The Thursday Review: The Christ Files DVD

A review of John Dickson, The Christ Files DVD

Available in the UK from The Good Book Company and in the US from Amazon.

See also www.thechristfiles.com.au.

This is a great resource. It’s a lively look at the reliability of the historical evidence for Jesus. As presenter Dr John Dickson reminds us, unlike any other world religion, Christianity is founded on historical events. It stands or falls by the reliability of those claims.

Dickson examines the historical sources we have for Jesus. He starts with those furthest from the events (which allows him to debunk Dan Brown-style theories based on the Gnostic Gospels) and moves to the closer and more reliable sources, ultimately to the canonical Gospels (with a great discussion of the reliability of eyewitness evidence). The series ends cleverly with Tom Wright talking about the OT background to the Gospel and especially the OT background to the last supper which allows some pointers to the soteriological significance of the cross.

Here’s the outline:

  1. Gnostics and Romans. Examining manuscripts stretching from AD 250 to 75, Greco-Roman historians and the Gnostic gospels give us a picture of how the ancient world viewed Jesus of Nazareth.
  2. Jews and Christians. Starting with the records of Jesus’ own people, the Jews, we arrive at the early Christian sources, letters and biographies assembled between AD 90 and 48.
  3. Lost Sources and Oral Traditions. With a 20-year gap between Jesus’ death and the earliest written accounts of his life, we turn to the source of information considered most reliable in the 1st century – oral tradition.
  4. Archaeologists and Artefacts. Having uncovered a solid picture of the historical Jesus, archaeology helps us piece together the world in which Jesus lived, giving context to the things he said and did.

Along the way we are treated to interviews with a veritable bevy of top NT scholars – James Dunn, Richard Bauckham, Tom Wright, Marcus Bockmuehl, James Charlesworth, Martin Hengel and Geza Vermes among others.

The style of that the Discovery channel (without all that irritating repetition and without the build up to an ultimately disappointing reveal that seems to characterize documentaries on the Discovery Channel!). Dickson is an animated presenter (for British readers, he’s somewhat in the style of Adam Hart-Davis). The jump from serious interview with a NT scholar to a presentational gimmick can be slightly jarring in places. But the programmes hold your attention.

One of the great things about this product is its adaptability. The core product is 4 half-hour programmes. But there is also a one hour version (as shown on Australian TV) plus thematic chunks plus both shorter and extended interviews. If you’re teaching on the Gospels you can invite Richard Bauckham or Tom Wright or Vermes to contribute!

I could see myself using the DVD to supplement an evangelistic course like Christianity Explored. If someone asks about the reliability of the Gospel opr the historical evidence for Jesus then this would be a great resource to give to them. The slight difficulty with this is that, while Dickson himself is careful to be accessible, the interviewed scholars use jargon from the start.

I can also seeing myself using it to teach students. It would be a introduction to year one students or people training for leadership who need some background to the Gospels or who need to know how to counter arguments against their historical reliability without needing a whole course on the quest for the historical Jesus.

The DVD can be purchased here: purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US. The DVD is based on a book of the same name by John Dickson which you can purchase here purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US.

Here’s a video introduction to the DVD:

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8 thoughts on “The Thursday Review: The Christ Files DVD

  1. I’m proud his Australian. His ‘promoting the gospel’ is very worthy of review. If you don’t have it I’ll gladly send it to you!

  2. Thanks Tim for the review and unpacking the content. Do you think this would be a good and credible resource to use with muslim friends? Just thinking through how we could use it in that specific context.

  3. It’s a great series. Dickson has a good pedigree of pitching good gospel material to a variety of audiences. His initial books were for young people and I would buy 20 to 30 copies at a time for our youth group. His move into serious academia still has him focused on Jesus.

  4. We really need an edition of this in USA format. I love it that it’s done in the brash, flash, redneck Australian/American style, but makes use of the big British guns (Bockmuehl, Bauckham, Dunn, Wright). A great combination.

  5. Okay, I’m going to ask…

    Why do you need a “USA format”? I am aware of few (i.e. one) programme that’s been Australianised from the British version, and the British version is far more popular. We take everything else from England or America “as is”. But few, if any, imports to America make it unscathed.

    Why is that? I’m really curious.

  6. I’m not sutre what lay behind the comment about a US format, but it may be technical issue – Region 2 and Region 4 DVDs will not play on Region 1 DVD players.

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