"From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians," Dec. 24 and 31, PBS

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Looking back 2,000 years to the historical world of Jesus as well as that of his persecuted followers over the next three centuries is the two-part documentary "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians," to be rerun as a "Frontline" documentary Tuesdays, Dec. 24 and 31, 10 p.m.-midnight EST each night on PBS (check local listings).

Ever since the 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, biblical scholarship has been busy with archaeological digs, comparison of manuscripts and speculation over texts.

These activities have been accompanied by a rush to bring the latest finding, no matter how tentative, to the public by translating the complexities of specialized research into journalistic and, at times, even tabloid prose.

Drawing on the input of 12 New Testament scholars, this four-hour series tries to avoid the oversimplifications and slippery generalizations that have generated controversy in the public arena.

This kind of research is prone to misunderstanding because its results are often provisional rather than definitive, apt to be discarded or refined as new discoveries come to light.

In exploring the historical context of the Gospels, these scholars confine themselves to the archaeological evidence and textual analysis rather than personal religious convictions or lack thereof.

Though some Christian viewers will find this approach unedifying, if not confusing, others may gain new insights which deepen their faith rather than undermine it.

Certainly the first two hours provide a rich introduction to the Jewish world into which Jesus was born, all of which is helpful in reading the Gospel accounts of his life and mission.

What is central in the historical context is the subjection of Judea to Roman rule and the rise of political rebels and messianic sects looking for a new kingdom to replace the old.

The Dec. 24 program examines how the Gospel accounts came to be written, the struggle between differing Christian sects, and the emergence of Rome as the center of the early church.

Produced by Marilyn Mellowes and directed by William Cran, the series presents a secular account of the rise of Christianity without directly taking up the question of Christ's divinity, which is a matter of faith and beyond the scope of series.

The series will, however, antagonize those who take a strictly literal view of the Gospel accounts and surely irritate most historians by using the clunky B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) to replace the common usage and historically correct B.C. (Before Christ).

As a presentation of the "Frontline" series of investigative reports on current affairs, this scholarly probe into the historicity of Jesus and the development of the early church offers some tentative reflections on the birth of Christianity as it enters its third millennium.

 

Herx was former director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting

of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Voices

Seeking the face of God in the Scriptures

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Prayer is seeking the face of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”

Events

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February 13, 2016

  • Saturday, February 13

    World Day of the Sick Mass, Mass and Anointing of the Sick, 12:30 p.m., Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels,  555 W Temple St, Los Angeles. Archbishop Gomez presiding with other bishops and priests. Special section designated for those in wheelchairs with volunteers available to help. Limited parking available for $8. Carpooling is encouraged. For more info: Chuck Huebner at cjhuebner @gmail.com or Jim LoCoco at flavialococ0@msn.com.

     

     

    Bosco Tech’s Yurak Memorial Run & Kids’ Fun Run, Check in begins at 8 a.m., Memorial Run at 9 a.m., Fun Run at 10 a.m., Bosco Tech, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead. Race registration is $35 per person. For school groups of 10 or more, the cost is $30. To register online, go to www.boscotech.edu/events or www.yurak.eventbrite.com; same-day registration available at check-in table. Included: racing fees, finisher medal, goodie bag and BBQ lunch. Plaques will be awarded to the top five male and female runners and to the fastest runner under 18.All proceeds to benefit Bosco Tech’s Yurak Athletic Center (YAC). 

     

    Cabrini Literary Guild “Sweetheart Bingo” Meeting, Sat., Feb.13 at Oakmont Country Club, 3100 Country Club Drive, Glendale. Meeting starts at 11 a.m., lunch at 12 p.m. ($30/person), and bingo social at 1 p.m. Bingo cards are $5 each, or $20 for five cards. For reservations, call (818) 790-3485.

     

    Footprints: Making Tracks for Neighbors in Need, 8:30 - 11:30 a.m., Bishop Amat High School track, 14301 Fairgrove Ave., La Puente. Catholic Charities San Gabriel Region will present this annual walk/run fundraiser to increase awareness about poverty, hunger and homelessness in the San Gabriel Region. Proceeds benefit those lacking basic needs, such as food, clothing, transportation and shelter. This is a come anytime, leave anytime event, with the first lap around the track to be led by Bishop David O'Connell. For more information, visit lentenfootprints.yolasite.com or contact Mary Romero at (213) 251-3582 or mromero@ccharities.org.

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