What do we really know about the last days of the life of Jesus Christ and the development of Christianity? Peter Jennings Reporting – Jesus and Paul: The Word and The Witness, a three hour documentary, three years in the making, examines the origins of Christianity.
This program is a sequel to the two-hour special Peter Jennings Reporting – The Search for Jesus, which aired on ABC.
The Word and The Witness is an ambitious project that sets out to discover how a tiny, marginal Jewish sect – one of many messianic Jewish groups that gained a foothold at the edge of the Roman Empire – survived the crucifixion and spread across the Mediterranean to become the religion we know today as Christianity. The program seeks to shed light on the genesis of ideas that continue to inform, and in some cases, haunt the way we think and live in 21st Century America.
It is an epic story. In the year 28 of the first century, Rome ruled the world from Europe to Damascus. The Caesars were gods and most people knew nothing about a young Jewish peasant named Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus died on the cross around the year 33 AD, he left behind a small and frightened group of followers struggling to make sense of his humiliating end. As the noted author Karen Armstrong says, “I mean if anyone had said this is a great idea for a new religion, a man who died a disgraceful death of a common criminal in an obscure province of the Roman Empire who is in some way divine, people would have laughed in your face!” Yet within a few decades the small Jesus movement had spread across the Mediterranean. Against the odds, in spite of ridicule and suspicion, a new religion was taking shape.
Paul the Apostle, more than anyone else, may have been the man who made that happen. Like Jesus he was born and raised a Jew and they lived around the same time. But it is likely that Paul never actually met the living Jesus. He is depicted in the Bible as the great interpreter of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the man who marketed Jesus to a wider audience. He remains a controversial figure today: Paul’s about love and tolerance are read for inspiration at weddings and for consolation at funerals – but he has also been called the father of Christian anti-Semitism.
Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness probes the origins of the faith that has come to dominate the Western world, examining the earliest Christian message and the forces that gave birth to these remarkable ideas which have shaped the way so many people worship and what they believe today.
Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness first aired April 5, 2004 on ABC.
AWARDS, PRESS & TRANSCRIPT:
The Chris Award – Bronze Plaque
SENIOR PRODUCER Jeanmarie Condon
CORRESPONDENT Peter Jennings
WRITTEN BY Peter Jennings & Jeanmarie Condon
PRODUCER Ralph Avellino
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Ben McCoy
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER Jenna Millman
EDITOR Ralph Avellino
ADDITIONAL EDITING Joel Herson
SOUND RECORDIST Steven Lederer
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Tom Yellin