Television just loves Christmas specials. Why, just the other evening I was channel-surfing the satellite dish and came across The Secret Lives of Jesus (Jesus was a petulant child who hurt other kids and as a grown-up had a “special” relationship with Mary Magdalene — oh, and was never really crucified), The Gospel of Judas (he was really a sensitive, sweet guy that Jesus confided in who got a bad rap because Jesus actually asked him to be his betrayer), and a show about the book of Revelation that described the Apostle John (if that’s your real name) as a bitter, half-crazed old man sleeping on rocks and lashing out at society. I also saw a few minutes of a show where an archeologist “discovered” the natural reason why the Pool of Bethesda could have looked as if an angel occasionally stirred the water.
No doubt these were all meticulously researched documentaries dedicated to digging out the truth, though I noticed that a guard leading Jesus away from Herod in one of the re-enactments was wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes under his long robe. The programs all seemed to have the requisite talking heads with impressive religious and academic titles and scholarly accents for authenticity, though I suspect that a closer examination might find they and their theories about as credible as David Duke addressing a conference of holocaust deniers. As for the Gospel of Judas, the experts can prove that the fragments of the codex are old, but not that it’s anything other than a self-serving treatise from the already discredited Gnostic canon. I suppose it’s kind of like someone 2000 years in the future finding a portion of Ward Churchill’s 9-11 account and saying, “Aha – I knew it all along!”
It’s interesting that these shows all happen to be scheduled at this time of year, but at least it allows for easier side-by-side comparision. As far as credibility goes, I think the programs I glimpsed all fall short of other seasonal productions such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” (Amazing scientific fact: Bumbles bounce!)