Search - Ancient Mysteries - The Unknown Jesus on DVD


Ancient Mysteries - The Unknown Jesus
Ancient Mysteries - The Unknown Jesus
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2005     1hr 40min

For 2,000 years the popular image of Jesus has remained fundamentally static. Today, the millennium prompts questions long-debated in scholarly circles. What is known about the historicity of Jesus? Is his existence indisp...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: A&E Home Video
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 12/27/2005
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Too tame, blatant false advertising
Michael Hoffman | Egodeath.com | 11/12/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)

"This is a polished but run-of-the-mill documentary that slightly titillates by touching on the Jesus-in-India hypothesis and the Jesus-was-married hypothesis. It's decent, and includes John Dominic Crossan and a few other big-name scholars.

But despite the marketing text, this documentary does not discuss the issue, at all, of the hypothesis that Jesus didn't exist, that there was no single historical individual who was the kernel of the Jesus figure. A key to reviewing a work is the question "Does it achieve its stated goals?" On that basis, this documentary is poor, because it shirks its own question; it does not address its prominent stated objective of discussing "Is his existence indisputable?"

If you want a pleasant, intelligent mainstream presentation of Christian origins, this will satisfy, but given the many radical hypotheses that have become popular, this documentary is very tame, by anyone's standards; it's only pseudo-daring. It's designed to make people feel like they're watching coverage of bold and daring hypotheses, while actually just presenting now-routine and domesticated "alternative" hypotheses. It's not bad, but it's certainly not daring, as the marketing text promises. For a supposedly "bold" treatment, this documentary instead delivers sterling mediocrity.

The back of the DVD box states in bold text, near the top, that the DVD covers: "What is known about the historicity of Jesus? Is his existence indisputable?" The DVD in fact provides no coverage of that question whatsoever. Blatant false advertising is a serious matter, and this is brazen false advertising in the first degree. The least that should be done to remedy this false advertising is to comment on the question which the DVD text claims to cover but does not cover, as follows.

All during the DVD, I was looking for the entry of the promised topic of "What is known about the historicity of Jesus? Is his existence indisputable?" The documentary explains that many of the traditions about Jesus, including his visit to England and his youth in India, are likely tradition and metaphor rather than historical fact. The DVD could have then carried this logic all the way to ask whether all traditions about Jesus are tradition and metaphor rather than historical fact.

In the section of the documentary about the Jesus-in-India hypothesis , the argumentation sets up a vector that points from the status-quo view (Jesus as genius who was the necessary cause starting the Christian movement) to no-historical-Jesus (Jesus as orienting-figure who was invented by the Christian movement).

The argumentation begins by asking where was Jesus during his youth? And where did he get his unique, unprecedented ideas which no one else had? The scenario is then considered, of Jesus in India, where he did sitting meditation and learned from the teachings of Buddha. But then the argument proposes instead that Jesus got his ideas from the Essenes -- the community of the Dead Sea scrolls. The documentary concludes that Jesus got his ideas natively and locally from within Judaism.

However, if you follow this trajectory of reasoning, from the status-quo scenario (Jesus as genius causing the Christian movement) to the "native Judaism origins" scenario (Jesus as representative of counter-imperial ideas already present in Judaism), and then beyond, continuing to move in that same direction of thought, this argumentation ultimately points to the 3rd scenario, that no single individual genius was needed as the origin of these ideas (or the idea-combination that was the Christian movement). The DVD promised to touch on that third scenario, but did not.

In this scenario that is ultimately pointed to by the documentary's direction of argumentation, Jesus was merely one of many people participating in developing the ideas that were already in the culture and in the air during the era. In that case, it becomes a plausible and satisfying explanation for various problems and variances in traditions about Jesus, to hypothesize that Jesus was a fabricated orienting-figure who was invented and created by the Christian movement, by the counter-imperial drive that was already in the Jewish culture and in the air during the era, throughout not only the Jewish culture in the Levant (including Palestine), but throughout the general culture across the Roman Empire.

Summarizing the positions implied by the DVD, after adding the position which the DVD's marketing text promises to cover:

Scenario 1: Jesus as unprecedented causal genius -- Jesus was a unique genius who was the necessary cause starting the Christian movement. The ideas of the Christian movement were entirely new to everyone around Jesus. Other people in Jesus' culture were not particularly bright or imaginative -- even dullards, compared to Jesus; they had to wait for him with his brand new ideas that no one else had ever thought of before, such as "be good to your neighbor". Jesus had unique, unprecedented ideas which no one else had. The DVD criticizes this idea.

Scenario 2: Native Judaism origins -- Jesus got his ideas natively and locally from within Judaism. Jesus was merely one of many people participating in developing the ideas that were already in the culture and in the air during the era. Jesus was representative of counter-imperial ideas already present in Judaism. Jesus got his ideas from the Essenes, which was the community of the Dead Sea scrolls. The DVD advocates this idea.

Scenario 3: No-historical-Jesus -- The Jesus figure was a product of counter-imperial ideas throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus was an allegorical orienting-figure who was invented by the Christian movement. Jesus was a fabricated orienting-figure who was invented and created by the Christian movement, by the counter-imperial drive that was already in the Jewish culture and in the air during the era, throughout not only the Jewish culture in the Levant (including Palestine), but throughout the general culture across the Roman Empire. No single individual genius was needed as the origin of these ideas, or the idea-combination that was the Christian movement. The DVD is silent about this idea, despite the marketing text "What is known about the historicity of Jesus? Is his existence indisputable?"

This documentary DVD (along with the Social Gospel, the Context Group, Liberation Theology, Richard Horsley, Brian McLaren, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and N.T. Wright's Fresh Perspective) asks us to graduate from position 1 (Jesus as unprecedented causal genius) to position 2 (native Judaism origins) and to portions of position 3 (the Jesus figure was a product of counter-imperial ideas throughout the Roman Empire). But despite the DVD's marketing text, this DVD does not follow its own arguments through to consider the full question of whether Jesus was strictly an allegorical product created by popular counter-imperial ideas."
Both Volumes are present on the DVD
John M. Cys | Ft. Worth, TX USA | 08/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I recently purchased the DVD and in contrast to D.B.K's review I found both volumes on the single DVD. Playing time for each volume is approx. 50 min. I was "glued" to the screen for the entire 100 min. It definitely holds your attention. It is excellent as most A&E Biography programs are. Jack Perkins is a very good narrator. The photography is stunning. The choice of paintings and actual locations are definitely appropiate to the subject. A few guest experts give their opinions which are well-balanced. A major stong point is both sides of each question are given with a balanced, unbiased presentation. The viewer can evaluate the evidence on both sides of a question and make up his own mind. Highly recommended!"