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Christianity-The First Two Thousand Years
Christianity-The First Two Thousand Years
Genres: Drama, Special Interests, Documentary
NR     2001     6hr 40min

Studio: A&e Home Video Release Date: 10/30/2001 Run time: 400 minutes Rating: Nr


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Movie Details

Genres: Drama, Special Interests, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Religion, Religion & Spirituality, Religion
Studio: A&E Home Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 10/30/2001
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 6hr 40min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Bring Your Own Opinions With You
David Voss | USA | 12/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I love DVD's and I love documentaries. This is my favorite DVD of all time. A great peace of work. FYI, I am a Christian.
I realise they only have time to cover each topic once and give one point of view on it. I think they did a great job considering they are covering 2000 years of a religion.
If anyone takes this as a "liberal" view of things, I don't agree. There is no hidden agenda here. I appreciate humans giving a human perspective on things. It was nice not to see a fire and brimstone session.
This is not the word of God. It is a documenary by humans. If you remember that, you will appreciate the work and effort.
This is as good as a documentary can get.
I have a feeling many people bought this looking for some sort of divine inspiration or guidance and then they felt left down thus giving it bad reviews. Also, I think people don't like it when Christianity gets a bad rap (some of the past leaders made mistakes, let's face it, they were human). Just remember, it is a documentary, with human voices and flaws covering humans trying to find their way. It is sometimes beautiful to watch, sometimes horrible.
I thought the narration and music was excellent. I could not be more happy with a product."
Extremely Biased
Eric Giunta | Pembroke Pines, FL USA | 03/04/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)

"It gets three stars, because much if it is factual, and it's presentation is very well-done. I appreciated it for its cinematographic value.There are several errors that I spotted here, and I would expect more out of A&E.Such errors include:1) James, not Peter, was the leader of the first Christian community.This is clearly false. The vast consensus among scholars is that Peter was the leader of the early Christian community. Check out the Encyclopedia Britannica article "Peter", as well as anything published by Oxford University, as well as just about every book on Church history.The "historical consultant" for the 1st 1000 years was Dominic Crossan of the laughable Jesus seminar. He wrote a book titled "James, the Brother of Jesus". It's pretty much his view, and the view of his small circle of scholarly rejects that James, not Peter, was the leader of the early Church.James may have had immediate leadership over Jerusalem, but primary leadership was Peter's This is evidenced in the very name "Peter" itself. See Matthew 16:13-19, as well as the Church Fathers.Also, the DVD is inconsistent. It begins by introducing the disciples, and it actually identifies Peter as their leader. 20 minutes into the documentary they say the leader was James. Inconsistent.2) The role of women in the early Church.There is not one documented record of a woman serving in a clerical role. You did have orders of deaconesses, but the liturgical manuals we have in our possession, like the "Apostolic Tradition" and the canons of the Council of Nicea, make it clear that these were not ordained positions.The early Church did have prominent women figures. There were orders of virgins, widows, and deaconesses. But these were forerunners to the modern nun, not "women clergy", as the film implies.3) The film says that the three-fold hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon was "proposed" by Ignatius of Antioch, in the 100s A.D..It is true that Ignatius's letters, written around 107 A.D., are among the first references we have to this hierarchy, but they aren't THE first. Such appears in the Letter of Pope Saint Clement I to the Corinthians, and is certainly implicit in the Bible itself. Not only that, but by the time Ignatius had begun writing his letters, on his way to martyrdom, he had already been bishop of some 40 years. So we know for a fact that there was a three-fold hierarchy at least by 67 A.D., when the Apostles were still alive. (Granted, this system was not universal in Apostolic times, but it certainly was by the 2nd century). It's also important to mention that Ignatius was a disciple of John the Apostle. The documentary fails to mention this. The show also says that Ignatius was among the first to bar women from the clergy. Again, there is no evidence of this. Saint Paul himself had barred women from preaching in the churches.4) Not once in the first disc of the film is it mentioned that the orthodox branch of Christianity was known as "the Catholic Church". This is a serious fly-over. One hears the of this one Christian body, but it isn't called "catholic" until DVD disc 2, which starts off in the year 1000. Ignatius was the first one to employ the term, and it was used to distinguish orthodox Christians from heretical ones.5) The DVD says that Pope Saint Leo I was the first Pope to assert authority over the East. Again, this is false. Pope Saint Clement I, Pope Saint Victor, Saint Ireneaus, the Ecumenical Councils prior to Chalcedon, etc. all affirmed the primacy of the Pope. The Popes of Rome frequently took it upon themselves to excommunicate heretical Eastern Patriarchs, and later on Eastern Christianity sided with them.6) In Disc 2, Post-Reformation Catholicism is passed off as completely anti-intellectual and anti-technology. When the Church condemned "Modernism", it wasn't condemning change or technology, but rather what we call today "liberal Catholicism". And Vatican II didn't change any of that.7) The series ends on a negative note with the document "Dominus Iesus". What isn't mentioned is that "Dominus Iesus" was little more than a re-statement, word for word, of the teaching of Vatican II. (It's presented as anti-ecumenical). It's obvious that the producers of the series did not bother to read the document.8) The Church in Colonial America is presented as pro-slavery, with certain exceptions among friars. This is not true. All the popes, even prior to 492, condemned slavery as incompatible with the Catholic religion. They were largely ignored, but the penalty of excommunication "ipsi facto" (the same punishment given to women who commit abortions today) was threatened, and applied, to those who kept slaves.9) The lie that Pope Pius XII did nothing to help Jews is told in this documentary. Pius XII helped save over 800,000 Jews, more than any other nation did. H did this through monasteries, convents, fake baptismal certificates, and sneaking Jews in the Vatican among the Swiss Guard. Catholics were the 2nd-largest group murdered in the Holocaust, after Jews. Of the 5 million non-Jews murdered in the Holocaust, 3 million were Catholics.I'm not trying to be an apologist for Catholicism (yes, I am Catholic), but I think that all my comments and discrepancies are justified and objective.Pretty good, but take it with a grain of salt."
A well-done documentary survey of church history
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 10/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Be advised that Amazon is combining the reviews of the VHS set of this series 'Christianity: The First Thousand Years' with the reviews of the DVD set which combines the first thousand years and the second thousand years. Thus, some reviews will only refer to the first thousand years (those who have reviewed the VHS set), and other reviews will cover the entire history of Christianity (those who have reviewed the DVD set). My review will cover both, with an emphasis on the first thousand years, but also addressing briefly the second thousand years.

