Jesus Christ exiled instead of crucified

Matt Quinn"With regard to the film itself said:
Come on, Matt, that's weak. The only "Jews" that are portrayed well are the ones the Christians claim, like your list. Everyone else has big noses and bad teeth. Note they picked a really good-looking Brazilian guy to play Jesus.

And as for the Holocaust argument, that Gibson used the exact language of deniers is significant. That the toll was 50M is irrelevant. Of those, 6M were systematically exterminated for no other reason than that they were Jewish. That sets those 6M apart from the other 44.
 
Carlton,

I saw the dice also, dots and all. Regarding the Roman soldiers' uniforms you gotta remember that even with a movie as iconoclastic as "Passion" Mel had to make the images fit partially with what we would expect from something set in the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers without helmets or armor on? In a movie? Really!

Also, as is clear from the very deliberate lighting and posing of the characters, many of the movie's visuals were probably intended to be more evocative of religious art rather than "reality".

I'd like to know about the Temple police, though. Their costumes really did look like something out of a post-apocalypic Mad-Max movie. Does anyone even have the slightest ideal what the military and police of first century Judea looked like?

And Satan's baby. I think at times Mel went a little overboard to be Felliniesque, especially when satan was involved. God knows what it was (I assumed maybe some kind of antichrist waiting in the wings). Also, the other three weakest scenes in the movie were the Hollywoodesqe tear dropping at the Christ's death (sort of like the Japanese bomb hitting the USS Arizona if you saw Pearl Harbor), the hordes of devil-children haunting Judas to his suicide - although this was kind of creepy, and the extremely hokey vertical pull back as Satan's evil plans for the universe are foiled by the resurrection. "Aaaaaarrrhgh!" the big guy/gal screams as we see him/her/it trapped in hell. The resurrection itself, I thought, was done very subtly and effectively.
 

Leo Caesius

Banned
carlton_bach said:
I got pictures of six-sided bone dice with dots in the modern pattern cut into the surface (whether they were colored or not is impossible to say) that most likely date to the first century AD from Roman military contexts in Cologne. Not Palestine, but at least I wouldn't rule it out.
I stand corrected. To be honest, I was actually hoping that someone would prove me wrong - it just seems to be too big a mistake for a film that was so painstakingly researched. I'm intrigued to hear that they are so old.

I do, however, know for a fact that astragals were used in Roman Palestine at this time. How could I know such a thing? The museum for which I work has a collection, dating to the Hellenistic and Roman periods in Palestine and the Near East. We've just put a few on display for our most recent exhibit, "The Houses of Ancient Israel" - in this case, our sheep's knuckles are anachronistic, although we know from Assyrian reliefs that such things were used during the time period that we cover.
 
Jesus Christ exiled

I wonder if any of people here have read Kirk Mitchell's series of books on Rome. There Jesus is pardoned and let go and Christianity never catches on. In Robert Cowley's first book "What If?" there is an article dealing with the consequences of Pilate's releasing Jesus. Here He lives until he's 97 years old and His message is spread everywhere and farwest as Britain and east as Japan. There is a Resurrection as witnesses report seeing Him. There is no real Christianity. What do you think?
 
ED(Mister) said:
I wonder if any of people here have read Kirk Mitchell's series of books on Rome. There Jesus is pardoned and let go and Christianity never catches on. In Robert Cowley's first book "What If?" there is an article dealing with the consequences of Pilate's releasing Jesus. Here He lives until he's 97 years old and His message is spread everywhere and farwest as Britain and east as Japan. There is a Resurrection as witnesses report seeing Him. There is no real Christianity. What do you think?

I read it (the "What If" article) and thought it was probably the most interesting and believable of the lot. A very satisfying alternative.
 
"The only "Jews" that are portrayed well are the ones the Christians claim, like your list"

As far as I know, we haven't claimed Simon the Cyrene. Of course, you were brought up as a Catholic and the RCC has a lot of saints, so perhaps Simon got canonized somewhere.

Though there are many nasty-looking people in the crowd, there are also mob-members who have decent teeth and aren't that ugly. Perhaps the movie is trying to make Caiphas and friends' followers (the "Crucify him!" mafia) ugly to show the condition of their souls; the various people lined along the Via Dolorasa, some who were baying for blood and some who weren't.

"Note they picked a really good-looking Brazilian guy to play Jesus."

