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To the extent Mel Gibson's ego, I mean, faith, is forcing us to think about The Christ right now, you could do worse than looking at ionarts' rundown of the art historical Jesus (like, seeing Gibson's movie). Something I learned about Matthias Grünewald's beautiful, take-no-prisoners altarpiece:
That work was made for a hospital run by an order of monks whose mission was to serve people who were in terrible pain, especially those who had lost limbs. The fact that Jesus chose to die in one of the most painful ways possible, it was thought, is a consolation to a person in pain. In that sense, there is no particular reason, either religious or artistic, to sugarcoat the details of what Jesus suffered.