Pondering the Passion


Pondering the Passion: What's at Stake for Christians and Jews? explores how the story of the death of Jesus has been imagined and portrayed over the centuries. In the shadow of the Holocaust and under the eye of contemporary scrutiny, the varied and often conflicting depictions of the Passion of Christ raise questions lying at the heart of both the Jewish and the Christian faiths: Who was Jesus? Why was he executed? What role did the Jews play in his death? How is Jesus' death redemptive? What does it mean to be...

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Pondering the Passion: What's at Stake for Christians and Jews? explores how the story of the death of Jesus has been imagined and portrayed over the centuries. In the shadow of the Holocaust and under the eye of contemporary scrutiny, the varied and often conflicting depictions of the Passion of Christ raise questions lying at the heart of both the Jewish and the Christian faiths: Who was Jesus? Why was he executed? What role did the Jews play in his death? How is Jesus' death redemptive? What does it mean to be saved? What are the psychological effects of seeing Jesus brutalized? How can artistic and creative license affect belief and doctrine in the religious imagination of the Judeo-Christian tradition? Beginning with the world of the first century and the circumstances of Jesus' execution, the prominent Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish contributors consider the diverse perspectives of the canonical gospels; depictions of the Passion in Christian art, music, drama, and film; biblical and theological interpretations of the crucifixion; and contemporary ethical, educational, and psychological issues. Edited by Philip Cunningham, a leading authority on Jewish-Christian dialogue, this collection is must reading for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection, especially in light of contemporary depictions of and discussions over depictions of the Passion.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Scholars and practitioners of Christian-Jewish dialogue found themselves thrust into the spotlight in 2004 with the release of Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. The Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, which Cunningham directs, rose to the occasion with a lecture series that led to this collection of essays. Its greatest strength is the way it resists the temptation to comment on Gibson's film until theological and historical groundwork has been laid. The first four sections treat first-century history (including crucial questions about the exact nature of Jesus' trial and sentencing), the historical nature of the gospel accounts, the Passion in the arts and the meaning of salvation and redemption in Christian theology. Only after this context has been established, generally in well-crafted essays that represent mainstream Catholic thought, do the book's final contributors weigh in on the film itself. Among these essays, Cunningham's stands out for its enumeration of the ways he says that Gibson flouted Catholic teaching and flirted with anti-Semitism in his artistic choices. Catholic educator Mary Boys also contributes a thoughtful reflection on the hostile responses she encountered when critiquing the film in public and on television. With few exceptions, these contributors bring substance to a conversation that deserves to continue after the glare of publicity has faded. (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has again raised the issue of the role of the Jewish people in the death of Jesus. This collection of essays, edited by Cunningham (theology, Boston Coll.; executive director, Ctr. for Jewish-Christian Learning), considers the Passion story generally and its effect on Jewish-Christian relations. The con tributors-most of whom are Christian, and two of whom are rabbis-are either scholars interested in the relationship between the two groups or active participants in the dialog between them. In Part 1, three authors treat the relationship among Jews, Christians, and Romans in the first century; Part 2 considers the Passion narratives from both Protestant and Catholic perspectives and reflects on the meaning of "redemption," while Part 3 considers the treatment of thePassion in the arts. The various perspectives help the general reader situate Gibson's movie and the reactions to it in a broader context. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Staten Island Advance
Cunningham... has edited an excellent book that sorts out many aspects of Jesus' death.
Michael A. Signer
Pondering the Passion maps the landscape of issues raised by reflection on the accounts of the death of Jesus in the Gospels and Christian theological tradition as well as the controversies raised by Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. Christians and Jews will be challenged by the essays in this book. These essays push both Christians and Jews beyond the debates of “history” versus “faith” or "liberal" versus "conservative." They seek to establish the boundaries of what constitutes a proper discussion about fundamental religious reflection for both communities in the twenty-first century.
Peter A. Pettit
The essays in this collection ask vitally important questions about one of the most outrageous American media events of the young 21st century. The authors make it plain that every viewer of 'The Passion of the Christ' must address the questions. Most importantly, the authors offer sober, thoughtful, well-informed perspectives from which to seek answers. Representing a remarkable range of scholarly expertise, they bring resources from the many disciplines that bear on any portrayal of Jesus' Passion—history, scripture, theology, drama and film, music, religious education, and even psychology. The contents of this book offer many of the tools we need to handle this explosive film without doing collateral damage to our Jewish neighbors. Whether we are successful depends on our answer to the books' implicit central question: will the riches of this scholarship continue to be squandered? We do so at our own risk.
Dr. Peter C. Phan
Even if Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ has peaked as a box office golden egg, the debate it sparked about the murder of Jesus and the relations between Jews and Christians remains as heated and muddled as ever. We are deeply grateful to the contributors to Pondering the Passion for helping us think more clearly and critically about the biblical, historical, theological, and artistic issues surrounding the passion of Christ. Scholarly yet accessible, passionate yet well-reasoned, open to dialogue yet deeply rooted in the Christian faith, these essays must be required reading after every showing of The Passion of Christ.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742532175
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip A. Cunningham is executive director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning and adjunct professor of theology at Boston College. Interested in biblical studies, religious education, and theologies of Christian-Jewish relations, Dr. Cunningham is a member of the advisory committee on Catholic-Jewish Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A member of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, he has for several years co-convened its continuing seminar on Biblical Issues in Christian-Jewish Relations. His two most recent books are A Story of Shalom: The Calling of Christians and Jews by a Covenanting God and Sharing the Scriptures.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : the Passion - what's at stake for Christians and Jews?
Ch. 1 The Jews under Roman rule 3
Ch. 2 The problem of Jewish jurisprudence and the trial of Jesus 13
Ch. 3 Why was Jesus executed? : history and faith 27
Ch. 4 Protestant understandings of the Passion 43
Ch. 5 Separating the true from the historical : a Catholic approach to the Passion narratives 55
Ch. 6 The depiction of Jews in early Passion iconography 67
Ch. 7 The Passion in music : Bach's settings of the Matthew and John Passions 87
Ch. 8 Oberammergau : a case study of Passion plays 97
Ch. 9 Celluloid Passions 109
Ch. 10 What does it mean to be saved? 119
Ch. 11 Why is the death of Jesus redemptive? 129
Ch. 12 A challenge to Catholic teaching 143
Ch. 13 Gibson's Passion in the face of the Shoah's ethical considerations 157
Ch. 14 Were you there when they crucified my Lord? : the psychological risks of "witnessing" the Passion 169
Ch. 15 Educating for a faith that feels and thinks 181
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