from jesus to christ - the first christians




I was impressed by the sense in inquiry that characterized this program--it was investigative without being judgemental. Reading some of the other comments in this forum, I get the sense that "inquiry" is not what some of your viewers expected and this is truly sad. We are all free to believe whatever we want, yet it is valuable to listen to the insights which archaeology, textual criticism, history and comparative religion have to offer. Strangely enough, before I entered this forum, I was reading over your site's presentation of the textual emergence of the gospels and the conflict between christianity and judaism and I am struck by how the need for orthodoxy so often divides us all and amidst the strife distracts us from inquiring into those very truths within ourselves that institutionalized religions attempt to codify. In a sense, perhaps that is the real historical tragedy of the movement from jesus to christ.

randall potts
san francisco, ca


The Frontline offering, "From Jesus to Christ," is more of the same one-sided commentary that is so prevalent in today's theological liberalism. It is merely the continuation of the "search for the historical Jesus" in an up-to-date format.

These "scholars" from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, DePaul, etc. seek to explain away the true divinity of Jesus- because it doesn't fit their own theological constructs..., namely they do not believe in the miraculous and the supernatural. Therefore, everything has its "natural" interpretation, discarding the rest of the Scriptures as mythological and/or revolutionary.

Interestingly, these scholars disregard the Gospel writers as writing fictional accounts of the "man" Jesus, and yet they quote almost religiously from Josephus, who also lived around the time the New Testament was written. Why not see the Gospel for what they are as historical "witnesses" of the life of Jesus Christ cf. Luke 1. For they ARE historically accurate and though they may have chronological differences which can easily be explained they have withstood the test of skeptics, cynics, emperors, empires, and the test of time. The Bible is the most attested in regards to its ancient documents. There are more copies than any other ancient text in existence..., yet it is probably the most scrutinized and "reconstructed" as Frontline has presented.

John Yeo
Fullerton, California


I was born in Jerusalem to a very old and established Jewish family. I just recently started studying the New Testament and speaking with a lot of Christians about Jesus, who I feel to be undeniable. What I find to be missing in people's accounts of him is his lack of Jewishness. It's as if Christianity has taken Judaism away from Jesus. I found your program to be refreshing because it addresses this issue. Also, I just read a score of comments by people who feel your program lacked "faith" and was too intellectual, but from the get-go I understood that this was to be a historical presentation, and obviously not inclusive. Congratulations!!

Rachel Figg
Santa Fe, NM


Maccoby in his book "Revolution in Judea" makes his case for Jesus having been in Jerusalem for at least a year before the Temple incident and Jesus' death. He also thinks that it wasn't a small incident, but an attempt at getting a revolution started.
What do you think? Also, Maccoby thinks the gospels were written as spiritual messages by Christians who were tired of being persecuted by Romans. Their message was, "Hey, we're not the revolutionaries; it was those other Jews with James in Jerusalem who made the trouble for Rome." This makes the New Testament a political document, designed to exculpate Christians and indict Non-Jesusite Jews.

Charles J. Richey
Austin, TX


I usually don't find the urge to comment on most programs, but felt that this was a necessary exception. I enjoy Frontline�s broadcasts in general, but felt that aside from my personal disagreements with the content, it was still odd to air this program just prior to the Christian Holy Week. Would a similar show air, that reassesses, reanalyzes, over-scrutinizes, and over stresses non-theological opinions, relative to Judaism or Islam prior to their most holy of weeks or at all? Though I can understand the drive to learn more about Christ, I find it quite unbelievable that not one theological scholar, from the possibly the Catholic Church or other Christian Sect, was represented on this panel. Believe it or not, they have also studied history and scripture. I understand the quest for objectivity, but to say these "scholars" are more objective would be quite naive. You need to spend some time around a University and understand the need to publish!

