The ‘inaccuracies’ in Chuck Swindoll’s ‘amazingly accurate’ Passion Movie

Charles [Chuck] Swindoll is President of Dallas Theological seminary. In his ‘Insight for Living’ letter dated 23 February 2004 [the copy I have was issued by his UK office in Bath] he ‘sings the praises’ of Mel Gibson’s movie ‘The Passion of The Christ’. Amongst the many accolades he heaps on the movie is this one – ‘Amazingly accurate’. Later in the letter he writes ‘We saw a vivid portrayal of what Jesus endured from the garden to the grave. And we saw how and where the tortuous treatment took place…Why would anyone submit to such mistreatment?…Unable to get that out of my mind and realising the importance for everyone who sees the film of having that question answered, I decided to sit down and put together a book…I deliberately kept it short (only eight chapters)…By going back to an earlier and more thorough work I’d written ‘The Darkness and The Dawn’ I was able to recreate some of the details of Jesus’ passion, as set forth in the gospel accounts. The truth of these events, seen vividly in the film and explained clearly in the book, will fill you with wonder’. So, all in all, Mr Swindoll conveys a clear impression of a vividly accurate film portrayal of what happened to the Lord ‘from the garden to the grave’.

The following list of ‘inaccuracies’ compiled by Tim Challies would convey an altogether different story.

1. The soldiers begin beating Jesus even in the Garden of Gethsemane.

2. As they are escorting Jesus after his arrest, the soldiers throw Jesus off of a bridge by massive chains; he falls onto the rocky ground below and is then brutally yanked him back up again. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “I saw our Lord fall twice before he reached the bridge, and these falls were caused entirely by the barbarous manner in which the soldiers dragged him; but when they were half over the bridge they gave full vent to their brutal inclinations, and struck Jesus with such violence that they threw him off the bridge into the water.”)

3. Jesus confronts Judas after his arrest when he is hung off the bridge. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.)

4. Jesus is imprisoned in a room under the temple.

5. Herod calls Jesus a fool and demands that he be given the homage of a fool. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “But he spoke in the most contemptuous manner to Jesus, and turning to the guards and servants who surrounded him, and who were about two hundred in number, said: ‘Take away this fool, and pay him that homage which is his due; he is mad, rather than guilty of any crime.”)

6. The Roman soldiers call Jesus “King of worms” and “wormy king.”

7. The soldiers hammer the crown down on Jesus’ head, but the Bible says nothing about this.

8. Mary is near Jesus all during His suffering. The Bible says nothing about this.

9. During the scourging Mary says to Jesus, “My son, when, where, how will you choose to be delivered of this?”

10. Mary interacts with Pilate’s wife and appeals to her to protect Jesus from the angry crowd. There is not a hint of this in Scripture. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.)

11. Pontius Pilate’s wife gives some cloths to Mary. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “I saw Claudia Procles, the wife of Pilate, send some large pieces of linen to the Mother of God.”)

12. Mary and Mary Magdalene wipe up Jesus’ blood after He is whipped. (This is from Anne-Catherine Emmerich’s visions. “Then it was that the Mother of Jesus, accompanied by the holy women, approached the pillar and wiped up the blood with which it and the ground around were saturated.”)

13. A young woman tries to give Jesus a drink of water or wine on the way to the cross, but a Roman soldier stops her. Before she tries to give him a drink, she wipes his face with her cloth and the image of his bloody face is imprinted on the cloth. She is shown cherishing the cloth close to her body as she watches Jesus continue his way toward the cross. This is based on the Catholic legend about Veronica, which claims that Jesus rewarded Veronica’s charity in wiping the sweat from his brow by imprinting his image into the cloth. There is no evidence of this myth prior to the 4th or 5th century. The alleged Veronica image of Jesus’ face, which began to appear perhaps in the 8th century, shows the typical longhaired Catholic Jesus. Reproductions of the image have long been used as “healing relics.” The legend became one of the Roman Catholic Church’s 14 Stations of the Cross. (The account about Veronica is also in Anne-Catherine Emmerich’s visions.)

14. Simon, who carries Jesus’ cross, at first, is reluctant, expressing great disdain toward Jesus, but afterwards he has a change of heart and confronts the Romans in Jesus’ defence. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.)

