A film to excite passions
Pieces of silver. Is the film anti-Semitic? It didn't seem so to me, but after talking to friends, maybe I underrated some of the film's touches, the fussing over the 30 pieces of silver, for instance, which some people say is an attempt to connect Jews and greed. At least Gibson is clear that Jesus is not to be viewed as a victim of Jews or Romans, either. He wills his own death. "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord," Jesus says.
Gibson thinks that some critics came close to saying that a Christian is not allowed to film the Christian Scriptures as written (i.e., with the charge that some influential Jews wanted Jesus killed). He has a point. But Gibson's adherence to the literal text of the Bible is selective. He had no trouble inserting many things not found in the Scriptures (pretrial abuse of Jesus, Mary mopping up Jesus's blood, the vast extent of the scourging). However, he declined to tweak the script to reflect biblical and historical scholarship that points primarily to the Romans as those responsible for the Crucifixion. This is not a liberal plot or a political attempt to placate Jews. It is simply where the scholarship is, and has been, for some time. Early Christians were in no position to provoke the Roman conquerors by blaming them for killing Jesus. On the other hand, the first Christians were harassed by synagogue authorities and bitter that their fellow Jews were not accepting Jesus as the messiah.
In sum, I think the film is not anti-Semitic and not likely to provoke anti-Semitism. It has way too much carnage for my taste, but it's a serious and powerful film.