The Long View 2004-01-24: More Catechesis

John here delves deeper into The Passion. Despite Gibson's personal flaws, the Passion isn't anti-Semitic. Yes, even though there has long been an undercurrent that insists on interpreting the Gospels this way.

More Catechesis


Here is a quick update to yesterday's exursion into the scriptural underpinnings of Mel Gibson's upcoming film, The Passion.

The narrative in Matthew 27:24-25 that seems to be causing all the trouble runs thus:

Now Pilate, seeing that he was doing no good, but rather that a riot was breaking out, took water and washed his hands in sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just man; see to it yourselves." And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children."

These lines would have immediately brought to the mind of their first audience this passage, Exodus 24:7-8:

Taking the Book of the Covenant, [Moses] read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the Lord has said, we will do." Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words."

Seen side-by-side, these passages are disorienting, like that Gestalt-puzzle that looks like the edges of two goblets when seen one way, but like two smiling faces when seen the other way. Oswald Spengler, of all people, came as close as any agnostic commentator has ever come to expressing this superimposition of realities :

But when Jesus was taken before Pilate, then the world of facts and the world of truths were face to face in immediate and implacable hostility. It is a scene appallingly distinct and overwhelming in its symbolism, such as the world's history had never before and has never since looked at...In the one world, the historical, the Roman caused the Galilean to be crucified -- that was his Destiny. In the other world, Rome was cast for perdition and the Cross became the pledge of Redemption -- that was the "will of God."
The Decline of the West Volume II
Historic Pseudomorphoses

In his later years, by the way, Spengler was working on a play about the trial of Jesus. I, for one, am sorry he did not live to finish it.

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In any case, what the passage in Matthew clearly teaches is the establishment of a new covenant, one that includes the Jews, potentially if not always actually. Again, the question is whether the religious establishment will be able to divert its attention from social and psychological issues long enough to do a little old-fashioned exegesis.

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Before all this is over, I will be sounding like Ned Flanders.  

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