his screaming.

Catholic influences:
– All the disciples (Peter and John, specifically) refer to her as “Mother” (in the subtitles).
– Mary is present at the Temple court proceedings.
– Mary is present at the torturing/flogging by the Romans.
– Another woman (Mary Magdalene?) wipes Jesus’ face with a cloth as He carries His cross to Golgotha and gets the imprint of His face in blood on the cloth (Catholic “veil”).
– Mary speaks of wanting to die with Jesus at the cross.

Excellent parts:
– The Romans, portrayed accurately and effectively in the cultural and time contexts and in relation to Jesus and the crucifixion.
– Peter’s denial of Christ.
– Herod and his court.
– The pain and suffering that Jesus endured and chose (see next section*).
– People’s hearts changing, Simon of Cyrene who helped carry the cross, the Centurion, etc.

Disturbing parts:
– *The brutality of it all, though accurate and unsettling compared to censored depictions of the crucifixion and suffering.
– The lack of direct references by others that Jesus was indeed God; many call Him “Lord”, but Peter’s confession is outside the movie’s context, and the Centurion’s statement (“This was the Son of God”) is missing; Jesus says it of Himself many times, though.
– Catholic mysticism and the presence of Satan throughout the scenes.

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