I’m watching the new Channel 4 (UK) series, Christianity: A History:
“[an] Eight-part history of the Christian faith, looking at its origins, development and turbulent past. High-profile British personalities examine a religion that has particular resonance for them.”
I’ve watched several of the five episodes that have aired so far, but the one I’ve found most interesting was episode one, “Jesus the Jew”, which follows Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson‘s exploration of Jesus in his own time.
I have had a fascination with Jesus — as a historical figure, as a cult leader, as a phenomenon — most of my adult life. (In truth, I have a fascination with — and simultaneous aversion to — religion in general that started with an obsession with Greek and Roman mythology in my teens, but I grew up in Christianity and so that is the one that most consistently grabs my attention.) Despite having been raised a church-going Protestant, I’ve never been baptised, christened, or confirmed and so have never considered myself really a Christian (to my mother’s eternal disappointment). I’m definitely not one now and no amount of proselytising will ever make me one, not even on my deathbed. But that doesn’t quell my interest in the historical, mythological, and scholarly aspects of Jesus the man or the early centuries of Christianity. When I was cleaning out my bookcases the other day, I came across a number of books related to Jesus and the early Christian era. I’d forgotten I had so many. They include a copy of the English translations of the Nag Hammadi library (one of the very first things I ever bought on eBay in the 90s); several books about the Dead Sea Scrolls, Holy Grail, Shroud of Turin, and Jesus bloodline theories (including Laurence Gardner‘s The Bloodline of the Holy Grail and Michael Baigent‘s The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail); James D. Tabor‘s The Jesus Dynasty; The Quest for the True Cross by Carsten Peter Thiede; several books by Barbara Thiering (including Jesus the Man, Jesus and the Apocalypse, and The Book that Jesus Wrote — I bought them after reading The Bloodline of the Holy Grail, throughout which a number of her books were referenced frequently); and several books by Bart D. Ehrman (including The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot and Misquoting Jesus).
Yes, I know that many of them are considered poorly researched or biased, but they are an interesting read. The problem with books or sources that offer a more traditional and Christian-leaning perspective is that they tend to fall back on the Bible as proof, which is problematic if you don’t believe the Bible to be the word of God or indeed as anything more than a collection of highly subjective stories written by men, with all their personality flaws and societal biases. Not unlike the books mentioned above.