Discovery Channel // 2011 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // March 12th, 2011
Faith: A strong or unshakeable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence.
Why did I start this review with a definition of the word "faith"? As someone who believes in God and the Bible, I was interested to see what take the producers of this documentary would have on the subject matter. With the stage set by the re-discovery of an ancient fragment of papyrus, would they be setting out to disprove the authenticity of the Bible and, by association, the life and/or divinity of Christ? Or would they be aiming to present scientific proof or evidence that directly links this document with people or events that occurred during the time of Jesus, proving the authenticity of the Bible? For me at least, constantly seeking concrete evidence or irrefutable proof flies in the face of the faith required to believe in something unseen.
My faith is at the core of my spiritual beliefs, and by its very nature, my faith means I believe in things that may not necessarily be 100 percent proven by scientific evidence. For most of us, the Bible is either an historical document, a collection of old stories and mythology, or a divinely-inspired record written by many authors over a wide period of time. Regardless of what group you fall into, do you have an intense need to know if the Bible is actually as old as most of us already believe it is? Apparently, the producers of Eyewitness to Jesus saw this as a valuable topic to be explored in a 94-minute documentary.
The documentary features British journalist and former deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph Matthew D'Ancona, and author of two books on Christian theology: The Jesus Papyrus and The Quest for the True Cross. Throughout the documentary, D'Ancona retraces the steps of Reverend Charles B. Huleatt, the man who originally discovered the fragments of papyrus, that included writing from the Gospel of Matthew, in 1901 in Luxor, Egypt. Huleatt donated the fragments to his alma mater Magdalen College in Oxford, England, where they remained for nearly a century until they were rediscovered by German archeologist and New Testament scholar Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede. It was Thiede's work that led experts to believe that the fragments included writing that dated back to the time of Christ. As fascinating as the subject matter may sound, Eyewitness to Jesus could have been about half its final length, without losing any of the impact of the content. As it stands, the documentary feels too long, with the content spread too thin, as it plods along at a snail's pace.
The A/V presentation is average, offering nothing particularly noteworthy in its non-anamorphic presentation and weak 2.0 audio mix. There are no extra features of any kind included with this release; for anyone interested in D'Ancona's work and research, I'd recommend seeking out his books.
While I understand that linking Biblical writing to actual historical events may have value for some, I don't think there is any doubt the content was written before, during, and after the life of Jesus Christ. While Eyewitness to Jesus offers some interesting info, ultimately, it takes a long time to cover a relatively straightforward topic.
Guilty only of trying to be more than it is.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Discovery Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated