Passion Plays were dramatic performances of Jesus’ Passion during his last agonizing hours as recorded in the Gospels. These Passion Plays were very popular throughout Christian Europe in the late Middle Ages. They gradually moved out of the church and monastery into the streets and the stage, where the dramatization of Jesus’ suffering became a very effective way of representing the tortures and pain inflicted on him. It was held every year in Lent and typically the devout audience, incensed by the literature and sermons intended to help them meditate on the Passion and the strong iconography and anti-Jewish message that helped them visualize it, went out after the performance on a violent rampage against Jews.
“The Passion of the Christ” was seen more people than all Passion Play productions put together, and was equally as pernicious as the worst of them. The film is based on the Gospels and other texts, and contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church since Vatican II it portrays the Jews as vile, repugnant killers of Christ, and doing the work of the Devil who even walks among them. The film portrays Jews with stereotypical hook-noses and rotten teeth and as homogeneously evil and bloodthirsty, while Jesus and the apostles (who were also Jews) have nice, clean, Anglo-Saxon features. The film also portrays Pontius Pilate, a tyrant known for his ruthlessness and bloodthirstiness, as meek and undecided and easily swayed by a Jewish mob bent on persuading him to execute Jesus.