Note that Mary, mother of Jesus, and some of the other characters were played by actual Jews who didn't seem to have a problem with the movie. The actress who played Mary's Dad is a Holocaust survivor, so she above all others in the movie (at least one would expect) would probably be sensitive to concerns about anti-Semitism.
 
"....The actress who played Mary's Dad is a Holocaust survivor, so she above all others in the movie (at least one would expect) would probably be sensitive to concerns about anti-Semitism.[/QUOTE]

Before somebody jumps all over Matt on this, I suspect he meant to say "the Dad of the actress who played Mary is a holocaust survivor..." Mary's dad was not in the movie - at least not as far as we know.
 
zoomar said:
"....The actress who played Mary's Dad is a Holocaust survivor, so she above all others in the movie (at least one would expect) would probably be sensitive to concerns about anti-Semitism.
Before somebody jumps all over Matt on this, I suspect he meant to say "the Dad of the actress who played Mary is a holocaust survivor..." Mary's dad was not in the movie - at least not as far as we know.[/QUOTE]

I was more alarmed at having missed the drag king.
 

Leo Caesius

Banned
I was more alarmed at having missed the drag king.
The effeminate yet strangely deep-voiced Satan was a female actress in drag, was she not? I couldn't tell if (s)he was supposed to be male, female, or possess both sexes. I think that was the intention. Overall, the image that I had was that Satan was the love child of Ann Coulter and Sinead O'Connor.
 
Regarding the film, I just wonder how Christ survived that little flogging. I guess a mere mortal should have died there and then, let alone walk and carry a cross...
 
carlton_bach said:
I got pictures of six-sided bone dice with dots in the modern pattern cut into the surface (whether they were colored or not is impossible to say) that most likely date to the first century AD from Roman military contexts in Cologne. Not Palestine, but at least I wouldn't rule it out.
There's a picture here of similar dice from Herculaneum -
http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/w/x/wxk116/roma/tesserae.html

And even a wargames-style 20-sided dice at
http://www.mathpuzzle.com/OldIcosa.htm
 
zoomar said:
Carlton,

I saw the dice also, dots and all. Regarding the Roman soldiers' uniforms you gotta remember that even with a movie as iconoclastic as "Passion" Mel had to make the images fit partially with what we would expect from something set in the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers without helmets or armor on? In a movie? Really!

Also, as is clear from the very deliberate lighting and posing of the characters, many of the movie's visuals were probably intended to be more evocative of religious art rather than "reality".

I'd like to know about the Temple police, though. Their costumes really did look like something out of a post-apocalypic Mad-Max movie. Does anyone even have the slightest ideal what the military and police of first century Judea looked like?
OK, I finally got around to actually watching the miovie (it premiered here on Thursday). Here's what I put together for a different mailing list. I'd say the verdict on accuracy is pretty damning. Maybe they really don't have good archeologists in Hollywood. Maybe I should go... looks like a job opportunity. But I suspect they really just don't care. (Just saw the trailer for 'Troy'. I almost cried.)

After seeing the still pictures, I expected an indifferent film. It's not. It is unequivocally bad. To begin with:

The Romans. Roman cavalry troopers are shown wearing infantry armor and legionary helmets. Aside from the question why they would be wearing full battle kit on police duty, I'd love to see how they're actually going to use their equipment from horseback.

Pilate's guards are wearing an eclectic mix of metal and leather armor, all segmented. Leaving aside the question of whether leather segmented armor ever existed (I believe not, but the debate is still on), both patterns are based on outdated reconstructions. The leather armors broadly folloow the Lindenschmidt reconstruction while the metal ones (complete with a square opening exposing the upper chest and neck) are based on that at the Museo della Civilta Romana. Neither is at all credible. Now, if there was any need to hunt down aged scholars in obscure libraries to find out, I would be more predisposed to forgive such lapses. However, ever since the findings in Newstead and Corbridge (which are well over 30 years old by now) segmented armor is something you can get by mail order. By the way, the leather armor is both too tight and too thin to be good for anything much other than S&M games. (of course you could argue that is what they were doing, but let's not go there)
Ditto the helmets - spangenmhelm constructions with what looks like leather insets (though they could be iron). Not at all credible - every single Roman helmet recovered is spun bronze, well into the third century. And let's not even talk about the abomination on the officer's head... Cancellaria relief, with a vengeance.
Pilate's armor is not bad, though he shouldn't be wearing one (neither would he be wearing a toga while quietly reading at home - those things are awkward, hot, and cumbersome).

