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BBC TV - The Miracles of Jesus

BBC1 is showing a 3-week series of programmes about the miracles of Jesus, presented by Rageh Omar. We've had parts 1 and 2, taking us up to the crucifixion; part 3, next week, will deal with the resurrection.

I'm finding it difficult to decide what is the real thrust of the series. Omar makes a few concessions to scepticism, mentioning almost in passing that some people question the reality of some of the cures, the walking on water, the stilling of the storm and so on. But he keeps saying that this isn't really what matters, and that he mainly wants to find out how the miracles would have been viewed by Jesus's contemporaries and what they would mean to Jesus himself. He makes the remarkable claim that a consideration of the miracles allows us an insight into Jesus's mind.

I'm beginning to think that this series is really a piece of Christian propaganda. The scriptural account is taken as authentic throughout and there is no suggestion that things may not have happened as described, still less that they may be fictitious. And the conclusion we are being led to is that Jesus thought he was divine. There has been no discussion of the psychological improbability that such an idea would have occurred to a first-century Jew.

Having done a certain amount of reading about questions of this kind in the last year, I'm finding it difficult to take presentations such as this very seriously. See, for example, The Jesus Puzzle, by Earl Doherty; The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, by Robert M. Price; and Misquoting Jesus, by Bart D. Ehrman. These are all serious scholarly accounts of the origins of Christianity. They may be mistaken, of course, but at least they make a case to be answered. Programme series such as the present one on the BBC simply fail to make the grade.

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