Last night (C’mas Eve) I watched Part I of the PBS Frontline program, “From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians.” I had watched it sometime back (when I was writing my book), but had forgotten how much I appreciated the way the producers present the Christian story.
The contributors include archaeologists, bible scholars, and historians, as well as New Testament theologians. This combination produces a much more balanced presentation of Jesus, his world, and his followers than what is generally shown on programs of this nature.
On the back cover of the (soon to be released) paperback edition of my book, (Things I Never Learned in Sunday School), I make this statement: “For many believers, the preferred approach to Christianity is passive; that is, they would prefer to let church leaders give them answers about their faith rather than engaging in an active pursuit on their own. As a result, traditional doctrines and beliefs are generally accepted without question.”
What this boils down to is that few Christians really know the story behind Christianity. They simply accept the traditional accounts and consider them as “truth.” This program goes several steps further and puts early Christianity in historical and social contexts. It is not anti-Christian. It just presents facts and information about Jesus that many people have never heard.
As one reviewer put it, the documentary “takes on a number of weighty issues and treats them seriously, putting religious tales in historical context without ignoring matters of the spirit.”
In my area, Part II airs tonight (Christmas Day) and will be repeated on December 26th and 27th. If you have never watched this program, I strongly urge you to check your local listings.