I took a look at another of the ‘Jesus’ film genre and in a nutshell, this particular production is both better than most and as bad as many. Allow me to explain:
First, there are egregious blunders. At one point the presenter states that Luke’s gospel contains the story of the wise men and the star pointing the way to Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem. That ridiculous mis-statement, innocent a mistake as it may have been, made me cringe. It bothers me tremendously when the little yet important facts are wrongly stated. Indeed, when people say things like that it’s nearly unbearable.
Second, there must be a dearth of biblical scholars in Australia because the only one he found down there tends to be extremely skeptical of anything the Gospels say. Ok, skepticism is fine. But at least have someone else offer a perspective – otherwise the program just comes off as an exercise in ax grinding.
Third, the presenter claims that the Gospels are not eyewitness testimony (he’s a cold case investigator, not a biblical scholar) – but he should have had a chat, at least, with Richard Bauckham on the matter. Right or wrong, Bauckham has to be consulted.
Fourth, when the presenter repeatedly refers to ‘the Jesus myth’ one needs to understand that this is a fair representation of his personal viewpoint. He seems to fit nicely into the ‘Mythicist’ camp or as near to it as one can without being one. Unsurprisingly, his conclusions support his presuppositions. Indeed, the fact that Spong makes an appearance as a ‘biblical expert’ calls the entire enterprise into question.
There are just so many problems, throughout. Note, as another example, the spelling on the map of Qumran. I’ve read a lot of material on the subject. Thousands and thousands, probably tens of thousands of pages over the span of years, and I’ve never seen anyone spell it like this.
Nonetheless there are a few highlights:
Joe Zias makes an appearance and makes some very important remarks regarding crucifixion. It is also claimed by the presenter that Jesus may have been crucified not on a cross, but on one of the many olive trees in the area.
Ok, that’s pretty much it.
Whereas many specials tend to be absurd and support absurd claims (like the shroud of Turin and Jesus was married and all that rot) this one heads in the opposite direction and because of its mythicist leanings results in the same level of absurdity. The highlight is Joe Zias and this chap, who discussed the average 1st century Jewish male and stated that the image of Jesus on our left is the least likely of all the representations while the one on the right is the most likely.
There are a good number of well known academics who appear but they don’t do a very good job of presenting the facts fairly. That is true even of Dom Crossan, who is edited in such a way as to seem to support the producer’s ‘the gospels don’t contain any truth’ line of thought.
It really is a shame that the producer went the direction he did. This could have been a fantastic documentary given the resources the film maker obviously had access to. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it turns out that it’s pretty much like all the rest. Skip it unless you want to see Zias shine.