Premieres Fridays at 9pm from 19 February on Freesat 160, Virgin Media 276 and Sky 534
Professor Jonathan Phillips presents this six-part series tracing the early history of Christianity, spanning four centuries and seven countries across the Middle East.
The first episode visits the Holy Land as Jonathan begins his 12,000-mile journey in Bethlehem, arriving on Christmas Eve to find thousands of pilgrims. Beneath the Church of the Nativity lies the cave-like grotto where it is believed that Jesus was born. As the boy grew into a man, details of his life are difficult to trace, not least because of the differences between the four gospels of the New Testament. It is important to remember that these are not biographies as we understand the term – they are transcripts of oral history, written at least a generation after Christ’s death. Jonathan follows Jesus across the sites mentioned in the gospels, where he began his ministry and is said to have performed many of his miracles. Finally, Jonathan moves on to Jerusalem. The city was the spiritual centre of Judaism, a religion not practised but tolerated by the occupying Romans, whose beliefs were loosely based on paganism. It was here that Jesus spent the last week of his life before his arrest and crucifixion. The Messiah was gone, but the torch he had lit would prove to be inextinguishable.