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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Is the Passion Play anti-Jewish?

Significant revision corrects the perspective

Lutherans attending the Oberammergau Passion Play will be in for some surprises if they expect it to resemble the dramatic reading of the Passion story they may have heard in church on Passion Sunday or Good Friday. Such readings stick to the exact words of the biblical text, achieving some dramatic effect by assigning parts to different voices.

But the Passion Play at Oberammergau contains a great deal of added material. As in a TV "docudrama," the authors fill in the spaces with dialogue that could have been spoken by the various characters and incidents that might have happened.

Elaborate staging and costuming, choral and instrumental music, and "living images" depicting related Old Testament events add to the impression.

Therein lies the possibility for creative interpretation of the biblical story — and distortion of it.

The Oberammergau play has been accused of being deliberately anti-Jewish. Both Jewish representatives and Christian scholars and leaders, who have been involved in Christian-Jewish dialogues, have lodged protests.


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September issue

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