The basic element of The Last Temptation of Christ is to explore the spiritual dimension of Jesus as a human being. The film delves into his characterization apart from his role as "The Messiah." It depicts a "fictional exploration" of Christ as a person. He is seen as one who possesses doubts, hears voices, and struggles with his element of difference from those around him. Displaying a tenuous and ambiguous relationship with God, Jesus accepts an opportunity to relinquish his life as the Messiah as he suffers on the cross. From this point, the film delves into how Jesus lived his life as a "normal man," allowing the mythology of his life, death, and resurrection to take a life of its own. When Jesus realizes how he has betrayed his fundamental purpose in being in the world, he wishes it away and suffers on the cross with a sense of contentment and satisfaction in the statement of "It is accomplished."
The film is faithful to the text. Through both cinematic elements such as editing, photography, and music, it explores the complex biblical tradition intrinsic to Jesus' life. At the same time, the film is able to initiate a strong discussion about Jesus as a figure. This awoke much in way of criticism and scorn amongst many in the religious community towards Scorsese and the product he developed.