Something that all critics have missed — 4 years ago
I’ve read tens of reviews of “The Last Temptation of Christ”: from the Washington Post, BBCi, Chicago Sun-Times, eFilmCritic, Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, even FilmAtheist.com. Everyone mentioned how fundamentalist Christians were offended by Jesus being shown naked, or making love to Magdalene, but NONE, and I mean, NONE talked about the dialogue between Apostle Paul and Jesus.
Short background, which summarizes the first 2 (torturous) hours of the movie: Jesus of the movie is pretty much the same Jesus depicted by the gospels. You can safely skip the first 120 minutes of the movie if you know the gospel story – you will not lose anything; Scorsese doesn’t bring anything new here. After the 2 hour mark, Jesus is caught by the Romans put up on the cross. There, he has a vision of an angel, who offers to take him off the cross and give him a chance at a normal life. Jesus accepts, and goes on having sex with Magdalene (whom God later kills without explanation), then with other women. He has children and works for a living.
Now here’s the catch: when Jesus is perhaps in his 50s, Apostle Paul comes preaching in his village, about – guess what – the resurrection of Jesus, and how the resurrected Jesus will save the world. Jesus is astonished at the lies and confronts Paul. The following dialogue, the shocking gist of the movie in my opinion, ensues after the 2h22m mark:
Paul [preaching to the crowd]: And now I bring the good news to you – it’s about Jesus of Nazareth. He was not the son of Mary, He was the son of God! […] And He was punished for our sins. Then He was tortured and crucified. But three days later He rose up from the dead and went up to Heaven! Death was conquered! Amen!
Jesus: Did you ever see this Jesus of Nazareth, after He came back from the dead? I mean, with your own eyes?
Paul: No, but I saw a light that blinded me… and I heard His voice…
Jesus: You’re a liar.
Paul: His disciples saw Him. They were hiding in an attic with the doors locked. He appeared to them.
Jesus [going away]: Liar. He’s a liar!
Paul [running after Jesus]: Wait a minute, I wanna talk to you!
Jesus [grabbing Paul by the throat]: I was never crucified, I never came back from the dead. I’m a man, like everybody else. Why are you telling these lies?
Paul: What are you talking about?
Jesus: I’m the son of Mary and Joseph. I’m the one who preached in Galilee. I had followers, we marched on Jerusalem, Pilate condemned me and God saved me.
Paul: No you didn’t.
Jesus: Who are you talking about?! Don’t try to tell me what happened to me, because I know. I live like a man now. I work, eat, have children. […] So don’t go around telling lies about me. Or I’ll tell everybody the truth.
And here it is, religion in the making:
Paul: Look around you. Look at all these people. Look at their faces.
Do you see how unhappy they are, how much they’re suffering? Their only hope is the resurrected Jesus. I don’t care whether you’re Jesus or not. The resurrected Jesus will save the world, and that’s what matters.
Jesus: Those are lies. You can’t save the world by lying.
Paul: I created the truth out of what people needed and what they believed.
If I have to crucify you to save the world, I’ll crucify you. And if I have to resurrect you, then I’ll do that too, whether you like it or not.
Jesus: I won’t let you. I’ll tell everyone the truth.
Paul: Go ahead. Go on. Tell them now. Who’s going to believe you? You started all this; now you can’t stop it. All those people who believe me will grab you and kill you.
Jesus: No, that wouldn’t happen.
Paul: How do you know? You see, you don’t know how much people need God. You don’t know how happy He can make them. He can make them happy to do anything. He can make them happy to die, and they’ll die. All for the sake of Christ. Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth. The Son of God. The Messiah. Not you. Not for your sake. […] My Jesus is much more important and much more powerful.
There you have it – how Christianity started. If Jesus existed at all, he was an ordinary preacher, who got crucified, and died. But a hopeful story survived, took over truth and reality, and got repeated ad nauseam to the point of very few questioning its origins.