I found it remarkable that the fervor, drive, and passion demonstrated by Jesus' early followers and disciples were attributed to everything from social and political aspirations, but with no mention of belief or faith in a message. This concept must be incomprehensible to most of the scholars on the panel. I kept waiting for some mention, but to no avail. It was stated that many joined the "Jesus Movement" due to their yearning to become part of the Jewish faith. In the beginning, many who joined the movement were made to become Jews first. How would you explain that someone with aspirations to become Jewish, would make such a difficult undertaking, but to some new sect that most likely carried a stigma and much less social and political respect? Why would so many, with potential to suffer both socially and physically from the Romans and Jews, still follow a movement with such fervor and passion started by a man that was executed!!? Could it be true belief or passionate faith?

I would ask anyone today to think of a time that they felt such a passionate belief in anyone or anything that they would bear all these risks. Could it be that there was something truly spiritual to it all?

There is no doubt as to some of factual conflicts in the gospels. The broadcast even goes on to cast doubt on their credibility because of the time elapsed between Jesus� resurrection and the time they were written. Does it not lend to their credibility?! Look how closely, aside from insignificant timing issues, many of the parables and stories of miracle are similar, yet different enough to demonstrate their independence. If they were exactly the same, you would cast doubt on their credibility for that very reason!

Overall, I was disappointed with the objectivity and one-sided interpretations within this broadcast. As I am writing this, I begin to question some of the other Frontline shows I accepted as objective in the past.

Paul Schutt
Chicago, Illinois


It is obvious the producers of this series are pushing the liberal, humanist agenda of the Jesus Seminar and its ilk. Toadying to their goal of denying the possibility Jesus is the supernatural God will go down as one of the most unbalanced disasters in PBS history.
No one disputes the right of the liberals to tout their beliefs, however, PBS has an obligation to preserve its journnalistic integrity. Using "group-think" clones to falsely erect a facade of united "scholarship" when equal, and in some cases superior, scholarship exists which disputes these liberals, is an insult to informed viewers.
The next time PBS's lobbyists find themselves assaulted on Capitol Hill for being representatives of left-wing philosophy and cultural values, I hope they will realize pseduo-documentaries such as this merely substantiate the charges against them.
In the future, present both sides of a controversy -- and maintain your integrity.

Kenneth Lamb
Pensacola, FL


Regarding the choice of interviewees for the broadcasts: I'm no expert on New Testament scholarship, but I have done a little reading, so why did you include scholars like Crossan and Pagels who are well known fro their almost self-consciously unorthodox views and not include some of the more well known scholars with a more "traditional" view, i.e. James D.G. Dunn, Ben Witherington, Raymond Brown, Marcus Bockmeuhl, or N.T. Wright whose 1996 volume Jesus and the Victory of God is arguably the most important book the "Third Quest" for the "Historical Jesus" has yet produced....

Jay Woodham
Birmingham, Alabama


Perhaps I missed some of your talking head commentators, but I did not see any Catholic views represented from any of the leaders of the Church: i.e., cardinals, bishops, etc. I do not mean theologians in their halls of academia, but those who can speak for the Magisterium. I would also appreciate hearing the opinions of messianic believers on this topic. It is getting to be boring hearing from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Union, etc. on religious issues. As an academic myself, I know what parts vested interest and subjective opinion play in their bias.

Other parts of the first segment have been quite good. Thank you for the presentation.

margaret mcconnell
covington, la


I greatly appreciate your coverage of the issue of examining who Jesus was/is. As some of the commenators mentioned, attempts by historians to find the "historical" Jesus often leads to dissapointment and confusion. For 20 years, I've seen "new" discoveries about Jesus, the gospels, the first Christians and other related topics come and go. Amidst all the theories and "discoveries" the "scholars" somehow always manage to miss the point that Jesus claimed to be God. That's why he was crucified. That why the apostles believed Him and eventually gave their lives for Him. No other reason would suffice for such a sacrifice. I've also never know anyone who was willing to read the Bible with an open heart and mind and not find Jesus as excactly who he claimed to be, Lord and Savior. Decades will pass, "new discoveries" will come and go as they have for two millenia and Jesus will still be saving the hopeless, helpless millions who call on Him to save their marriages, restore broken relationships and heal all manner of ills of the heart. "God uses the things of the weak to confound the strong and the things of the foolish to confound the wise. Thanks for your time and God Bless you. I respect your work. Rex Bauer

