The new, improved, less-violent Passion of the Christ

Mel Gibson has cut five minutes of violence from The Passion of the Christ and is bringing this “special edition” to theatres.

So, is this the “Director’s Cut”? The “Lacerated Edition”? The “Flogged Version”?

Here’s the story.

My real question: Which five minutes? Is the crow eating the thief’s eyes gone? The barbed whip to the gut? The nail-pounding? The “flip the cross over” maneuver? The crown of thorn pressing? A few of the many stumbles along the path? I thought the whole point was to “put us there” for every drop of blood along the way?

As I’ve said before, I admire the film in some ways, but I’m disappointed by it in other ways. There are many films that bring me to a rewarding meditation on the sufferings of Christ without bludgeoning me so intensely that I can’t think straight.

And after hearing so many come to the defense of the film’s extreme violence, I wonder… why back-pedal now? Is this an admission that it was too violent to begin with? I really want to believe that this isn’t just another way to milk money from the Christian audience. (There was recently a news report that Gibson just bought a whole tropical island where he and his family and friends can hang out. An odd investment to make after the success of this film.)

If this re-release is intended as a way to broaden the film’s evangelical reach, is a slightly-less-violent version really going to draw viewers who didn’t see it last time around?

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  • mark


    Please feel free to play devils advocate with me anytime you wish. It is a great teaching tool.
    In answer to your’s or should I say, per haps, the Devil’s question, no I don’t believe you can say the same thing about Christianity. I remember the West Wing, a show I greatly admire and enjoy, doing an episode specifically for September 11th. They were talking with a group of High School seniors and they used the SAT format to make a point about Islamic Fundamentalism and terrorism. They said that the terrorists were comparable to the KKK not Fundamentalist Christianity. I am relatively certain that they meant to be complementary to Christianity with that assessment, but I think they missed the point. The terrorists were not comparable to the KKK because the KKK does not speak for mainstream Christianity. They are at best a very small splinter group and in reality a dramatic perversion of Christianity. The terrorists were comparable to fundamental Christianity because they represent a similar size segment in Islam. In fact you could almost consider them to be similar to Evangelical Christianity because they represent the dominant group in Islam. Yes there have been atrocities committed in the name of Christianity. They are, however, the exception not the rule and are not celebrated by dancing in the streets.

  • Anonymous

    Jeffrey, no, I don’t think you have anything to learn about the way people, even PhD candidates, will ignore the facts and believe what they want to believe. But there are truths here worth standing up for, both before and after 9/11:


  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Not to play Devil’s Advocate or anything, but Mark, couldn’t someone say the same thing about Christianity, a religion under which all kinds of atrocities have been carried out and continue to be carried out? I’ve heard people say very similar things: “Christianity claims to be a religion of peace, but I’ve seen people wage war in the name of Jesus, and I can see that it isn’t.” Perhaps… and I say *perhaps* because I really don’t know… the problem is not in the religion, but in the way people carry it out…?

  • mark

    Speaking as someone who has spent four years of his life living in Saudi Arabia and a lifetime studying Islam both formally in seminary and informally through books, articles, and people there is only one thing I am absolutely sure of. Anyone not a Muslim who thinks they understand Islam is fooling themselves. I gave up a long time ago trying to get inside their mind and decided to simply look at their actions and respond accordingly.
    In response to Kurt Werthmuller allow me to say this based on my experience as listed above. While it might be true that in the Koran Jesus is a revered prophet, in the here and now Islam is trying to destroy Christianity. September 11 was an attack by Islam on Christianity and it brought about dancing in the streets of Islam. I saw it. Israel is not allowed to be shown on maps in Saudi Arabia because to them it doesn’t exist. There is no living in harmony with people who are set on your destruction.
    In terms of the Koran and written law Muslim women do have it better than western women both in medieval times and today. Unfortunetly for women we don’t live in written law. A divorced woman is still an outcast in the Muslim world. Girls as young as 8 are still sold as wives to old men. And men are stoned for adultry, women are. That is the reality.
    I went to my son’s Kindergarten program at church last night. In the program they were all dressed as little Bee’s and everything they did revolved around the theme of bee’s. At one point they had a skit about a bumble bee that had just walked five miles because a physicist had proven that bumble bees can’t fly. Of course we can all see them flying. I feel the same way when I read some expert prove to me from history and the Koran that Islam is a religion of peace and harmony. I can see that it isn’t.

  • Drew

    I have not yet seen “The Passion…” mainly because of the violence, and like the first commenter, I don’t know if I’d see the edited version either, but (assuming that it’s not a cynical attempt to milk more money out of moviegoers) I appreciate the gesture.

  • Anonymous

    You got David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower) on your side, Jeffrey.

    “That it was all represented so realistically doesn’t mean that the story has gripped me more than it had already done. When Jesus was still walking among the people, talking with them, touching them, even then most people didn’t want to have anything to do with him. The whole town turned out when the Romans caught him and they shouted: ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ When he hadn’t done anything wrong. He cured the ill, performed miracles and spoke about love and forgiveness. If people didn’t believe him then, why would they believe him now just because they saw that movie? Has His story become more important because Mel Gibson filmed it?”This is from a recent interview with OOR, a Dutch music magazine. It’s an interesting read!


  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    I’m not a big fan of the film. I admire Gibson for being courageous enough to tell the story on the big screen, but I found myself so bludgeoned by the heavy-handed depiction of the violence that I couldn’t muster the concentration necessary to think about the context. It is, I think, a problem with the movie, and one that a five-minute edit isn’t going to help much. But that’s just my opinion. Clearly I’m in the minority amongst Chrsitians who have seen the film.

    Here’s my full review of the film:

    And here’s the letter to Christians I offered at the same time:

  • mark

    Other than a 10 minute clip I watched at a convention I have not seen the “Passion of the Christ” but having heard almost universal acclaim for the movie from my friends and acquaintances I found your earlier criticism puzzling. This latest barb borders on cynicism. Is there some great heresy here that I am too naive to understand.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I can’t speak for his motivation behind re-cutting the film, but I can speak for some people who did not see the film when it was originally released due to the extreme violence. My wife is very sensitive to graphic presentations of violence, and she felt it would do her no good in watching the film. She has yet to see it, even at home, where I can warn her of the more violent moments. I doubt she will even watch this version, but some who were a little leery last time around, might be persuaded to give it a chance. Just my two cents.