LOS ANGELES – The religious controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's (search) yet-to-be released The Passion is reminiscent of 1988's The Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorsese.
Gibson's film, which depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ, between the night of the Last Supper and his death — known as the Passion — has come under attack from Christian and Jewish scholars.
Gibson directed, produced and co-wrote the film, which he said is meant to inform, not offend.
"It speaks about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. I mean — that's the basic message. That's what we need to get back to," he said.
Gibson, who produced the movie in Latin and Aramaic (search) with no English subtitles, said The Passion will draw in audiences because it makes the story of Jesus realistic.
"I've never seen a rendering that equals this for reality. The versions I've seen either suffer from bad hair, inaccurate history — just not being real," Gibson said. "Somehow, because of that, I think because of that you're distanced from them. They're more like fairy tales, and this actually happened, it occurred."
Myrna Shinbaum, spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League (search), said the Jewish community is concerned that the film's depiction of Jews will fuel anti-Semitic sentiments.
"Historically, the treatment of the crucifixion, the death of Jesus, the passion, has led to the death of Jews," Shinbaum said. "And while we don't believe that this movie will lead to the death of Jews, we are concerned that this movie will set us back because we have been moving forward in Catholic-Jewish relations."
Concerns over the possibly offensive content of the $25 million production, which wrapped shooting in April, arose when members of the ADL and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (search) obtained a draft of the script from a "deep throat" source close to the production.
An ad hoc group of Jewish and Catholic scholars that advise the bishops and ADL convened to review the script and request changes.
The USCCB has since apologized to Gibson's production company, Icon, for commenting on the unfinished production. But the ADL has published a statement on its Web site, www.adl.org, stating that, to its knowledge, Gibson's film was "replete with objectionable material" and the group's concerns had been conveyed to him.
Back in the 1980s, some Christian groups had offered to reimburse The Last Temptation of Christ's production company, Universal, for its investment in exchange for all existing prints of the film, which they vowed to destroy.
Despite a 3,500-theater boycott of the movie and Blockbuster's refusal to carry the video, Universal released the film, which earned Scorsese an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.
Gibson, whose publicist has said he will not grant further interviews for his film, told Fox News that he wanted The Passion to be as accurate as possible.
"It's meant to just tell the truth. I want to be as truthful as possible," he said.
Fox News' C. Spencer Beggs contributed to this report.