During Holy Week I watched two documentaries on Christianity.
One was Britain’s Channel 5’s Mysteries of the Bible: Jesus, which was excellent in that several American and British Bible scholars, historians and archaeologists took part. However, it was not without serious flaws.
First, the programme had an entire segment devoted to the legend that Joseph of Arimathea took a young Jesus with him on a trading expedition to England. The story goes that Jesus learned about nature from the Druids and, in turn, He taught them everything about healing. (Every time I encounter this legend, I am left incredulous.) I appreciated the too-brief soundbites from the scholars and historians who said that there is no evidence supporting any of those claims. The probable explanation, they said, was that the monks at Glastonbury invented the legend in the Middle Ages to ensure that pilgrims would continue to go there. However, what was going to stick in most viewers’ minds was the long explanation of this legend which took prominence over the refutation.
Secondly, the programme presented Jesus as a rebel intent on overthrowing the social, religious and political structure. Hmm. Only one scholar, from the University of Edinburgh, said that Jesus had fulfilled his divine mission by dying on the Cross.
Finally, the worst bit was at the end, when, after presenting the Crucifixion, the narrator said it was
the last great mystery of the Jesus story
and the only reason why Christianity spread the way it did.
No, no and NO!
Even though every Gospel includes an account of the Resurrection — what greater mystery? — the programme ended with the Crucifixion. My goodness me. What is Easter about?
This documentary is not the only vehicle to suggest that Jesus died on the Cross and that was the end. Children are also learning this in nursery school.
I think this is done to put our Lord on a par with founders of other religions, so as not to offend.
Jesus Christ was the only religious founder to have died a horrifying death for our sins, rise from the dead three days later in fulfilment of Scripture and, 40 days afterward, ascend to heaven. No other faith can claim that. He is the Son of God.
Documentary makers with access to a dozen experts would do well to ask them about the life of Christ. Perhaps they did and disregarded what they heard. In any event, they could have read the final chapters of the Gospels.
This was a very disappointing programme, despite a promising first half exploring the Nativity and our Lord’s miracles.
Tomorrow: BBC1’s David Suchet: In the Footsteps of St Peter