The Christians Kill Jesus Again: Spectacle, Drama, and Politics at Oberammergau

Richard Walsh


The Oberammergau Passion Play is an impressive spectacle. The play’s typological tableaus and theological music incorporate the play’s action into the larger imaginative world of the Christian epic. The tumultuous crowd scenes include the audience in the spectacle. The music and the tableaus script the audience’s role and configure the audience as worshipers who watch the sacrifice of Jesus on their behalf. Like spectacle generally, the play is religious, and religion fascinates and frightens. Spectacle is also inherently part of consumer capitalism, and the play is the life of Oberammergau. Nonetheless, the play’s theology, voice, and impetus are Christian. In the play, an intra-Jewish debate and Jewish worship ultimately become Christian worship/myth. The play flirts with but does not realize the possibilities of tragic dialogue and dilemma. Interpretation can move beyond the monologue of spectacular myth to find tensions in the play. These include the tension between Jewish roles and Christian voice, between intra-Jewish debate and Christian worship, between politics and theology, and between the villagers of Oberammergau who create the play and the tradition of the (passion) play. In these tensions, lie the hope of dialogue and the hope of resisting the fascinations of spectacular myth, but that hope does not exist for those who remain mere spectators.


Oberammergau; play; crucifixion

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391