Rex Bauer
Washington, DC


Kudos to PBS. Programming such as this may begin to redeem Christianty from the "Babalonian Exile" which literal interpretation of scripture has tried to force upon us. With thoughtful and scholary interpretation perhaps we can return to the mystery of divinity and lift our faith above the domain of the magician and the huckster.
Mike Kidd

Michael Kidd
Milesburg, Pa.


I was very disappointed by the very one sided presentation in the program this evening. Thus far, you have not included comments from one single Eastern Orthodox scholar. Indeed, every scholar consulted seems to be of the radical persuasion. As professionally trained secular historian and former professor of history, I question the methods used by the scholars that you consulted. They all seem to stem from the group that characterizes themselves as the "Jesus Seminar." As an Orthodox Christian, I find their conclusions offensive, as an historian, I find their scholarship shoddy at best and certainly not serious historical scholarship. They have violated almost every principle of serious historical research. They approached the subject with preconceived ideas, and molded their finds to fit these conclusions. In fact, from a stricly historical point of view, all they have really done is told us what they believe, they have failed completely to produce serious historical work.
It is unfortuante that PBS should present such one sided work. You should have spoken with several Evangelical scholars as well as conservative Roman Catholic and Orthodox scholars.

Archpriest John W. Morris, Ph.D.

Fr. John Morris
Shreveport, Louisiana


It is amazing what someone can come up with when they take God out of the Bible. These so called "scholars" pick and choose that what they want to talk about and call attention to. There idea of what happened with Paul and Peter was almost comical. Read the account, please. Please read the Bible without trying to read something into it. Actually when there is no faith what can one expect. The best I can say is it is interesting seeing and hearing what non-Christians have to say about the Bible.



The first two parts of the documentary were well done and the scholars highlighted key issues in the study of the emergence of Christianity in the Roman world. My one complaint is there seems to be an absence of conservative scholars in the discussion. From what I could pick up from there comments the scholarss in the presentation believed the Biblical account is an inadequate source to give an historical representation of Jesus and the early church. There are many other persons whose scholarship would lead them to a conclusion that the Biblical account area for the most part accurate history.

Bob Hager
Norphlet, Arkansas


I only wish to comment upon the section entitled 'The
Storytellers'. In his discourse, the professor from
U. of Texas, Austin states clearly that it is indeed an
irrefutable fact that no gospel stories were committed to
writing until the right after the Revolt of 70 A.D.,
at the earliest.
I think it fair to mention that this is opinion and not necessarily fact; there is some belief and evidence that the Oxford Papyrus of St. Matthew was written during the "Eyewitness
Period', long before 70A.D.; most likely by Jesus' contemporaries.

mike freeman
bradley beach, nj


I really enjoyed first 2 hours of the historical perspective of early Christianity! I particularly enjoyed commentary by various academics. I would be curious to hear what their own religious views are e.g., the spiritual versus the academic view. For example, do they believe in Christ as the Savior, in the communion, etc. My curiousity has to do with whether people who deeply study historical elements retain a measure of faith in the basic tenants of Jesus' teachings and in Christ "divinity".

I particularly think it's important to understand the political and social culture at the time certain events were occurring. For instance, I had the pleasure to listen to a series taught by a Lutheran minister on Luther and how the activities of Suliman sp? of the Turkish empire, diverted Roman intervention in Luther's activites. Luther might not have been successful, if Suliman had not been knocking on the Vatican's door.

Excellent series - one of the reasons I continue to subscribe to channel 11!

Patricia Peterson
Mundelein , IL

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symposium . jesus' many faces . a portrait of jesus' world . storytellers . first christians . why did christianity succeed?
maps, archaeology & sources . discussion . bible history quiz . behind the scenes
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published april 1998

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