Mysteries about “Mysteries of the Bible–Jesus”
Last Friday evening here in the UK the TV programme, “Mysteries of the Bible–Jesus” showed (Channel 5, 9 pm), and already I’ve had one commenter asking why I allowed myself to be included in the programme. So, a few comments are in order.
First, when you’re approached by researchers for such a TV programme (at least in my experience), you’re not usually told the larger storyline or sweep of the programme. They simply say they have some particular questions that they’d like to interview you about. So, you can deal with those questions but never know in advance where the rest of the programme is going, or even if they’ll use all or any of your own interview. I, therefore, have no responsibility for this or other programmes for which I’ve been interviewed.
But let me now turn to some matters that made me feel glad not to be responsible for the programme. First, why did they devote such a large amount of the programme to the absurd notion that Jesus as a young man travelled to England, where he learned stuff from the “Druids”? No scholar takes any such notion as credible in the slightest. I guess the producers thought it would add what they regarded as something sensational. To their credit, they did allow a couple of scholars to debunk the claim. But we didn’t need the length of time given to the loony notion.
By contrast, for example, why no reference to something that is widely accepted by scholars, and regarded as historically significant: Jesus’ relationship to John the Baptizer? Now there are some interesting trails to follow up there. Or why no mention that Jesus gathered a body of twelve who seem to have had a special symbolic significance?
I also found it a bit curious that the programme made Jesus’ crucifixion quite so crucial. In one segment, Ehrman appeared to claim that it was essential that Jesus was crucified, not simply executed. And the programme then wound up making Jesus’ crucifixion the basis for subsequent Christianity.
But, so far as I can see, any form of violent death would have done as indicative of Jesus as martyr and obedient to the divine plan. Indeed, there are indications that Jesus’ crucifixion was from early on a potential difficulty in early Christian proclamation (e.g., Paul’s reference to the notion as a “stumbling block” for many). That Jesus was crucified meant that he was executed by the State, his execution, thus, for a political crime, and that is both historically significant and potentially relevant for Christian faith.
But as for the interpretation of Jesus’ crucifixion as redemptive, as part of God’s plan, all this was not as a self-evident result of the crucifixion, but as a result of the powerful conviction that erupted shortly thereafter that God had raised Jesus from death and exalted him to heavenly glory. It’s curious (to put it mildly), therefore, that the programme made no reference to this. It wasn’t necessary for the TV programme to endorse the claim that God raised Jesus from death (that’s a theological claim); but it was beyond strange for the programme not to have indicated that this conviction (whatever you make of its validity) was in fact the historical ignition-point of what became “Christianity.”
So, we wind up with some mysteries about the programme itself. For some reason, TV producers seem reluctant to take advice on the preparation of a programme from scholars in the subject. Friday’s programme shows the results. Let’s hope for better results next time.