This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", February 18, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Mel Gibson's latest project, "The Passion of the Christ" (search) is set to be released next week amid a firestorm of controversy. Critics say it's divisive and extremely violent.
Gibson says that he wanted the film to be extreme and shocking so that the enormity of Jesus Christ's sacrifice can be seen. But has the violence in the film distorted the story?
Joining us now is Rabbi James Rudin, senior inter-religious adviser at the American Jewish Committee.
Rabbi, good to have you with us. Thanks for being here.
You recently saw the movie. Is it accurate?
RABBI JAMES RUDIN, AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE: I've seen the movie twice; that is correct.
COLMES: Is it accurate?
RUDIN: Well, I have many problems with the movie. The violence is part of it, but adults will have to make up their mind whether they want to see it. And then parents will have to make up their mind whether they want to take their children to an R-rated movie.
But the problems for me in my judgment go much deeper than just the violence, which I consider gratuitous.
And one of the problems is that it's really in a line of medieval passion plays, which have historically presented Jews and Judaism in a very negative light.
RUDIN: So even though it's a 21st Century movie, it picks up some themes that go back to the Middle Ages.
And so when Jews see this film and when many Christians see the film, they have problems with it. Because this is not just a play or a movie. It has had...
RUDIN: ... historically very negative connotations.
COLMES: Let me put up on the screen, the key phrase in the Gospel that has been so controversial, and it's in this film, from Matthew, where it is said, "All the people answered, let his blood be on us and on our children."
That is, I guess, what is the controversial -- And there have been different interpretations of that line, whether Pontius Pilate (search) says that, or exactly who is exactly making that statement, depending on which version you read.
Is that open to interpretation?
RUDIN: Well, what's happened is that in real life that verse has been used historically, that's Matthew 27:25.
RUDIN: It's the only time it appears in the four Gospels. That verse has been used by some Christian leaders, tragically, to justify collective Jewish guilt, the blood lie, or the Christ killer charge.
So that verse, I hope, will come out of the film and come out of the film, not only in subtitles but in the original Aramaic which Gibson's put in the film.
But even if that were to come out, the problems remain because inherently, it is a passion play that presents toxic Jewish, anti-Jewish images, stereotypes and caricatures.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Rabbi, it's Sean Hannity. Thank you for being with us. I appreciate it.
RUDIN: My pleasure.
RUDIN: You should come down to Florida with your book tour.
HANNITY: We are. We're going to be next week in Orlando and Naples. Thank you very much for inviting me. I appreciate that.
HANNITY: I have -- I have a chapter by the way, the evils of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, that I think everybody needs to know. It is human evil on a scale that everybody needs to know can happen, because it was such a horrible atrocity. And I hope you'll read it, and hope you like it.
RUDIN: I look forward to it.
HANNITY: I had an opportunity to go to dinner with Mel Gibson (search), and we talked for a good, almost two hours about his new movie.
And I have not seen the final edited version of his movie, so I can't comment to that specifically. Because he was actually seeking people's counsel and advice on this.
But I do know this: he passionately laid out how all humanity was responsible for the death of Christ. And he specifically stated he would not and will not lay the blame on any one group of people.
And his -- you know, so I'm trying to understand what you're trying to say, hearing him personally tell me and seeing raw footage where I don't see it. So you have to explain this to me.
RUDIN: Well, I'll try. The last cut I saw of it was on January 21 here in Florida.
Well, would that the people who see the film come out without that attitude. But tragically, we know from experience from other passion plays, including ... in Germany...
HANNITY: But that's not him. But that's not him. This is his film.
RUDIN: That's his film, but artists make films, audiences have reactions to those film. So my fear is, which is based on reality, as his reality is that people can see this film and come away -- let me say it again -- with anti-Jewish stereotypes, caricatures and images, that perhaps Gibson...
HANNITY: But there's no specificity to your charge, sir. You -- You're making an outrageous allegation without specificity.
RUDIN: I will give you some specificity in it.
HANNITY: Rabbi, you know, I read one of your recent pieces about "The Passion of Christ" ... by Mel Gibson. And again, I spent time with him, and I spoke at length about this.
He was being accused and charged with anti-Semitism before anybody ever saw his film, which is so fundamentally and categorically unfair I can't even believe it happened.
RUDIN: I never used anti-Semitism -- I don't use that phrase about this film. I said it transmits anti-Jewish images about the Jewish religion and about the Jewish people of Jesus' time, including the high priest, including that howling, bloodthirsty mob. These are images that impact on people.
HANNITY: But if he's saying that all of us killed Christ, all of us, and depicts that in the movie, that is an accurate portrayal.
RUDIN: I respect his faith commitment. He must respect how I view the film as part of his audience.
You know, it's a mutual relationship between artists and audiences. Between people who write books and people who read the books. And people come away and will look at this film with different prisms and there's a ritual story to experience.
By the way, there are many Christians who ... is ... join me in joining these problematics about this film.
HANNITY: And many -- and many Jewish scholars have just an opposite view.
COLMES: Rabbi, it's Alan once again in New York.
Let me ask you about the issue of violence, which you said was gratuitous. But was it accurate? If it's historically accurate, is it gratuitous?
RUDIN: Well, Mr. Gibson the other night on another network said that he deliberately put in a lot of violence to shock people. So that's it.
You know, it's an R-rated movie. I was stunned by the amount of blood, welts, whips, beatings. And as, one Christian sitting next to me it's an hour and 59 minutes of violence and 15 seconds of the resurrection.
HANNITY: We've got to run.
RUDIN: It's an imbalance.
COLMES: Thank you very much, Rabbi.
HANNITY: The truth is it was very violent, and it is accurate in that regard, as well. But anyway, thank you, Rabbi. Appreciate it.
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