The series 'Christianity: The First Thousand Years', narrated by Ozzie Davis and Ruby Dee, was originally entitled 'The Rise of Christianity'. From the outset, the narrator states the purpose of this series as not being a look at the Bible or theological and spiritual ideas, but rather a history of the church, of Christendom and the whole institution of Christianity. Because this was done in four, fifty-minute episodes (roughly 250 years per segment), the history has had to be more selective than history ordinarily is. The documentary navigates a good and interesting course between major figures, events and ideas and interesting trivia and elements of the Christian experience.

Given the audio-visual nature of the documentary, there are lots of pictures of artwork, architecture, archaeological/historical sites, and re-creations of events; there is also a good deal of music as a background - in the first thousand years, the primary music of the church was plainsong and chant, so that is most frequently used here (besides the orchestrated theme and background music that turns up regularly).

One of the limitations of the audio-visual medium of documentaries is that deep theological issues cannot be examined in detail - one hopes that one of the benefits of a series like this is to spur interest in reading the actual works of the people being discussed. For example, a few excerpts from Augustine's 'Confessions' are used in that segment, but there is so much to Augustine that it is impossible even in a full documentary focussing exclusively on him to give more than a passing acquaintance with his work to the viewers. This is true for all major theological thinkers, from any era.

Another area of interest is in the historical development of Europe overall, during the first thousand years, and the spread of the church as the Europeans spread throughout the world, during the second thousand years. Again, the purpose of the documentary being to explore the history of the church, one should not expect a full historical development even of the areas directly touched upon - still, this documentary does a good job at setting the overall context in political, social, military, economic and intellectual terms.

This is a history produced in broad strokes - the overall aspects and trends of Christian history come through in good form, even if the details are not as fully developed as an historian might care to have. We have used these videos in church history classes at my seminary as a supplement to the primary texts and history surveys that students read - this really does help bring history to life.

The scholars represented on this video come from a very diverse background - the Roman Catholic and Orthodox members of the scholar team on this documentary may be surprised to find themselves classified and dismissed as 'Jesus Seminar types' (particularly people like Eastern Orthodox Archbishop Kalistos Ware); interestingly, this is not a documentary about the Bible, either what it says or how it was made - in this regard, that might be one of the gaps of this particular documentary series (how the Bible was made gets relatively little space in this video). On the other hand, A&E have another series, 'Who Wrote the Bible', which involves scholars, theologians and religious leaders who were involved in the production (and again, a diverse bunch - Jerry Falwell would not qualify as a 'Jesus Seminar' type either).

This is a very good video series for the novice, the general interest seeker, and for students and pastors who want an introduction or refresher into the overall scope of church history."
Remarkable diversity of perspective
Stanford Gibson | West Sacramento, CA USA | 08/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The producers of this film went to great pains to collect a diversity of talking heads. Their scholars span the spectrum from Stuart of Gordon Conwell and Justo Gonzalez to head of the Jesus Seminar. There are women scholars, popular writers and religious professionals in every imaginable garb, reflecting together on the history of the church. The visuals are of mixed quality. Several of the images are repeated ad nausium and the dramatizations are not very well done. However the content is relatively helpful. There are times when the film leaves remarkable latitude for traditional accounts and other times when it cites the most critical scholarship. There also seems to be a polemical juxtaposition of praise worthy individuals and institutions gone bad (with a focus on violence). My major complaint is that the series is not comprehensive enough and often feels anecdotal. It could easily have been twice as long. However, for the constraints it is an interesting discussion."