Friday, January 29, 2010

Introducing: The Christ Files.

Here is an excellent resource for all those interested in understanding the study of the historical Jesus. There is both a book and a dvd, I recommend the dvd as it can be showed to a crowd and has other fantastic features on it too.

Anyway, this resource was created by ancient historian, Dr John P. Dickson, an Australian who is a senior research fellow at Macquarie University and the director of the 'Centre for Public Christianity' which is an Australian research and media organization that seeks to promote the public understanding of Christianity as defined in the Nicene Creed.

So, what is it exactly? Well, its an attempt to show the world how historians actually look at the figure of Jesus. There are two important qualifications to make about it first.
1)Its not strictly apologetic. No claims are made throughout the whole dvd (I have not read the book) that would be controversial as it where.
2)All the scholars who are interviewed are Christians of various breeds and a couple of Jews.

These are important for Christians to understand as this dvd is not meant to persuade anyone of anything, more they are just getting the normal, scholarly lowdown on Jesus. What it will do is disabuse people of the notion that Jesus never existed and that the gospels are hopelessly biased and written to late to be of any value.

So, how does it work? Well, Dr. Dickson takes the viewer through the various manuscript evidence for the existence of Jesus, starting way out with the gnostic gospels and slowly moving closer until you are dealing with the gospels and the hidden sources within them. It is structured as a series of interviews with brief summing up points along the way. The Interviewees are all professors in universities who have studied the areas in which they are interviewed, and they are conducted in a very free way so that the answers are long and deep (and sometimes hidden beneath thick Jewish accents).

As i said earlier, this is not really apologetic, Dr. Dickson is careful not to go beyond the evidence. The aim is much more to show the world that no, Jesus did not marry Mary, there is no evidence of that, and that no, he was not part of some secret order. Basically its a way to clearly explain to the world what is really happening in Jesus scholarship, as opposed to just fantastic stories one is likely to hear in public books (i.e. the Da Vinci code etc).

Also, with the dvd you also get extended interviews with the scholars that are interviewed (the ones in the documentary tend to be cut down just to get the main points) and these interviews are long. Up to an hour long. They are full of goodness and food for thought, I highly recommend the interview with German Scholar Martin Hengel. He died in July last year, which was incredibly sad, but he was old. He is often considered a pioneer of biblical studies and one of the leading lights of biblical studies of the last century. Also there is a good interview with Richard Bauckham on there too.

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