Re "For Gibson, Devil Is in the Details," Opinion, Feb. 29: Charlotte Allen's survey of inaccuracies in "The Passion of the Christ" is informative but finally, as she admits, "niggling." Moreover, it may distract us from the significant ways in which Mel Gibson chooses from his primary source material.
Among many scenes Gibson leaves out are the following: in Matthew 21 Jesus drives money-changers out of the temple; in Matthew 23 he delivers a long and very harsh speech against the Pharisees. In Matthew 10:34 he tells his apostles that he has come "not to bring peace to the world, but a sword"; in Mark 3:31-35 he refuses to see his mother and brothers, saying that his followers are his family.
At various other points Jesus defies Jewish customs and traditions. Unlike the innocent martyr to malevolent forces Gibson portrays, the messiah of the Gospels heals and advocates peace and love but also often antagonizes and provokes his opponents. His toe-to-toe confrontations, shrewd evasions and indictments clearly provoke the Pharisees against him. Like any artist, Gibson creates the meaning he wants. The Gospel writers themselves selected and edited, as differences among their narratives suggest. What may arise from Gibson's pious intention, however, is another, more telling meaning. "The Passion" becomes a film in which ignorance, intolerant belief or political convenience causes people to forget their compassion and humanity and commit or sanction acts of savage brutality.