Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Who Was Jesus? (1977) is Now Online

I have blogged my fascination with the 1977 BBC documentary Who Was Jesus? on a couple of occasions (Caird, Flusser and Cupitt on Who Was Jesus? (1977) and Who Was Jesus? (1977)) and I've been really keen to see it for many years. I remember listening to my mum's audio recording of the series as a youngster; I have always been intrigued by Don Cupitt, whose views were something of a cause célèbre when I began theological study; my interest in the history of documentaries on the Bible is always growing; and perhaps more than anything I was very excited about the possibility of seeing one of my beloved teachers, John Fenton, on film. So when Peter Armstrong released a twenty minute clip back in 2013, there was some hope that there might be more on the way. Now that has happened!

Peter Armstrong, the producer of Who Was Jesus?, has now put all two hours of the documentary online for all to view for free. It's in two parts and it's fascinating in all sorts of ways:

Who Was Jesus?







Part 1 is in many senses the documentary proper. It includes the earlier released clip of the conversations with George Caird and David Flusser, but it also features an enjoyable exchange with Anthony Birley about the existence of Jesus, and the conversation with John Fenton I mentioned above.

Part 2 is largely Cupitt's reflections on what he has discovered in part 1, along with exchanges with Michael Green (including a great shot of him putting a board outside St Aldate's Church in Oxford, with Christ Church in the background), Christopher Butler, and Brian Hebblethwaite, all three of whom had recently contributed to The Truth of God Incarnate, the book written to counter The Myth of God Incarnate, to which Cupitt had contributed along with John Hick, Michael Goulder, Dennis Nineham, Frances Young and others.

In some respects the documentary appears rather dated. The scholars are almost all British white males of a certain age, and the interviews with them go on for long segments -- they are nothing like the twenty-second soundbites we get now. But in other respects, the documentary covers a lot of ground, and I can't help thinking that today's fast-paced documentaries lose something of the grace and space that Cupitt is given to develop his thoughts. Cupitt is a charming and compelling guide -- intrigued, troubled and personally engaged in the subject matter he is exploring.

2 comments:

Geoff Hudson said...

Don Cupitt's book The Sea of Faith was instrumental in changing the path of my life.

Geoff Hudson said...

Don Cupitt's book The Sea of Faith was published in 1984. The films Who Was Jesus were first shown in 1977. Cupitt's ideas in 1977 are considerably changed in his later 1984 book.