15. After Jesus’ first hand is nailed to the cross, his other arm is stretched out violently to reach the hole that had been drilled for the second nail. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “When the executioners had nailed the right hand of our Lord, they perceived that his left hand did not reach the hole they had bored to receive the nail, therefore they tied ropes to his left arm, and having steadied their feet against the cross, pulled the left hand violently until it reached the place prepared for it. This dreadful process caused our Lord indescribable agony, his breast heaved, and his legs were quite contracted.”)

16. After Jesus is nailed to the cross, it is raised, turned over and dropped face down. One person who saw the movie observed: “They lift the cross up, turn it over and drop in on him! That would have killed him. Then they turn it over and drop it back down again. This would have likely broken the back of a healthy man, let alone one who had his back flailed with that cat.”

17. A crow pokes out the eye of the unrepentant thief on the cross. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.)

18. Blood gushes out of Jesus’ side like a waterfall after the soldier thrusts in his spear. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “When Cassius drew his lance out of the wound a quantity of blood and water rushed from it, and flowed over his face and body.”)

19. The names of the thieves on the cross are said to be Gesmes and Dismas

 20.  Jesus is depicted as a tall, handsome Caucasian man, whereas the Bible says that he did not have any beauty and he was a Jewish man (Isaiah 53:2). (Following is the depiction given in the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich, which almost exactly describes actor Jim Caviezel: “The complexion of our Lord was fair, like that of Mary, and slightly tinted with red; but his exposure to the weather during the last three years had tanned him considerably. His chest was wide, but not hairy like that of St. John Baptist; his shoulders broad, and his arms and thighs sinewy; his knees were strong and hardened, as is usually the case with those who have either walked or knelt much, and his legs long, with very strong muscles; his feet were well formed, and his hands beautiful, the fingers being long and tapering, and although not delicate like those of a woman, still not resembling those of a man who had laboured hard. His neck was rather long, with a well-set and finely proportioned head; his forehead large and high; his face oval; his hair, which was far from thick, was of a golden brown colour, parted in the middle and falling over his shoulders; his beard was not any great length, but pointed and divided under the chin.”)

21. Jesus is depicted as wearing long hair, which is contrary to His own standards for men in 1 Corinthians 11. The only men of God in the Bible who wore long hair were the Nazarites, such as Samson. The Lord Jesus was not a Nazarite; He was a Nazarene, meaning that He grew up in the town of Nazareth. In The Passion of the Christ most of the men, such as the soldiers and Pilate, have short hair, which is historically accurate. Yet there is “Jesus” with the long, stringy, hippyish hair!

22. Mary Magdalene is depicted as the woman caught in adultery in John. 7:53 – 8:11, whereas there is no biblical evidence for that.

23. Satan is depicted as a woman with a man’s voice.

24. Satan tempts Jesus in Gethsemane. The devil offers many temptations. In one of those the devil asks Jesus, “Do you really believe one man can carry this burden? …saving their souls is too costly?” (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.) According to the Bible, the only time that Jesus was tempted by the devil was at the beginning of his ministry.

25. Satan also appears to Jesus at various times during His suffering.

26. Jesus and the disciples are seated at the Last Supper instead of reclining. (Actually John leaned on Jesus’ breast John. 13:23)

27, Peter is depicted as seated beside Jesus at the Last Supper, but actually he had to motion to John to have him ask Jesus a question (see John. 13:24-25).

28. After Judas betrays Jesus, he goes out into the streets of Jerusalem. As he is sitting alone, two children come to ask him if he is okay. He tells them to go away. They start mocking him, and their faces turn into hideous demon-like faces. They start tormenting and biting him. One of them tears flesh from Judas’ hand with his teeth! They chase him out into the desert when he eventually hangs himself. Thus Judas is pursued to his death by demonic children! (This is from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “I beheld the traitor, Judas Iscariot, wandering about, alone, and a prey to the tortures of his guilty conscience; he feared even his own shadow, and was followed by many devils, who endeavoured to turn his feelings of remorse into black despair.”)

29. When Jesus is arrested, the movie depicts several disciples fighting, but the Bible mentions only Peter.

30. At one point as the female Satan is watching Jesus suffer, she is holding a baby, which is supposed to be an evil parody of the Madonna and Child. The baby turns its head and reveals a demonic face.

