From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians

From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians

Explore the life of Jesus and the movement he started, by challenging
familiar assumptions and conventional notions about Christianity’s
origins. FRONTLINE draws upon controversial new historical evidence and
interviews with New Testament scholars to trace Jesus’ life. The film
focuses on events after his death and on his first followers, men and
women whose beliefs, conviction, and martyrdom transformed the Roman
Empire in just 300 years.

HOUR ONE examines how Judaism and the
Roman empire shaped Jesus’ life. Jesus was an ordinary Jewish resident
of his time, but new archaeological findings show that Jesus was
probably not the humble village peasant often portrayed. Nazareth, where
he grew up, was about four miles from the cosmopolitan urban center of
Sepphoris, one of the Roman provincial cities.

While Rome defined
one dimension of Jesus’ world, the other was symbolized by the great
Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was born, lived, and died a Jew, and he was
influenced by the diversity and tensions of Judaism at that time.

Jesus
was most likely arrested and executed by Roman authorities whose
principal concern was to keep peace in the empire Rome had little
tolerance for those it judged disruptive of the Pax Romana, (Roman
peace) punishing them in many ways, including crucifixion.

The
death of Jesus was a Roman act; there was little if any notice taken by
Jewish people. Jesus was another victim of the Pax Romana.

HOUR
TWO explores the period after the crucifixion of Jesus and traces the
beginnings of the Jesus Movement, in those early years before it was
called Christianity:

The Jesus Movement began as a sect within
Judaism. Along the way, the early Christians branched out and spread
their message to non-Jews or gentiles (meaning “nations”). The Apostle
Paul had a profound impact on this spread; around 50 C.E., Paul
travelled away from the traditional centers of the Jesus Movement and
began to found new churches in Greco-Roman cities. Paul’s letters to
these fledgling congregations mark the first writings of the New
Testament.

Meanwhile, expectations about the coming of the
Kingdom of God and spiraling tensions between Jews and Rome would
culminate in a catastrophic Jewish revolt against Rome from 66-70 C.E.,
ending in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple–the center of
Jewish spiritual life. The traumatic failure of this revolt would
dramatically affect the future for Jews and Christians.

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