In the Roman province of Judea, around the fourth year of the rule of Pontius Pilate, a man was led outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem to his execution.
The product of a suburban village who nevertheless had been exposed to the cosmopolitan life of Roman cities, Jesus of Nazareth grew up in a hotbed of radicalism and political activism, eventually becoming a preacher. His message was characterized by simple metaphor and targeted at an agrarian populace. To the authorities, however, he was a politically dangerous social reformer whose message about the coming of the “Kingdom of God” was a threat to the peace of Rome. Yet it was his death that would become one of the most important events in human history.
On Thursday, December 20 and Thursday, December 27 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Frontline presents an encore presentation of its award-winning four-hour series, “From Jesus to Christ.” Drawing upon new and sometimes controversial historical evidence and interviews with the nation’s leading New Testament scholars, the four-hour documentary explores the life of Jesus and the movement he started, challenging familiar assumptions and conventional notions about the origins of Christianity.
Airing over two Thursday evenings, the series traces Jesus’ life, focusing on the events that occurred after his death as his early followers created a major movement that would transform the Roman Empire in just 300 years.
“FRONTLINE presents the real story of the rise of Christianity, challenging and upsetting conventional ideas,” says FRONTLINE Executive Producer David Fanning. “It is not a story of a golden age of consensus, but a story of people in conflict—wrestling with Judaism, confronting the authority of the empire, and struggling among themselves to understand Jesus’ message about the coming of God.”
The first hour looks at how scholars and archaeologists have pieced together a new portrait of where Jesus was born, how he lived, and who he was.
The second hour turns from the life of Jesus to the period immediately following his death, examining the rise of Christianity and concluding with the First Revolt—the bloody and violent siege of Jerusalem and the beginnings of a rift between Christianity and Judaism. The film explores new evidence suggesting that the diversity in language and culture of Jesus’ early followers caused them to interpret his teachings in many different ways. The episode also examines the key role of the apostle Paul in forming the “language” of Christianity.
The third hour, on December 27, examines the period after the First Revolt, tracing the development and impact of the Gospels and exploring the increasingly hostile relationship between the Christians and the Jews. The episode concludes with another bloody Jewish war against Rome—the Second Revolt.
The final hour documents the extraordinary events of the second and third centuries in which Christianity grew from a small Jewish sect to an official religion of the Roman Empire. From the persecution and brutal execution of Christians to the eventual acceptance and support for Christianity by Emperor Constantine, the film traces this dramatic evolution—one that would see the cross transformed into a symbol of triumph and Jesus of Nazareth become Jesus Christ.
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