Synopsis: The crucifixion is the iconic image of Christianity — the key event from which all else will flow. But this defining moment for Christians barely registers as a blip in Roman history. So how did one man and a few of his followers galvanize a spiritual movement that would become the official religion of the Roman Empire, and one of the most widely practiced faiths in the world today?
Jesus’ rise to power is the ultimate underdog story. During an era when people were defined by the manner of their death, the crucifixion should have branded Jesus as a failure. But instead of squashing a movement, Jesus’ execution sparked a religion. In roughly 400 years, the little-known Judaic church of Jesus transformed into the religious and political powerhouse it is today. In the new three-part special Jesus: Rise to Power, Roman history expert Dr. Michael Scott journeys through the deserts and cities of the ancient world to reveal the epic events that formed the backbone of Christianity.
"What has always fascinated me is why this epic story has the same outcome, but two often contradictory accounts." explains Dr. Scott. To find out what really happened, he’ll meet with the world’s top historians, while visiting significant sites in ancient history to examine key religious artifacts and use dramatic re-enactments to guide viewers through the evolution of Christianity.
From the crucifixion, a rival Messiah and a series of Roman persecutions (including accusations of cannibalism for "eating the body of Christ"), Jesus’ followers overcame remarkable odds. Dr. Scott explains how the Christian message spread and grew through Roman expertise and technology; how it became more visible and therefore more vulnerable to attack by the Roman authorities; and how it organized itself and broke away from its Jewish roots.
Jesus of Nazareth is arguably one of the most influential figures in all of human history. His life inspired a movement, and his legacy as the Messiah gave birth to an entire religion. But around 100 years after his crucifixion, a second, self-proclaimed messiah threatened the existence of Christianity. If Simon the Son of a Star had succeeded in reconquering Jerusalem and replacing Roman rule with Jewish rule, the modern-day Church might not now exist. Historian Dr. Michael Scott peels back layers of history and faith to reveal how Christianity survived insurmountable odds — including Simon, the crucifixion and Roman persecution — to become a worldwide political and religious force.
Willing to die for their faith, Christian martyrs resisted Rome’s pagan rituals and were condemned as cannibals for “eating the body of Christ” at communion. But instead of stamping out Christianity, Roman persecution actually helped the faith to spread. Jesus: Rise to Power brings to life with dramatic re-enactments the legendary acts of defiance that helped unite believers across the vast Roman Empire — including the story of Perpetua, the beautiful martyr who helped her executioner put the sword to her own throat. Historian Dr. Michael Scott examines archeological artifacts and ancient letters between Roman authorities who were faced with the tough decision to either tolerate the growing religion or condemn its followers to public death by stoning, whipping and crucifixion.
Against a backdrop of political instability, power struggles and civil unrest, Dr. Michael Scott and a team of biblical scholars chart the rise of Christianity in the ancient world. Many Christians died during Diocletian’s Great Persecution, but once again Christianity pulled through, and this time it had an organized hierarchy bound together by the struggle to survive: the Church. Recognizing its indomitable spirit, the next emperor, Constantine, made the controversial decision to adopt Christianity and move the capital from Rome to Constantinople. Following Constantine, Emperor Julian attempted to disempower Christians, but the bond between church and state was irreversible, until in AD 381 Emperor Theodosius outlawed paganism and finally proclaimed Christianity the one and only legal religion.