The arms of the Roman troops are reasonably acceptable if you're not looking at the details. Mainz-type gladii and standard daggers (though the belt fastening is wrong) and an eclectic mix of lanceae and pila (in one picture, two patrolling soldiers carry pila - medium-range battlefield weapons designed for formation combat - through a city seething with rebellion, but left their shields at the depot. It is these touches that tell you they didn't care...) Needless to say the pila are all wrong in the details. As to the shields, the metal plating is far too thick and copious, the shields too small, and they are all legionary designs, an honor that is unusual for an equestrian governor.

The Roman soldiers all wear brownish narrow sleeved tunics - not found in the archeological record, but at least possible - and leather knee breeches - typical of the cavalry and possible, though at this date unlikely, in the infantry. While it is obvious that some of them outrank the others, no insignia of rank are visible at all. Most of the civilians have clothing designs that are broadly credible, but the coarseness of the weave and the prevailing muted, natural colours stretch our credulity in a setting and city where pageantry was the order of the day. Certainly the court of a Roman governor, however insignificant in the great scheme of things, would use color to set itself apart from the unwashed masses. This goes even more for Hellenistic ceremonial parade units like the temple guards or Herod's bodyguard. Jesus' 'seamless garment' is for once interpreted correctly as a tunic, though it obviously has visible seams in the film.

The temple guards are very broadly based on Hellenistic-Nabatean armor designs known from contemporary reliefs from Petra and Palmyra. The execution, however, is lamentable, with decorated Boeotian or Thracian helmets interpreted as leather caps (based most likely on a rather inexplicable crocodile skin headcovering in the British Museum sometimes interpreted as a helmet and variously attributed to Ptolemaic, Roman, Byzantine or Umayyad times). The armor in the oroginal was obviously intended to be scale or lamellar metal, but it is executed in leather, rendering it ineffective and causing a vaguely menacing, dishevelled look. The clothing is far too coarse and drab - certainly, colored tunics and contrasting sashes are in order. The sight, at the last, of a crudely hewn spearshaft snaps our already stretched credulity.

The court of Herod Antipater can at best be viewed as a caricature of all Near Eastern stereotypes. Geometric decorative patterns? Stars of David on the capitals? Please! The man is a king in the tradition of a Hellenistic dynasty!

Peter's blade is very credible, a short, Greek-designed stabbing sword for close combat.

I can not comment on the Aramic, but the Latin was spoken with a heavy Italian accent, but without the elided endings, abraded vowels and clipped forms we know to have been common at the time. They all speak Ciceronian style, which is about as credible as 16th-century Englishmen all speaking Shakespearean blank verse.

Now, on to architecture. The temple is shown as a crumbling, ancient structure ion tune with the decrepit gerontocracy that the Synedrion represents (you're half waiting for one of them to start drooling). Unfortunately, at the time the Herosdian temple was still practically new, a great Hellenistic structure thought (likely rightly) to be the greatest and richest temple in the world. It would have been a lot whiter, bigger, shinier, more colorful, and imposing. It also had solid monolithic columns (which we know because one was found) rather than the ageing masonry structures depicted (again, in spite of common movie cliches masonry columns were not commonly displayed. They were the cheap solution and frequently hidden, though of course widely used)
Much the same goes for the fortress Antonia, a structure here at best worthy of a second-century cohortal guardpost. The Antonia was one of the largest and most representative military buildings of its time, and it would certainly have had all the bells and whistles. It was also not much older than 50 years and kept in good condition by its users, not the crumbling structure we see in the film. Finally, the idea of indoor walls being plain open masonry is simply ridiculous. Nobody likes ashlar that much. Pilate and his wife drink from golden cups, surely they can afford plaster! BTW, everybody else drinks from very credible ceramic and eats very credible bread - that bit was done well.

I have to admit I didn't look whether the riders use stirrups, but given the overall quality of the movie I almost expect them to.
 
Zoomar,

Thanks for pointing out my egregious typo. I really need to preview my posts.

As Zoomar said, here's what I meant to say: "The actress who played Mary, mother of Jesus, is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor." Therefore, I'd expect her to be more sensitive to possible anti-Semitism.

I think the androgyny of Satan is intentional.
 

