Documentary Exploring the Life of Jesus Christ Planned
With the full backing of the BYU administration, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship—in partnership with Religious Education, BYU Broadcasting and the department of Theatre and Media Arts—is laying plans to begin filming a seven-part documentary series on the ministry and life of Jesus Christ, beginning with his role as premortal Deity, continuing through his mortality, and ending with his role as judge of all. The series is provisionally titled Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God. The project envisions a high definition series that presents the views of Brigham Young University scholars. Each of the twenty-six minute episodes will explore a segment of the Savior's mission and will feature contemporary scholarly discussions regarding the Savior's ministry.
The series was conceived by S. Kent Brown, current director of FARMS and the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, largely in response to the impressively produced 1998 PBS documentary series From Jesus to Christ. Although that series offered a lot of good information about Jesus and his times, its editors began from a viewpoint of non-faith. Brown judged that a documentary series that rests on the broader range of LDS scripture, paired with insights from modern prophets and apostles, will offer to Latter-day Saints, particularly college-age individuals, a more complete picture of the Savior, his times, and his notable achievements.
In 1999, Brown gathered together a blue-ribbon panel of BYU scholars whose combined efforts produced a ninety-page basic document that, since then, has guided students, faculty members, and filmmakers who have worked on the project. As is customary, the basic document and the film script that rests on it have undergone several rigorous reviews that have refined and improved the information that will appear in the final film.
As background, groups and individuals within the academic world are looking critically at Jesus as a historical figure. Many question the validity of the gospel accounts based on inconsistencies—between the gospels themselves, between the Bible and other historical documents, and between the apostles' stories and what is thought to be "known" of the culture. They are constructing a revised history of Christianity based on modern notions of ethnography, social science, etc. Although no consensus view exists among so many scholars, the general leaning is similar, in that it moves away from the divine or miraculous. In their broad view, Jesus was a charismatic leader, a traditional mystic, a wise philosopher, or (perhaps most popularly at the moment) a social critic and an instigator. In this perspective, his followers were zealots, biased and inaccurate in their writing, and their collective enthusiasm produced the visions attributed to a resurrection. Significantly, according to this view, the persistence of the Savior's reputation and following is largely inexplicable.
The project Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God will also include a Web site where the resources used in the television broadcast (the standard works, statements of modern prophets and apostles, and historical records) can be accessed to allow viewers to explore further beliefs and doctrines about Jesus Christ.
The seven parts will include: Premortal Savior, Birth, Authority, Ministry, Death, Resurrection, Apostasy and Restoration.