Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Caird, Flusser and Cupitt on Who Was Jesus? (1977)

Peter Armstrong, producer of Who Was Jesus? (BBC, 1977), has uploaded a twenty minute clip of the programme to Vimeo, and it makes fascinating viewing.  The documentary was a two hour BBC investigation into the historical Jesus conducted by Don Cupitt, dean of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and one of the original media dons.  This segment of the programme features Cupitt interviewing George Caird in, one assumes, his office, with books neatly ordered on the shelves behind, followed by some footage of a woman (unnamed) handling Qumran fragments, gluing pieces together and looking at them under the microscope.  Then David Flusser is interviewed also, presumably, in his office with books and papers less neatly stacked up behind him:

There are so many features of interest here to those interested in the history of New Testament scholarship and TV documentaries.  I had never seen David Flusser on film before, so that itself is a fascinating experience.  And although I recently saw George Caird on film for the first time, in the Mansfield College video produced by the same Peter Armstrong, here one experiences another side of the man, somewhat more relaxed and frequently smiling.  His comments about Jesus not expecting the end of the world and instead expecting the end of Israel's world very much prepares the way for his student N. T. Wright.

The style of documentary is also fascinating.  On the evidence of this segment, audiences 36 years ago were more patient than they are now.  It is much less sound-bitey, more conversational and as a result -- I would say -- more engaging than many a modern documentary.  The piece really does not speak down to its audience, and even tackles the possibility of Aramaic sources behind Luke's Gospel using graphics that still look nice decades later.

And it's a reminder that Don Cupitt himself really was the master of this kind of documentary.  He cuts a younger and more dashing figure than I recall from the 1980s, and he has an inquisitive, non-patronising means of delivery.

I can't wait to see more of this documentary.  Many thanks to Peter Armstrong for making this section available, and thanks to Matthew Montonini for spotting it and blogging it.


Stephen Goranson said...

I think I saw David Flusser on film, a different one. I'm not sure which, but my first guess is the 1991 PBS Nova show "Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls." I may be mistaken.

Hoxworths said...

It just cuts off and leaves you hanging! I'm looking forward to the rest of this being digitized/uploaded.