31. The whipping depicted in the movie is contrary to the Bible. In the movie Jesus is beaten two separate times with 39 lashes each, first on the back, and then on the front, and the soldiers continue to beat him as they walk to the cross. The Bible says only that he was scourged one time. (The visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich contain lengthy detailed descriptions of Jesus’ whippings; i.e., “Two fresh executioners took the places of the last mentioned, who were beginning to flag; their scourges were composed of small chains, or straps covered with iron hooks, which penetrated to the bone, and tore off large pieces of flesh at every blow. What word, alas! could describe this terrible–this heartrending scene! The cruelty of these barbarians was nevertheless not yet satiated; they untied Jesus, and again fastened him up with his back turned towards the pillar. … The body of our Lord was perfectly torn to shreds.”) One person who saw the movie observed: “The flogging scene is over exaggerated. The cat-o’-nine-tails with the stones/bones would do much more damage than they showed for all the flogging they showed; I doubt if anyone could have survived it. The whole thing [the punishment that Jesus endured prior to the cross] was just too unbelievable for anyone not biased. This creates a loss of credibility for the story and I see it as very harmful for trying to get unbelievers to accept it.”

32. Roman soldiers are depicted as being extremely vindictive toward Christ and sadistic to the extreme; they refuse even to stop whipping him until forced to do so by their commander, and they continue to beat him along the way to the cross. One reviewer rightly observes: “The Roman government had no qualms with Christ. Pilate said so. The soldiers thought it was a big joke, and they mocked him and put the crown of thorns upon His head. They dressed Him in a purple robe and mocked Him, but there is no indication that they had any vindictive spirit toward Him that would lead to beating Him along the way.” Further, the Bible tells us about many Roman soldiers, including centurions, who were merciful and just. One asked Jesus to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-8). Another one testified that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54). Some Roman centurions protected Paul at various points in his ministry and treated him kindly (Acts 21:32; 23:10; 23:27; 27:43; 28:16). In fact, of the 24 times that Roman centurions are mentioned in Scripture, there is not one instance of sadistic brutality or injustice. This is not to say that the Roman soldiers were often brutal, but the Bible depicts them in a much more positive light than what we find in Gibson’s movie. He has demonised both the Jews and the Romans.

33. Jesus prays, “I am your servant and the son of your handmaid.” The Bible never tells us that Jesus prayed in this manner. It is another unscriptural Catholic exaltation of Mary.

34. A frenzied riot breaks out around Jesus as he is proceeding to the cross, with Romans and Jews fighting wildly. This is contrary to the description given in the Bible: “And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children” (Luke 23:27-28). There was no riot and Jesus was able to speak easily to the people who were around him.

35. During an earthquake the floor of the temple’s Holy of Holies is cracked and the temple otherwise damaged and “a flimsy veil-like thing falls down in front of the altar.” The Bible and history tell us that the temple was not damaged in the earthquake; rather the heavy veil between the holy place and the holy of holies was rent in two, thus showing that Christ has opened the way to God through His death and blood. This happened when Jesus cried, “It is finished” (Matthew 27:50-51; John. 19:30). (This is from Anne-Catherine Emmerich’s visions, where she says the temple’s “arch was broken. The ground was heaved up, and many other columns were thrown down in other parts of the Temple.”)

36. While Jesus is on the cross, Mary comes up and kisses his foot. The blood runs down into her mouth, and she backs away “almost licking her lips with blood all over her face.”

37. Jesus is taken down off of the cross by soldiers and by the two Marys and John, whereas the Bible says his body is taken down by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, with no mention of soldiers or of the Marys and John (John 19:38-40).

38. In the resurrection scene the angel rolled away the stone before Jesus comes out. Contrariwise, in Scripture the stone was rolled away so that the disciples could see that Christ was not there; He had arisen and left the tomb before that (Matthew 28:1-6).

39. In the resurrection scene, when Jesus starts to walk out, you get a shot of actor Jim Caviezel’s naked buttocks! One reviewer said, “Thus the last impression you get of the movie is this thought of a naked ‘Jesus’ walking around.”

40. In the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus said, “I am he,” nobody falls over backward (contrast John 18:6).

41. In the Garden of Gethsemane, after Jesus is tempted by the devil, a snake slithers from underneath the female “devil’s” robe. And Jesus crushes its head beneath his foot. This is a reference to the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, but the Bible does not say that any of these things actually occurred. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus destroyed the devil by His death, not in the Garden (Hebrews 2:14).

