Mel Gibson’s Passion movie

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Backstory: caught in adultery

 Jesus draws in the sand

When a woman is dragged before Jesus, sentenced to death for being caught in the act of adultery, he refuses to apply the stone-carved letter of the law. Instead, incredibly, he just writes in the sand with his finger.

For a people bred on the story of God writing the laws that defined their nation onto stone tablets with his finger, this is a fairly inflammatory gesture. Long before anyone had heard of Judge Dredd, it seems, someone else was hinting pretty broadly: "The rules are just shorthand, I am the law."

The implications of this little story are enormous. What is the difference between the old laws and any written on sand? Well, simply, that no one can know what the sand version might have said: it is applied in that instant, then it is gone.

So was Jesus offering a new situational ethics, perfectly suited to our flexible 21st century morality?

That hardly seems likely. He did, after all, tell the woman in no uncertain terms that adultery was sin and she should stop it. "Go, and don't sin again," he told her.

Nonetheless, there is a problem with written instructions. They can be applied (and more significantly misapplied) in the absence of the person who gave them - indeed, with no reference to that person.

 Your sins are forgiven

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About this module

Find out the back story and what happens next in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ movie. What impact did it have on you?

‘The Passion’, for all its intensity, marks only a few hours in the life Jesus. Each of the flashbacks in the movie are windows onto some of the context, that made the execution of one man an event which continues to shape history.

This module was written by Mark Stafford.

Categories: Creativity, Reviews, Sound & vision,


Module contents

arrow The Passion of the Christ

arrow Backstory: caught in adultery

arrow Backstory: the story of Veronica

arrow Backstory: Herod wants a miracle

arrow Backstory: the last supper

arrow Backstory: the humanity of Jesus

arrow Backstory: Jesus and the Devil

arrow What happened next

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