Did Mel Gibson Force ‘The Passion of the Christ’ Cast to Learn Aramaic for the Film?

by Jeremy Spirogis
Did Mel Gibson Force ‘The Passion of the Christ’ Cast to Learn Aramaic for the Film?

When The Passion of the Christ launched in theaters in 2004 at first of the Lenten season that 12 months, its director, Mel Gibson, a star himself in movies resembling Braveheart, What Women Want, and Lethal Weapon, insisted on capturing the crucifixion of Christ with as a lot authenticity as potential.

'The Passion of the Christ'
‘The Passion of the Christ’ | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

For his solid, that surprisingly meant asking them – insisting – that they study and develop into fluent within the practically useless language that Christ and his contemporaries spoke: Aramaic.

The language of ‘The Passion of the Christ’

At the time of Christ, over two thousand years in the past, Aramaic was the English of its period. It was in all places, spoken in lots of nations. Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter defined the language’s growth all through the Middle East throughout its heyday.

“Aramaic . . .was the English of its time,” McWhorter wrote in The Atlantic in 2015, “a language that united a large number of distinct peoples across a vast region, a key to accessing life beyond one’s village, and a mark of sophistication to many. . .”

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“Aramaic truly got around . . . By the time the Persians won the next round of Mesopotamian musical chairs in the 500s B.C.E., Aramaic was so well-entrenched that it seemed natural to maintain it as the new empire’s official language, instead of using Persian.”

Eventually, Aramaic fizzled out as the principle language of the area. “After Alexander the Great conquered Persia in the fourth century B.C.E.,” McWhorter added, “. . . Greek, itself an exceptionally complicated language, eventually edged out Aramaic as Eurasia’s lingua franca.”

The language remains to be spoken in some components of the world today, however is endangered and will see extinction inside a decade.

The landmark movie set a brand new commonplace

Before the discharge of The Passion of the Christ in 2004, spiritual movies have been identified for being nearly deliberately unrealistic (consider legendary actor John Wayne, identified for his cowboy/Western movies, showing together with his trademark drawl as a Roman centurion in 1965’s The Greatest Story Ever Told).

When the movie launched in 2004, the 64-year-old director’s purpose was to have the movie identified for its accuracy and faithfulness to the Gospel accounts within the New Testament.

Jim Caviezel and Mel Gibson on the set of 'The Passion of the Christ'Jim Caviezel and Mel Gibson on the set of 'The Passion of the Christ'
Jim Caviezel and Mel Gibson on the set of ‘The Passion of the Christ’

“I’ve never seen a rendering that equals this for reality,” the director informed Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor in 2003. “It’s usually either — the versions I’ve seen either suffer from bad hair, inaccurate history, or not just being real. And somehow, because of that, I think I think you’re distanced from them somehow. They’re more like fairy tales. And this actually happened. It occurred. I’m exploring it this way, I think, to show the extent of the sacrifice willingly taken.”

What was the purpose of filming ‘The Passion of the Christ’ in Aramaic?

O’Reilly requested the Mad Max actor what the purpose was of filming in Aramaic, contemplating how lengthy it could take his solid to study the language and, particularly, to talk their traces with out awkwardness, and sounding pure in doing so.

Mel Gibson, director of 'The Passion of the Christ'Mel Gibson, director of 'The Passion of the Christ'
Mel Gibson, director of ‘The Passion of the Christ’ | STRINGER/AFP through Getty Images

“The point is that I think you can transcend language with the message through image,” Gibson stated. “And I’m very happy with what we’re getting.”

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