The Movie Mel Should have Made...
by Gerald A. honigman
Mel Gibson has a new movie out, “Edge of Darkness.”
I like Mel Gibson as an actor and director.
I have enjoyed much of his work, and one movie, in particular, was truly amazing.
“They may take our lives, but they may never take our freedom!” Thus, allegedly, spoke William Wallace, a.k.a. Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. No doubt, the movie was hauntingly spectacular and led me to admire the Scots even more than I did already. Questions regarding the historicity of the movie, nonetheless, caused quite a commotion. Ronald Hamowy of the Department of History at the University of Alberta summed it up this way in his June 28, 1995 comments:
Frankly, this movie has about as much merit historically...as one of the countless dubbed Italian films about Hercules battling the tyrants…
Regardless, William Wallace was a true 13th century Scottish hero, and Mr. Gibson’s passion for the freedom of this people and sympathy for their cause shined through. And, as we read the above words of Braveheart, we’ll soon turn to another quote--but, this one by a leader of another oppressed people (one which Gibson obviously hates) fighting, over a thousand years earlier, yet another conqueror of much of the known world.
The Roman-sponsored historian, Josephus, detested his fellow Judaean countrymen who took up arms against the Roman Empire. He saw them as fighting a war that could not be won, leading their nation to ruin. He aligned himself with the future Emperor instead. So he wrote what he wrote not out of admiration. Keep this in mind as we progress here…
Indeed, the situation Josephus feared was the same as if Lithuania had taken on the Soviet Union in the latter’s heyday of power.
Yet, the Judaeans (Jews) did just that--and kept the struggle going on for about two hundred years. Judaea Capta coins can now be found in museums all over the world and were issued by Rome to commemorate its victory. The Arch of Titus stands tall in Rome to this very day as well and, among other things, displays Romans carrying away spoils of the Temple and Judaean captives.
So, the historicity of the Jews’ struggle is beyond reasonable doubt and is highlighted by the Romans themselves.
We’ll examine some of the speech of Eleazar ben Yair, leader of the last major band of Judaean warriors to hold out after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C..E., gave to his band of fighters and their families atop the fortress of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea just prior to the final Roman assault. Let’s turn first, however, to another brief but telling quote from the contemporary Roman historian, Tacitus, who, like Josephus, also lived during the time of the Jews’ struggle and had lots to say about it as well:
"It inflamed Vespasian’s resentment that the Jews were the only nation that had not yet submitted (Vol.II, The Works Of Tacitus)."
After Masada fell in 73 C.E., when the Emperor Hadrian decided to turn the Temple Mount into a pagan shrine, it was the grandchildrens’ turn to take on their mighty pagan conquerors. And, again, Roman historians, such as Dio Cassius, recorded the second revolt (132-135 C.E.) as well.
Among other things, the entire Twelfth Roman Legion was wiped out before the leader of this second major quest for freedom by the Jews, Shimon Bar Kochba, fell at Betar. Detailed letters from him to his troops have been discovered as were the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the latter is the War Scroll which speaks of the conflict between..."the Sons of Light vs. the Sons of Darkness,” and so forth.
Let’s listen now to Josephus, Book VII, Wars Of The Jews:
“Now as he (Eleazar) judged this to be the best thing they could do in their present circumstances, he gathered the most courageous...and encouraged them ....by a speech: ‘Since we, long ago...resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than G_d himself...the time is come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice...’”
Gibson should now listen very carefully. Here’s Eleazar ben Yair...
“We were the very first that revolted from them, and we are the last that fight against them (see Tacitus’ quote above); and I cannot but esteem it as a favour that G_d hath granted us that it is still in our power to die bravely, in a state of freedom...”
Masada’s defenders committed mass suicide—families and all—rather than fall into Roman hands.
While a few scholars debate the details, practically everything else that has been excavated, discovered otherwise, and so forth testify to Josephus’ trustworthiness--so there is no reason to doubt him here.
Masada is an amazing place to visit. The Roman camps, ramp, etc. are all still all there just as Josephus described them 2,000 years ago. And remember, Josephus was no fan of those Jews atop the fortress.
So, let’s just say that if Mel’s Braveheart’s alleged quote about freedom can be taken as history,then there’s certainly no problem with Eleazar’s. Indeed, William Wallace has nothing over Eleazar ben Yair...or, Braveheart II, the movie Mel should have made. Indeed, he may have--if not for that “Jew thing” he has such a problem with.
