JESUS IS THE QUESTION: Frontline, the PBS investigative documentary series, takes on the central mystery of Western Civilization in a two-part show entitled From Jesus To Christ, which airs at 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, April 6 and 7, on KUAT-TV, Channel 6. The shows run 120 minutes each night, so you'll want to buy those long-playing VCR tapes to record this Easter holiday blow-out.
And "blow-out" is the operative word: This is not your old Sunday-school version of the Jesus story, inspiring and full of hope for life everlasting though it may be. Instead, it's an excellent overview of the latest archaeological discoveries and historical thinking about Jesus the man, his troubled times, and how the people and events after his death gave rise to the early church that spread Christ's fame. It's a nuts-and-bolts (or nail-and-cross) look at the gritty--and often grim--reality of provincial life under Roman rule.
Among the documentary's many startling tidbits--startling, at least, for those who haven't been paying attention to the recent worldwide flowering of Jesus studies--is the contention that Jesus likely didn't spend his youth as some humble country bumpkin. He may have been humble, but his hometown of Nazareth was actually a sophisticated suburb of a worldly Roman settlement and a hotbed of radicalism and political activism.
Thus, if Jesus were a carpenter's son, as the Bible says, it's entirely possible he occasionally worked for the upper classes of the Roman Empire exploiting his little corner of the world. And, the scholars speculate, he likely would have spoken more than one language, too, at least while he was pounding nails and hustling for business with his old man.
From Jesus To Christ does a good job of explaining the tightrope high Jewish religious authorities were forced to walk in those days of Roman occupation, and how as a result their temple, Judaism holiest of holies, may have been seen by radical Jews as defiled by this balancing act. Anyone for overthrowing the money-changers' stalls?
The historical record indicates Jesus was far from the only wandering firebrand/teacher/prophet in the area at the time. His life, some scholars conclude, may not even have been all that remarkable--plenty of others purported to perform miracles and healings in those days. But Jesus' death, they readily concede, was undoubtedly one of the most significant events in human history--like, duh.
How that came to be, however, is a fascinating tale that occupies most of this eye-opening program; and most fascinating of all are the events of the first century after Jesus' execution, when his followers were still very much Jews. How the Jesus movement within Judaism grew to overwhelm the oppressive Roman Empire in a mere 300 years is, truly, one of the greatest stories ever told, but certainly not the prettiest. We urge you to check it out.
POETIC LICENSE REVOKED: In last week's insert, which included a complete guide to the Tucson Poetry Festival, the poem "The Greatest Show," by 1998 Statewide Poetry Contest winner Carol Ebbecke, contained one egregious error as well as a couple lesser ones. The last half of the poem should have read as follows:
...She stared at the gaps,The insert's editor, Jami McCarty, regrets the errors. Ebbecke will read her winning poem, correctly and in its entirety, on Saturday, April 4, at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.
CREATIVE KUDOS: And while we're on the subject of local talent, congratulations are in order to Alison Moore, Germaine W. Shames, and The Weekly's own Stacey Richter, each of whom received a $5,000 creative writing fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts last month. Out of the 128 applicants, three of the six winners reside in Tucson.
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