A Commentary on the 'Last Temptation of Christ;

Authored By: Fr. John Trigilio


There is an enormous impact on a person's spirituality whenever you deal with Christology. The movie, "The Last Temptation of Christ" I found distasteful and a piece of bad cinema, not to mention offensive to ordinary Christians. I found Scorsesi's interpretation blasphemous and pandering to sensationalism. The book which is the core of the movie plot, I found DANGEROUS. It is perilous because it veils heresy with the appearances of "spirituality." Someone not well versed in the complex intricacies of Christology and Soteriology could honestly and inadvertently be deceived into accepting FALSE notions about Our Divine Lord.

"The Father's Son" by Rev. James T. O'Connor (1984) and especially "The Consciousness of Christ" by Rev. William G. Most (1980) are INDISPENSABLE sources of orthodox doctrine & dogma regarding Jesus Christ. The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) solemnly and infallibly taught that in Jesus Christ, the God-Man, there is one Divine Person with two natures, human and Divine in such a way that they both are unconfused, unchanged undivided and inseparable. This Chalcedonian formula of one Divine Person and two natures, human and Divine, enhanced and elaborated the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed when it says "True God and true man." The operative here is that Jesus' humanity DID NOT EXIST OF ITSELF AS A HUMAN PERSON, but exists as being assumed into the eternal Person of the Son of God. (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, MYSTERIUM FILII DEI, "Declaration for Safeguarding Belief in the Mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Most Holy Trinity Against Some recent Errors", 1972, AAS 64). Both the book and the movie imply that Jesus was a human person or at least that He had a human person in conjunction with His Divine Person. Chalcedon teaches that He did have a totally and complete human nature and a totally and complete Divine Nature, BUT He had ONE _Divine_ Person. While He has a human free will and a human rational intellect in His human nature, He also has the omnipotent Divine Will and the omniscient Divine Intellect in His Divine Nature. Both wills and both intellects are UNITED in the one Person. There is a union and a conformity of His human will to the Divine Will because of the Grace of the Hypostatic Union. Sin is the rejection of the Will of God. Jesus COULD not sin even in His human nature because that would mean He would be able to contradict His Divine Will and would thus be contradicting His very SELF, the Second Person of the Trinity. That is illogical and impossible. Jesus was and is impeccable. It is NOT His alleged vulnerability to sin (susceptibility to temptation) which makes Him like us, but in that He shares our human nature, intellect and will. He does not share our person. He is not a human person. A human person is incapable of redeeming the whole human race. Only a Divine Person can effect redemption and salvation.

"One like us in all things, save sin," says St. Paul. EXCEPT SIN includes the effects of sin, namely concupiscence. He had NO weakened will and NO darkened intellect in His human nature. His human will was always in conformity to His Divine Will. Ergo, Jesus could not be tempted internally by the world, the flesh and the Devil, as you and I can. He was EXTERNALLY tempted in the desert by Satan but there was never a possibility that they could even remotely have an effect as Satan was attempting to tempt a Divine Person. This is the key. Christ has in modern terms, one center of consciousness, i.e., one Person. He is not schizophrenic nor does He have multiple personalities. The fact that He does not possess a human "person" does not detract from His human nature for the human nature is still guided and controlled by a Person which happens to be Divine. In lacking a human person and in being only a Divine Person, then the human words spoken via the human nature of Christ are still considered as coming from the Divine Person. Consequently, Jesus uses His human nature to say, "Lazarus, come out," and His Divine Nature raises Lazarus from the dead but it is the ONE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST WHO PERFORMED THAT MIRACLE.

The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) could legitimately invoke the title "THEOTOKOS" (Mother of God) for the Virgin Mary rather than limiting her to "CHRISTOTOKOS" (Mother of Christ) as was espoused by Nestorius. They could do so ONLY because although Mary gave Jesus ONLY His human nature, she gave birth to the whole Jesus Christ, a Divine Person with a pre-existent Divine Nature and a created human nature. This concept precludes the "hero" worship of Jesus. He was NOT a hero. A hero is a person just like us who conquered adversity before anyone else and leads by example. Columbus discovers America and yet that could have been done by someone else. The astronauts who landed on the moon did it first, but it can be replicated now. What Jesus did on the Cross was SINGULAR and UNIQUE. NO ONE, before or after Christ can replicate salvation by their death as did Christ. His Sacrifice was infinite and unrepeatable. He is Savior and Redeemer; He is not a hero for no one can duplicate what He did. His own statement, "I am the WAY," denotes that He is not a hero who merely SHOWS the WAY (the means). He says explicitly that He IS the WAY.

The book and the movie create a gross distortion of the Hypostatic Union. On an emotional level, we sinners can "feel" encouraged by a Jesus Who endures what we endure and Who is successful in His goal to remain faithful to the Father. Yet, Jesus is NOT a "role model." He IS the Savior and he IS the Redeemer. As a Divine Person, His death has infinite value. As a Divine Person, He can redeem the whole human race. As a Divine Person, He can be the singular WAY to the Father. To appeal to our emotional cravings for a "vulnerable" Christ is a great disservice to Salvation History and is completely heterodox in concept. The compassion, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus were certainly displayed through His human nature, but they ultimately emanated from His Divine Person. God has compassion, mercy and forgiveness. The book and the movie portray a Christ Who is identifiable with us. The object is NOT to make Him more like us, but that we should become more like Him. We can never fully emulate Christ, but we can be "perfected" as our heavenly Father is "perfect."

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