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Beware of PBS television series - FRONTLINE: “From Jesus to Christ, the First Christians”

America's PBS television (Public Broadcasting System - viewer and tax supported) is currently broadcasting a seductive, but dangerously inaccurate film series about Jesus Christ and the early church. The series is part of the FRONTLINE program and is entitled "From Jesus to Christ, the First Christians."[1]

The series was developed by a producer who appears to enjoy using his position to promote left-wing, liberal beliefs.[2] He promises to reveal "the real story of the rise of Christianity… challenging and upsetting conventional ideas." One of the scholars used in the series is the liberal Jesus Seminar co-founder John Dominic Crossan[3], [4]. The series also heavily promotes their PBS Web site on this subject, which among other things promotes: "Writings from, and about, the Jesus Seminar, the controversial group of scholars which meets and determines, by vote, the veracity of stories and texts about Jesus."

It is worthy of note that no evangelical scholars were used in the series. Rather, the emphasis was on people from such liberal institutions as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Brown, Union, etc. According to Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary, the series "does not acknowledge distinctively evangelical perspectives at any point."[5]

Pam Johnson of World Magazine reports, "Biblical Christians will hardly recognize their Savior. Professors Michael White, Allen Callahan, Shaye Cohen, Eric Meyers, Paula Fredriksen, Holland Hendrix and Mr. Crossan paint a picture of Jesus as a wheeling, dealing artisan-turned-follower-of-John-the Baptist-turned-preacher—complete with the standard-issue bag of miracles that sometimes 'miss the mark.' His message was '100 percent political and 100 percent religious,' which led the Romans—not the priests and Pharisees—to want Jesus crucified for insurrection. …They blow Peter and Paul's disagreement over dietary concerns into a power struggle that was decided in favor of Peter by a pecunious, ham-fisted James (and Paul goes off in a huff to proselytize the Gentiles.)"[6]

After viewing the first episode, I have to agree. And its gets worse. In summary, this series is based on inaccurate assumptions and cleverly promotes the beliefs of a carefully chosen group of liberal scholars. If you choose to watch this series, be aware of this, and be sure to take the time to learn the rest of the story.

For a start, check out our Web site on Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, the Jesus Seminar and more.

REFERENCES

  1. William Cran, director, Frontline: From Jesus to Christ, the First Christians (PBS - WGBH Boston/WTVS Detroit/WPBT Miami/WNET New York/KCTS Seattle, Broadcast April 6-7, 1998).
  2. Laurence Jarvik, PBS, Behind the Screen (Prima Publishing, 1998), 368 pp.
  3. John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1995), 224 pp.
  4. William F. Buckley, Jr., et al, Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up! The Jesus Seminar's Dr. John Dominic Crossan vs. Dr. William Lane Craig (Turner-Welninski Publishing, 1995).
  5. Steve Rabey, "Series Examines Christian Origins," Christianity Today magazine (April 6, 1998).
  6. Pam Johnson, "The PBS Jesus Seminar: Special Easter show tries to undermine Christ," World Magazine (April 4, 1998), p. 23.

Author: Paul S. Taylor of Films for Christ.

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