Leo Caesius

Banned
Words fail me, Carlton. This was great. You simply must write this up and publish it.
carlton_bach said:
The court of Herod Antipater can at best be viewed as a caricature of all Near Eastern stereotypes. Geometric decorative patterns? Stars of David on the capitals? Please! The man is a king in the tradition of a Hellenistic dynasty!
Paging Dr. Said... Dr. Edward Said, STAT!
carlton_bach said:
I can not comment on the Aramic, but the Latin was spoken with a heavy Italian accent, but without the elided endings, abraded vowels and clipped forms we know to have been common at the time. They all speak Ciceronian style, which is about as credible as 16th-century Englishmen all speaking Shakespearean blank verse.
I can comment on the Aramaic. Less is known about 1st century Aramaic than 1st century Latin, especially when we consider that no Semitic languages (with the exception of Mandaic) indicated vowels until the 9th century or so, but there is a corpus of texts from the region. Bill Fulco "reconstructed" a 1st century Palestinian Aramaic from these texts. The Aramaic is grammatically correct, but the phonology is all screwy - Jesus, for example, came from Galilee, where the original phonemes /x/ and /h/ had merged - to /h/. In Jerusalem, original /h/ and /x/ were maintained. One would never know this from listening to the movie; I think that the dialect coach told the actors that Aramaic had a /x/ sound (like the ch in Bach, presumably, or Chanukkah) instead of a normal h, with the result that all the words were pronounced with the x. The result, to paraphrase Somtow Sucharitkul, sounds like a camel with morning sickness. It is unlikely that Jesus himself pronounced any of the words like this, let alone all of them.

Some of the words sounded a bit dubious to me, and I think it's likely that Fulco relied upon Arabic heavily for the purposes of reconstruction. However, I haven't examined the transcript, although when I get a moment later I'll do so. As it happens, I've been pretty busy lately with other forms of Aramaic. If you haven't seen the Heidelberg Tondokumente-Archivs, I'd highly recommend paying it a visit; there are hundreds of recordings of Aramaic, among other languages, including two in the dialect that I study.
 
"The court of Herod Antipater can at best be viewed as a caricature of all Near Eastern stereotypes. Geometric decorative patterns? Stars of David on the capitals? Please! The man is a king in the tradition of a Hellenistic dynasty!"

I thought the Jews threw off the yoke of the various Greek kings and established their own state (the Maccabees/Hasmoneans casting off the yoke of the Seleucids). Therefore, they might have deliberately rejected Hellenistic styles and the like. Herod Antipater, Roman pet monkey that he was, might still at least adhere to the form if not the substance of the Hasmonean kingship (though of course, I think he was an Idumean and might embrace Hellenistic stuff to spite the Hasmoneans).
 
Leo Caesius said:
Words fail me, Carlton. This was great. You simply must write this up and publish it.
Thanks. Any idea where? I have no clue if there is a publication devoted to this.

I can comment on the Aramaic. Less is known about 1st century Aramaic than 1st century Latin, especially when we consider that no Semitic languages (with the exception of Mandaic) indicated vowels until the 9th century or so, but there is a corpus of texts from the region. Bill Fulco "reconstructed" a 1st century Palestinian Aramaic from these texts. The Aramaic is grammatically correct, but the phonology is all screwy - Jesus, for example, came from Galilee, where the original phonemes /x/ and /h/ had merged - to /h/. In Jerusalem, original /h/ and /x/ were maintained. One would never know this from listening to the movie; I think that the dialect coach told the actors that Aramaic had a /x/ sound (like the ch in Bach, presumably, or Chanukkah) instead of a normal h, with the result that all the words were pronounced with the x. The result, to paraphrase Somtow Sucharitkul, sounds like a camel with morning sickness. It is unlikely that Jesus himself pronounced any of the words like this, let alone all of them.

Some of the words sounded a bit dubious to me, and I think it's likely that Fulco relied upon Arabic heavily for the purposes of reconstruction. However, I haven't examined the transcript, although when I get a moment later I'll do so. As it happens, I've been pretty busy lately with other forms of Aramaic. If you haven't seen the Heidelberg Tondokumente-Archivs, I'd highly recommend paying it a visit; there are hundreds of recordings of Aramaic, among other languages, including two in the dialect that I study.
I have to say I suspected as much... Fascinating to see that we know so much about Aramaic, BTW. And another language I oughta learn (sigh) :)

BTW, you mentioned a museum exhibition about life in Galilee a while ago. Is there any website or catalogue?
 
Matt Quinn said:
"The court of Herod Antipater can at best be viewed as a caricature of all Near Eastern stereotypes. Geometric decorative patterns? Stars of David on the capitals? Please! The man is a king in the tradition of a Hellenistic dynasty!"

