Handel, Judas Maccabeus and Mel Gibson
Something for the weekend. The overture from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus. Judas Maccabeus is a musical tribute to the revolt of the Maccabees, 167-160, against the attempts by Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes to forcibly convert the Jews to paganism. The revolt was not simply against the Selucids, but also against a sizable chunk of the population of Judea who were only too happy to embrace the ways of the Greeks. Led by Mattathias, the father of Judas and his brothers, collectively known as the Maccabees, the revolt started in 167 BC when Mattathias, in the village of Modein outside of Jerusalem, cut down an official of the Selucid empire who was attempting to cajole Mattathias, a priest of Yahweh, to offer sacrifice to Zeus. Mattathias and his sons then literally took to the hills, with Mattathias uttering a cry that has rung down the centuries: “Let him who is zealous for the Law, follow me!”
Mattathias, an old man at the start of the revolt, soon died, and leadership descended to his son Judas. Fighting a crafty guerilla campaign, Judas and his brothers, against all the odds, established an independent Jewish state. After the heroic days of the Maccabees, the new Jewish state eventually descended into a fairly squalid series of civil wars, which ultimately led to the Romans under Pompey the Great seizing Jerusalem in 63 BC. The Romans thereafter ruled Judea through puppet rulers. Our Catholic Bibles have First and Second Maccabees which retell the heroic saga of the Maccabean Revolt. This of course brings us to Mel Gibson, who has brought two heroic revolts to the screen and is apparently working on a third.
Earlier this year I lambasted Gibson for starring in the stinkeroo of the year, The Beaver, which cost approximately $21,000,000.00 to make and earned just a tad over $6, 370,000.00, with all but a million of that coming from foreign releases. However, I recognize that Gibson has undeniable talent as both a star and a film producer, and I think he could produce an excellent film on this subject, involving as it does faith and war, two subjects that have brought out the best from Gibson in the past.
The scriptwriter for the project is Joe Eszterhas, who wrote the script for the execrable Showgirls, one of the worst films ever made by fallen Man. However, he underwent a conversion to Catholicism early in the last decade which he writes about here, and the team of Eszterhas and Gibson might be a demonstration of God using odd tools for His purposes. I look forward to viewing what they come up with, and I pray that this film may help Mel along the path of his own personal redemption.