Reviewing BBC’s The Passion

I got lax about writing my thoughts on BBC’s dramatic retelling of the story of Jesus. Partly, I think, I don’t know if I was impressed with it enough to really say anything about it. The last night with the resurrection really left me cold. I must say that my favourite scene in the series was James Nesbitt’s Pilate arguing with his wife when someone comes in and asks him what charge to place over Jesus’ cross and he responds out of frustration, ‘King of the Jews – let’s see how Caiaphas likes that!’ If it didn’t happen that way, then I don’t know how it happened. That was a great scene.

A great summary review is Kim Fabricius’s over at connexions. I think he gives the fairest and most accurate review of any I have seen and represents my thoughts as well. Here is his thoughts on the portrayal of Jesus:

Which brings me, finally, to Jesus. Joseph Mawle’s character is charming, winsome, sensitive (very “new male “) – you like him – even Caiphas and Pilate like him! – and that is precisely the problem: it inexplicable why anyone would want to crucify this guy. There is no way he is a threat to Rome – too much of “the kingdom of God is in your heart” for that. And why would the Temple establishment fear the crowds, when for them Jesus is a sort of first century Jewish John Lennon, with a comedic penchant for sharp wit and swift repartee, and liable at any time (you think) to start singing “Imagine”.

Why did they want to kill Jesus is a thought that occurred to me as I watched the Good Friday instalment. There was this big showdown between Caiaphas and Joseph of Arimethea and Caiaphas says something about if he didn’t believe that Jesus was dangerous, why would he have risked everything to put Jesus death? That’s when I thought, exactly what did you find so dangerous about him? Back to Kim’s post, also, be sure to read the comments or you will miss Beth’s excellent and hilarious commentary on the writing! If you need to read a positive review, Mark Goodacre (he has a personal blog and a ‘biblioblog‘) has still not said a bad thing about the production, and has maintained that it’s true to the biblical account.

As I have been watching the series, one of the thoughts that has kept recurring in my mind is, Can you really separate the passion narrative with the rest of the gospel stories (leaving alone the question can you amalgamate the four into one)? I remember Richard B. Hays making this comment during the discussion of Mel Gibson’s passion film. I think the same would need to be asked here, too. Kim touches on this in his post when he mentions that there is no hint of the miraculous or the apocalyptic in this series, as well as his point about why did anyone want to kill Jesus. I guess the writers would have us believe what some evangelicals seem to think: other than the passion narrative, the gospels are there just to give us some nice background on Jesus, but not really helpful otherwise.

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