FRONTLINE presents the epic story of the rise of Christianity. Drawing upon new and sometimes controversial historical evidence, the series transports viewers back 2000 years to the time and place where Jesus of Nazareth once lived and preached and challenges familiar assumptions and conventional notions about the origins of Christianity. Program 1 traces the life of Jesus of Nazareth, exploring the message that helped his ministry grow and the events that led to his crucifixion around 30 C.E. The film then turns to the period that followed Jesus' death, examining the rise of Christianity and concluding with the first revolt - the bloody and violent siege of Jerusalem and the beginning of a rift between Christianity and Judaism. The broadcast explores new evidence suggesting that Jesus' followers, because of their diversity and the differences in their cultures and languages, looked at and interpreted Jesus and his teachings in many different ways. Hour three follows the story of the first attempts to write the life of Jesus - The Gospels. The Gospels were products of social and religious reconstruction in the period after the war, ranging from roughly 70 to after 100 C.E. The program looks at how these stories were passed down before they were written and how the writing of each Gospel reflects the experiences and circumstances of early Christians. They do not all tell the same story of Jesus because each one is responding to a different audience and circumstances. For example, Matthew's gospel is clearly written for a Jewish Christian audience; it is the most Jewish of all the gospels. During this time, a growing tension appeared between the emergent Christian groups and their Jewish neighbors. The result was a process of debate, identity, and separation that shaped both religious traditions forever. And there were still other external forces, including a second, devastating Jewish war, the Bar Kochbah revolt, which erupted in 132 C.E. The final hour documents the extraordinary events of the second and third centuries in which Christianity grew from a small Jewish sect to an official religion of the Roman Empire.
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