So here’s the real reason for this update of my much earlier article...
Mel Gibson used his millions several years back to produce a film, “The Passion of Christ,” which deals with a topic which has caused millennia of suffering for Jews. Among other sore points, Gibson included the verse from Matthew 27:25, “His blood be upon us and our children,” whereby the Jews allegedly take blame for the death of Jesus. It has been used to justify Jewish suffering in the minds of many millions of Christians over the millennia.
The Pope, Reverend Billy Graham, and thousands of other Christian religious figures applauded the movie and saw no problems with it. “It is as it was” stated Pope John Paul II…
From a Christian theological perspective, those words are acceptable. But theology isn’t necessarily history, and there is now sound historical scholarship--with no theological agenda to promote either way--which puts much of what “it is as it was” in serious doubt. And much of it has been conducted by objective Christian scholars.
While I have admittedly not seen “The Passion of Christ” (I refuse to endorse or support the work of an anti-Semite), I have closely analyzed its topic through a scholar’s eyes while doing doctoral studies and later on as well. I have also watched the trailers to the movie and other clips which have shown me all that I need to see.
Let’s just say that what Mel claims to know as “historical truth” is, at the very least, debatable.
Jews, obviously, have theological differences with their Christian friends. Hopefully these differences can be discussed without fear of inquisitions, public disputations, forced conversions, and often much worse which accompanied those differences in the past.
Given those other “truths” which came out of a drunken Gibson’s mouth not long ago regarding Jews, however, I can easily see him participating in those above activities.
Jews could never deify any man, Messiah or otherwise. Roman historians wrote of this strange people who “worship a god no man can see and who refuse to even deify their caesars.” But this is a whole other debate.
The issue of the Jews’ alleged role as “G_d-killer,” which Gibson felt just had to be resurrected yet again in his film, has caused so much pain, suffering, and death to Jews over the centuries, that it’s hard to believe that this man, so sensitive to the plight of Scots, felt that there was nothing better to spend his wealth on. More theologically-based anti-Semitism was not needed out of Tinseltown.
While there are sophisticated ways of interpreting the New Testament’s Gospel of John, for example, when the average person reads him allegedly quoting Jesus calling the Jews (not just Pharisees, etc.) “sons of the Devil, doing your father’s deeds,” what impact can this sort of teaching have? Gibson evidently loves and endorses it. Indeed, he showed the devil incarnate weaving in and out of “his children” as they cried out for Jesus’s blood in his movie.
Is it also a surprise, therefore, that one of the first pictures in Europe of a Jew is entitled, “Aaron, Son of the Devil?”
Even the Renaissance sculptor, Michelangelo, put Devil’s horns on Moses’ head… regardless of the whitewashing some have tried to do with that as well, calling them “rays of light” instead. I’m sure that that’s what the average Gentile thought/thinks of when viewing that piece of artwork. And I’m also sure that Gibson will invite me to his Passover seder.
Is it, thus, really any stretch to next learn of untold thousands of Jews being massacred for “poisoning Christian wells” and causing the Bubonic Plague...and countless other tragedies committed in the name of the Christian “Prince of Peace” encountered as a result of such religious enlightenment?
The road to Auschwitz was indeed very carefully paved over the millennia.
After the famous “Passion Plays” throughout Europe, it was common for Christians to get drunk and next go after the local “G-d Killers.” Deadly massacres and pogroms were especially common around Easter time. Was/is that what Mel missed/misses?
While he claims to not share the anti-Semitism of his father, after that drunken episode with the policeman in which the most obnoxious of anti-Semitism spewed forth from his vocal cords, please forgive me if I call him a liar. One could argue that Jews have too long been the Suffering Servant of G_d ( there’s more than one way to interpret Biblical passages) to remain silent over this filmed passion play.
Think of the zeal Gibson showed for the struggle of an oppressed people in Braveheart. Now contrast this with his willing ignorance (and much worse) regarding this subject vis-a-vis the Jews--a struggle in which Jesus (Joshua) of Nazareth, regardless of how one views him, was caught up in and was crucified for--like thousands of Judaeans both before and after him--in his people’s fight for freedom against their Roman tormentors.
Yes, Gibson is a fine actor and a talented man. And any Jews who support him and his newest movie deserve whatever he wishes for them.