This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Feb. 25, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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MICHELLE MALKIN, GUEST HOST: A short time ago, Sean and Alan spoke with father John Bartunek, the biblical scholar who consulted Mel Gibson," and has written a book about it called "Inside the Passion: An Insider's Look at the Making of 'The Passion of the Christ.'"
HANNITY: This movie, and I actually now have it on DVD, is one of the best movies I have ever seen in terms of a movie that really affected me. Powerful movie. And this book, really, you sort of take different aspects of it and go further with the story.
FATHER JOHN BARTUNEK, "INSIDE THE PASSION" AUTHOR: Yes, that's the idea. The idea of the book is you get a chance to see what went into it, what made it into something that's, you know, moved so many hearts and affected so many lives. And when you understand more of what's into it, you get more out of it. It's like a great work of art. If you learn about what the artist had in mind and why he did what he did, and, you know, the intentions of the artist, then you can get more out of it.
HANNITY: I want Mel to do a follow-up. Not that Mel Gibson is going to [listen] to little, to dopey old, little old Sean Hannity, but, Christ, the early years, you know, those years leading up to it. I mean, you can almost tart with the betrayal and [then move on to] sort of the adult years and his works. Do you think that would be a good idea?
BARTUNEK: I think it would be a great idea.
HANNITY: You talk to him.
BARTUNEK: I talked to him about it. I suggested that he start praying about the incarnation, you know, about Christmas and praying — because he has been focusing on the "Passion" for so many years in his prayer life, in his own reflection and reading.
HANNITY: Well, he is actually re-editing it.
BARTUNEK: He's doing a re-cut version of "The Passion." Yes, he's going to release it...
HANNITY: Why is he doing a re-edit on that?
BARTUNEK: Well, I mean, the first version was rated R. ou know...
HANNITY: This one will be rated...
BARTUNEK: This one is unrated. And he is cutting out some of the...
HANNITY: Some of the violent stuff?
BARTUNEK: ... yes, well, some of the more violent stuff.
HANNITY: What I don't understand is, I mean, I understand maybe, don't bring kids to it, although I think you can bring kids at a fairly young age, you know, based on their level of maturity.
BARTUNEK: Yes, sure.
HANNITY: I don't understand — you know, we have so much gratuitous violence. Why not tell the story and see it for what it is? I mean, I think that's what makes it powerful.
BARTUNEK: Yes. Well, I haven't scene the re-cut. He's still actually tweaking it. From what I hear, he's still working on it. And I trust his judgment. It's not going to lose any of the power. It's not going to lose any of the momentum.
I think it's unfortunate that a lot of the criticisms went against the violence because I don't think it was too violent.
HANNITY: No, I don't either.
BARTUNEK: Three people die, you know? And you only saw one of them die. The thing about it was that the movie brought out the suffering that goes with violence, which movies don't usually do.
HANNITY: Now, how long have you known Mel Gibson?
BARTUNEK: I just met him when he was working on the film in Rome.
HANNITY: Yes. And were you a part of that?
BARTUNEK: My first contact was completely casual, you know, a friend-of-a-friend of mine knew someone. And so we visited the set. I was studying theology in Rome at the time. And it was just — and so I just met the people who were working on the film and developed some friendships. And that was how it all started.
HANNITY: Right. Do you think that this movie has the ability to convert people? And does it matter if you're Catholic or Christian? I mean, because I think — one of the things — when I say I'm Christian, I'm a Catholic. But there's no distinction in my mind. Why is there a distinction in the mind of some?
BARTUNEK: Well, I think you have two different questions there, you know? The possibility of the film to convert people is absolutely possible because it happened, you know? I mean, criminals went in — no — criminals went into the movie, saw the movie, went out, and they turned themselves into the police.
HANNITY: Did liberals become conservatives?
COLMES: It doesn't always work quite that way.
Father, good to have you with us. One of the things you talk about in this book -- something that we have debated on this show concerning this movie-- and that is that so many have said this movie is anti-Semitic. And know this came up on the set. You discussed this in the book. What were the discussions surrounding the alleged anti-Semitism of this movie?
BARTUNEK: The discussions really happened at the whole way through, it seemed to me. And I mean, I wasn't involved from the very beginning.
BARTUNEK: But the issue was always there because people were afraid. You have to realize that there's a big history of relations between Jews and Christians.
COLMES: And by the way, you're a theological scholar who studied Jewish history. I'm aware of that, yes.
BARTUNEK: I studied Jewish history in college, yes.
COLMES: Right. Tell me what was said on the set about this?
BARTUNEK: Word for word?
COLMES: Well, I mean, there was an acknowledgment this was an issue concerning the movie, right?
BARTUNEK: Yes. And they wanted to make sure that they didn't take potshots at the Jews, and they didn't. And they really didn't.
COLMES: Well, there were some, you know, "The New Republic"magazine did a whole treatise on this. There were a number of people who wrote about it, discussing the idea of the Jewish authority figures who were portrayed stereotypically with hooked noses, Jews haggling over money to be paid to Judas to betray Jesus, Jews forming an angry lynch mob. And many people view these images as anti-Semitic.
BARTUNEK: I think the proof is in the pudding on this one because the result, when people saw the movie, the people who came out of the movie, you know, the Christians who could be stirred up to anti-Jewish feeling and hate crimes and things, it didn't happen.
BARTUNEK: It didn't happen. The person who looks most Jewish in the movie is Jesus himself. So here you have a Jew who forgives his executioners. And the message of the movie itself is just the opposite of anti-Semitism, which is a type of racism and hatred.
COLMES: It made the Romans seem ambivalent, though, about the death of Christ, and the Jews much more ardent about killing Christ in the movie.
BARTUNEK: I don't think — I wouldn't agree with that.
COLMES: That wasn't your interpretation?
BARTUNEK: I wouldn't agree with that. I think they had different attitudes. I think the Jews, actually — I think that's actually a sign of our tendency in our society...
BARTUNEK: When people have strong commitments or strong convictions, we think that's bad. But it's not necessarily bad. Pilate was tragic precisely because he didn't have any convictions. The guy was, you know, wishy-washy.
Do you feel, as some have said, that, although it didn't get — wasn't up for awards the way more mainstream films were, was that some kind of a statement by Hollywood? Was it an anti-Catholic statement or an anti- Gibson statement? Do you think it deserved greater recognition on the award circuit?
BARTUNEK: Well, I don't know who's on the Academy. So I can't really say whether...
COLMES: That's not your specialty?
BARTUNEK: ... voters were — that's not my specialty.
But I wasn't surprised because the movie is on a different level. It's a work of art. It's entertainment plus meaning, deep meaning, you know? I mean, people go into this movie. They went into the theater with their popcorn and their Pepsi and they left the theater, not having had any of their popcorn or any of their Pepsi. It's not a normal movie experience. It's another level.
And so I don't think it's easy to fit into normal categories, so I wasn't surprised.
HANNITY: Father, thanks for being with us. Good to see you.
BARTUNEK: Thank you. Thank you very much.
COLMES: Thank you very much, sir.
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