Friday, 8 October 2010
Jesus the Jew
First, this isn't another of those horrible voice-over docos produced for the History or Discovery channels. In the opening episode Howard Jacobson, a British Jew, presents a passionate perspective on both the founding years of Christianity, Jesus and Paul, and then a warts and all picture of the church's anti-Judaic, anti-Semitic record in Britain, then widening out to include an interview with a Vatican official. Traditional Christians would be hard pressed not to squirm in their seats from time to time.
But squirm they - we - should. If the ability to see ourselves as others see us is a gift, then Jacobson has presented Christians with a pearl of great price. Yes, the programme has flaws. Within the time available it would be hard not to indulge in a few bald generalisations that a pedant might scoff at, but these are small potatoes compared to the thrust of the film.
Jesus the Jew will not impress the mythicists: Jacobson begins by assuming the essential historicity of the Gospel accounts in a broad sense. I can see Neil Godfrey taking a sharp intake of breath in the first minutes of the screening. Because this is a Jewish perspective, many of those interviewed are also Jewish rather than the usual lineup of talking heads from the world of Christian scholarship. Two exceptions; Jerome Murphy-O'Connor and the redoubtable James Tabor.
There are a gaggle of supposedly knowledgeable folk - unthinking advocates of supercessionism - who I'd gladly, if it were in my power, chain to their seats and make watch Jesus the Jew to the very end. It might not budge their dogma nor their unexamined prejudices, but it would certainly mean they couldn't continue to sidestep the issues.
Comments on episode two, Rome, to follow.
(I can't find the series listed on Amazon, but for anyone interested here's a link to the Aussie ABC online store.)
Posted by Gavin R at 18:28