42. As Jesus is tormented by the devil in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mary wakes up and senses Jesus’ agony. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “During this agony of Jesus, I saw the Blessed Virgin also overwhelmed with sorrow and anguish of soul, in the house of Mary, the mother of Mark. She was with Magdalen and Mary in the garden belonging to the house, and almost prostrate from grief, with her whole body bowed down as she knelt. She fainted several times, for she beheld in spirit different portions of the agony of Jesus.”)

43. Peter and John call Mary “Mother” and the word “Mother” is capitalized in the subtitles

44. After Peter denies Jesus, he is leaving the courtyard and sees Mary, Mary Magdalene, and John. He gets on his knees before Mary, calls her “Mother,” and confesses his denial to her. She holds out her hand to him (as if she is going to forgive him), and he runs away saying that he isn’t worthy. Peter twice tells Mary not to touch him after he denied Jesus. (Gibson got this from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich.) This is rank heresy. It was Jesus against whom Peter sinned that night, not Mary!

45. Mary is the only person other than Jesus who can see Satan. This gives her supernatural abilities akin to those of Christ.

46. Mary goes to a specific place in the temple and lies down on the floor with her head on the stones because she sensed the presence of Jesus chained underneath the floor. She knew where he was. The camera pans through the floor and shows Jesus hanging from shackles and looking up into the stone ceiling toward Mary. (This is from the visions of Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “Mary was with Jesus in spirit, and Jesus was with her; but this loving Mother wished to hear with her own ears the voice of her Divine Son.”)

47. Jesus falls six times on the way to the cross, whereas the Bible mentions no falls. Further, Simeon had to repeatedly help Jesus up when he fell, saying things like, “You are almost there,” helping the weak Jesus to the cross. I believe this shows a weakness in Christ during His suffering that is not only contrary to what the Scriptures teach but is heretical in regard to His person.

48. Once when Jesus falls down, he is depicted as not having the strength to rise until he looks at Mary and gains strength from her. He is depicted as receiving strength from her at other times as well.

49. Once Mary runs up to Jesus when he falls and there is a flashback at that point showing the child Jesus falling and hurting himself and being comforted by Mary, thus directly associating Mary’s aid with Jesus’ sufferings.

50. On the way to the cross, Jesus tells Mary, “Behold, I make all things new.” Actually, that is not spoken until about 50 years later when John writes the book of Revelation.

51. The movie portrays Jesus as somewhat bewildered at times as he is being beaten and hung on the cross.

52. As she is looking up at the cross, Mary asks Jesus if she can die with him. She says, “Flesh of my flesh and heart of my heart, let me die with you.” (This is from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne-Catherine Emmerich. “The Blessed Virgin, filled with intense feelings of motherly love, entreated her Son to permit her to die with him.”) One reviewer admits, “There is that identity of Mary with the death of Christ as well; not just in mourning His death but in wanting to participate in it.” The Bible says that Jesus Christ BY HIMSELF purged our sins (Hebrews 1:3), and the reason why the Bible has none of these depictions is because Mary had nothing to do with Christ’s suffering for our sins. The way that Mary is placed everywhere with Jesus in His suffering is blasphemous.

53. Mary is depicted as holding the dead Jesus at the foot of the Cross, which is a re-enactment of the unscriptural Roman Catholic Pieta. This depicts Mary as the suffering Mother who assisted her son in our redemption. Roman Catholic priest Thomas Rosica, who oversaw World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, observed: “The interplay of Mary and Jesus in this film is moving, and reaches its apex in the scene of the Pietà. The Mother of the Lord is inviting each of us to share her grief and behold her Son.”

54. At the end of the movie Lucifer appears in “a desolate wasteland reminiscent of Hell,” but the Bible is clear that Satan will not be banished anywhere until after the return of Christ and is cast into the lake of fire

55. There is also heresy in what is left out of the movie. The Passion of the Christ focuses on Christ’s physical suffering, but the Bible focuses on His spiritual suffering. The greatest suffering that Jesus endured that day was being made sin, was being abandoned by the Father because of sin. The darkness covered the earth for three hours and in that impenetrable darkness the mysteries of redemption were acted out between God the Father and God the Son. This is the focus of the prophecies such as Isaiah 53, but a movie that focuses on Jesus’ physical sufferings misses the main point of the whole affair.