The Passion of the Christ is no stranger to controversy - in fact, it's one of the most controversial movies ever made, as well as one of the worst reviewed historical movies. This raises an important question: is The Passion of the Christ historically accurate? The movie might be based on religious texts, but in a showdown between The Passion of the Christ vs. the Bible, it's clear which comes out on top.
There are a number of Biblical errors in Passion of the Christ, as well as some major historical errors. For example, the movie gets almost everything about crucifixion wrong, including what people wore. On top of that, there's the graphic content and the depiction of the Jewish characters. And that's just scratching the surface of the Biblical problems with The Passion of the Christ.
It Goes Way Too Far
The Passion of the Christ doesn't shy away from blood and gore. In fact, one reviewer called the movie a "bloody mess." Gibson himself said the most moving part of Jesus' story is that he was "whipped, scourged, mocked, spat on, [and] had spikes driven through his hands and feet." So it's no surprise the movie includes nearly two hours of physical suffering.
But there are a few major problems with this. For one, there's very little evidence, either in the Bible or in historical documents, that Jesus was treated as shown in the movie. For another, in the gospels the major emphasis is on Jesus' teaching, not his pain, an equation that the movie firmly reverses.
Everything About The Jews Is Wrong
There's no way to confuse the villains in The Passion of the Christ. In fact, Mel Gibson's movie goes out of its way to point the finger at Roman Judea's Jewish population, earning multiple condemnations for antisemitism. The movie portrays Jews as evil, bloodthirsty savages without providing any context for the split between Jesus and the Jewish high priests.
On top of that, armed Jewish guards harm Jesus in graphic ways - but there's no way the Romans would have allowed the Jews to create a private army. According to the gospels, Jesus wasn't arrested by armed Jewish guards at all - they say he was taken by a "large crowd" (Matt. 26:47) or "a crowd of men with swords and clubs" (Mark 14:43).
And let's not forget that Jesus was Jewish. The movie definitely glosses over that.
The Loincloth Jesus Wears Probably Didn't Exist
Archaeologists Andrea Berlin and Jodi Magness point out that crucifixions in the Roman era never involved the tiny loincloth portrayed in the movie - people were stripped completely bare before being nailed (or more commonly, hung) to the cross.
Jesus Didn't Invent Dining Tables And Chairs
Everyone knows that Jesus was a carpenter. After all, Mark 6:3 identifies Jesus with the profession, when Jesus' first miracles are met with astonishment from his neighbors, who say "Isn’t this the carpenter?" But did Jesus have a career designing tables and chairs? The Passion of the Christ says yes. In one flashback, Jesus invents the dining table and chairs.
In the scene, a baffled Mary looks at a handsome table. It's too tall, she complains, people will have to eat standing. Jesus reassures her that he'll also make chairs. A skeptical Mary says: "This will never catch on."
There's just one problem: dining tables definitely existed before Jesus.
The Bible Definitely Doesn't Mention The Creepy Demonic Baby
When The Passion of the Christ premiered in 2004, one question was on everyone's mind: who, exactly, was that creepy demonic baby watching Jesus get flogged? Satan, depicted as an androgynous figure, appears multiple times during the movie, and during one particular scene the Devil walks through a crowd carrying the demon baby.
Obviously the gospels don't mention any creepy leering babies, but is the scene supposed to reference depictions of the baby Jesus? Mel Gibson explains: "It's evil distorting what's good. What is more tender and beautiful than a mother and a child? So the Devil takes that and distorts it just a little bit." Regardless, there's little historical or Biblical support for the scene.
The Crucifixion Scene Has Several Problems
Everyone knows that Jesus was crucified - so it's no surprise that the star of The Passion of the Christ ends up on the cross. But there are problems with that scene, too. One Christian reviewer complained: "the movie indicates only that Christ [passed]. It does not declare why." On top of that, the depiction is rife with historical inaccuracies.
First, those sentenced were not forced to carry the entire cross, as Jesus does in an extended, bloody scene in the movie. Instead, they only carried the crossbeam. And second, many people were not nailed to the cross at all - instead, they were tied to the cross by ropes. Even in cases where nails were used, they were placed through the wrist, not the palm.
And then there's the bird plucking out an eye during the crucifixion scene. There's definitely no textual basis for that particular embellishment.