NT Pod in 2011 came out last night and it is headed "Did Jesus exist?" It is a short series of reflections on the so-called "mythicist" case with specific reference to two mythicists I have met, George Wells and Timothy Freke. I first met Tim on Channel 4's Right to Reply, in 2001, when he had recorded a piece critical of the BBC's Son of God (Jesus: The Complete Story in the USA). His piece criticized the BBC for not tackling the mythicist case head-on, and the article also featured short critiques of the series from Tom Wright and Judith Lieu. I was in the studio with Right to Reply presenter Roger Boulton, co-producer of Son of God Michael Wakelin and Timothy Freke.
I also reflect briefly on an earlier appearance on Right to Reply, back in 1984, when I was just 17. I was responding to the series Jesus: The Evidence, which featured several scholars of interest -- Geza Vermes, Helmut Koester, Dennis Nineham, Morton Smith. I was a precocious schoolboy and I recorded my little piece in the "video box" in Charlotte Street in London and was amazed when they decided to include it in the programme the next day. The video clip is long since lost (thank goodness), but the series itself survives in several scratchy Youtube versions, which I have blogged about on several occasions (previous blog posts on this series here). It looks peculiarly dated for something not that old, but it retains a real fascination for me. As far as I know, it is the only series ever to provide mini-reconstructions of the life of Rudolf Bultmann.
Anyway, the first episode of Jesus: The Evidence featured George Wells (Youtube excerpt of the Wells segement here) and I discuss that in the latest podcast. Twenty years later, I got to meet George Wells in London when he graciously came along to listen at a lecture series day in London which I shared with John Barton and John Muddiman. I greatly enjoyed our chat.
Wading into an area like Jesus mythicism is, of course, a risky business, but I think it is worthwhile, not least because it is something that can keep Historical Jesus scholars honest. I think it helps us to reflect too on the nature of ancient history. This episode came about because I am about to begin teaching my course on the Historical Jesus this week, and it's a topic that will be in my thinking.
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