I thought the Jews threw off the yoke of the various Greek kings and established their own state (the Maccabees/Hasmoneans casting off the yoke of the Seleucids). Therefore, they might have deliberately rejected Hellenistic styles and the like. Herod Antipater, Roman pet monkey that he was, might still at least adhere to the form if not the substance of the Hasmonean kingship (though of course, I think he was an Idumean and might embrace Hellenistic stuff to spite the Hasmoneans).
The family of Herod was well known to admire all things Graeco-Roman. Earlier kings, and the ruiling high proests, had adhered to the traduitions of Judean aniconic art more strictly, and as late as Herod Agrippa there weere conflicts on the matter, but Herod and his descendants were, for all intents and purposes, Greek (as Greek as Cleopatra VII, which hasn't saved her from being depicted as some latter-day Hatshepsut clone). Admittedly it is just barely credible that Herod (and he is the likeliest candidate for having built the palace as after his building programme there really wasn't anything that needed building left in Judea) had the good grace not to indulge in his love for Hellenic style in Jerusalem, but that still doesn't explain where he got the copybook for Arab decor.

Another issue is the indoor-character of the whole scene (many of the scenes, in fact). The surviving architecture of public and representative buildings from the area indicates that they were quite open in design, with lots of views and (visual, not physical) access. The Temple itself, being of a different tradition, is an exception (it was closed to the majority of people most of the time), but any king worth his salt should really not shut himself in like that. Especially if he is partying. This is a misunderstanding moviemakers tend to perpetuate: ancient kings *did* indulge in pretty stunning extravaganzas and I have yet to see any Hollywood budget that could do justice to the really big ones (like the show Cleopatra put on for Caesar and Mark Antony). However, they did not do so furtively. In spite of everything the Roman conservatives had to say on the subject, there was nothing to be ashamed about for them. Thus, any king keeping cheetahs and decorated African slaves around him would want to do so publicly. It's not a personal ecentricity, it's a social statement. Much the same would go for Pilate, incidentally (that courtyard is far too small for a proper court of law though too open for a proper workplace).

I can't really comment on the role of the High Priests in this one, but if there is any scholar of Judaica around on the board: would it have been possible for the entire priesthood to spend the holiest day of the year walking around the city with a prisoner in tow, witnessing punishments and executions, talking to heathens, running lynch mobs, and risking pollution by blood? I was under the impression that they were circumscribed by a number of rules to ensure ritual purity and I would expect the priests of a temple so wedded to the concept to take them seriously. I mean, if nothing else they are in full ritual getup all the time. Don't they have a chiton or stuff for downtime? I'm pretty sure the pope doesn't always run around in full regalia.

I really need to get the DVD so I can pick more holes in this one. I tend to be more lenient with movies (and in spite of all the nonsense, Gladiator was a great step forward), but when a director claims in an interview that he 'spoke to experts to make it as realistic as possible' I tend to get nasty :D
 

Leo Caesius

Banned
carlton_bach said:
Thanks. Any idea where? I have no clue if there is a publication devoted to this.

BTW, you mentioned a museum exhibition about life in Galilee a while ago. Is there any website or catalogue?
I don't know either, but I've fired off an email to some friends in the Classics. Most of them were quite unhappy about the film as well, and I'm sure that there must be some venue out there. At the very least, there should be a website for blatant anachronisms and other such inaccuracies in the media.

The exhibit (Houses of Ancient Israel) has a web presence here. The museum that is hosting it, the Harvard Semitic Museum, is rather small, and so this has been a rather ambitious project for it. Some of my line drawings are on the website, but not my favorite (of the boys playing with astragals).

There's an Alternate History tie-in, as well. The curators approached me to do a new translation of the Moabite Stone (the famous stele found in Jordan, which mentions several Biblical personalities, including Omri, Mesha, and the House of David). Basically, the inscription confirms much of what is in 2 Kings 3, but with some important changes, and from a Moabite perspective rather than an Israelite.

After considering the task, I decided that the trickiest part would be the presentation (the translation is fairly easy, as Moabite is extremely similar to Biblical Hebrew, and translations of this inscription are a staple of epigraphy courses the world around). I decided to present the inscription in the style of the King James Bible - a page from the Moabite Bible, if you will - the subtext being that theirs would be the view of history that we would have inheirited, if Moab had triumphed over Israel. The curators loved it.
 
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