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.
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.
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.
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' Passionhistory, 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.
Cunningham... has edited an excellent book that sorts out many aspects of Jesus' death.
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.