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FRONTLINE | From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians

Watch Tuesdays, December 24 & December 31, 2013 at 10pm on WMHT TV.

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.

Drawing upon sometimes controversial historical evidence and interviews with 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.

“From Jesus to Christ” 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,” said  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.”

  • Pax Romana | December 24, 2013 at 10pm: “From Jesus to Christ” begins by tracing the life of Jesus of Nazareth, exploring the message that helped his ministry grow and the events that led to his crucifixion around 30 C.E. (“of the common era”). Born in the reign of Emperor Augustus during the Pax Romana — the Roman Peace — Jesus was a subject of the Roman Empire. This first hour of “From Jesus to Christ” looks at how scholars and archaeologists have pieced together a new portrait of where Jesus was born, how he lived and who he was.
  • A Light to the Nations | December 24, 2013 at 11pm: 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. “A Light to the Nations” 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. This hour also examines the key role of the apostle Paul in forming the “language” of Christianity.
  • Let the Reader Understand | December 31, 2013 at 10pm:  The third hour of “From Jesus to Christ” 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 hour concludes with another bloody Jewish war against Rome — the Second Revolt.
  • Kingdoms in Conflict | December 31, 2013 at 11pm: The final hour of “From Jesus to Christ” documents the extraordinary events of the second and third centuries, when 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, “Kingdoms in Conflict” traces this dramatic evolution — one that would see the cross transformed into a symbol of triumph and Jesus of Nazareth becomes Jesus Christ.
The monumental building that was supposed to last forever was destroyed after 53 years.

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