Searching for the Historical Jesus

Searching for the Historical Jesus


As the largest religion in the world, Christianity is comprised of thousands of denominations reflecting 2,000 years of ideas. While many branches of the faith vary wildly, they all spring from the same source: a rabbi from Galilee in the far provinces of the Roman Empire. To better understand Christianity today—and, thus, our world—you will journey back to the source and reflect on the man at the center of the Christian faith, the historical Jesus of Nazareth.

Christians all have their own unique understanding of Jesus:

  • The Son of God, who shares in his father’s identity;
  • The Messiah, who came to usher in the kingdom of God;
  • The preacher, who spoke out against the oppressive powers of his day;
  • And Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world today.

Who was this man? Where did he come from? And how would he have viewed his own ministry? As an investigation of these questions, Searching for the Historical Jesus takes you back two millennia to explore the history, context, and character of a humble rabbi who changed the world. Presented by Dr. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, a professor emeritus at Fielding Graduate University, and filmed on-location in Israel and Jordan in the Holy Land, these 15 thought-provoking episodes bring Jesus and his world to life through the lens of a historian of faith.

Not only can this history give us a better sense of our world today, but it can also deepen our own faith, whether Christian or not, as we reflect on:

  • The way Roman political structures created hunger and homelessness in the exploited province of Galilee;
  • The schools of Jewish thought and their interaction with Greco-Roman philosophy;
  • Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, miracles, prayers, and other works of ministry; and
  • The transformation of Jesus’s teachings into a church that spread around the world.

From the nativity in Bethlehem to Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem, and to his trial and crucifixion, Jean-Pierre reveals what we know from historical and archaeological evidence, including the Gospels, the writings of Josephus, and 21st-century excavations. He also delves into the mysteries of the faith, connects the Gospels to the Hebrew Bible prophets, and considers how Paul and other church fathers transformed the local message of Jesus into a world religion. You will travel in the footsteps of the historical Jesus, examining the story of the man and the faith he inspired, in the heart of the land where he lived and taught.

Full of vivid detail and psychological insight and illustrated with wonderful cinematography and 3-D animation, Searching for the Historical Jesus offers an excellent companion piece for anyone wrestling with history or with walking in faith.

Get to Know the Biblical World

After surveying the historical sources and archaeological evidence at our disposal, the first stop in your journey is an exploration of biblical Israel. At the turn of the Common Era, Judea was a province of the early Roman Empire and was under the control of the vassal king “Herod the Great.”

As you will learn, Jesus’s home of Galilee was an agricultural region in the north. Herod and his successors exploited the region for tax revenue to fund public works projects. Most Galileans likely were subsistence farmers, living on the knife’s edge of survival, so the king’s tax program led to the hunger and homelessness we see throughout the Gospels.

Jesus’s father, Joseph, was most likely a tradesman working on some of these public projects. Jean-Pierre shows you the textures of life in this era—the long days at work, the multi-family dwelling units, and the rebellious political fervor that would have been brewing thanks to Herod’s quasi-police state.

You will also reflect on what it would have been like for a young Mary to become pregnant out of wedlock. What would Joseph and their families have thought? Where did the story of the Virgin Birth come from? Where is the line between historical knowledge and religious belief?

Walk in the Footsteps of Jesus

Looking beyond the miracles and mysteries, the story of Jesus the man is fascinating and enlightening—and raises many questions for historians. For example, the prophet Micah wrote that the Savior would come from Bethlehem, and sure enough, the Gospels recount Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem when Jesus was born. But why were they there? Why did they travel so far from Galilee?

Evidence ranging from historical records to the Jewish Mishnah offers clues to the time, but we can only speculate today about human motivations 2,000 years ago. We know Jesus would possibly have been taught scripture by the Pharisees, but what was his relationship with Jewish leaders? Further, what was his relationship with his family like? Was he speaking from experience when he counsels his disciples that they may need to leave their families?

Over these 15 rich episodes, Jean-Pierre offers historical details that may help us understand the motive behind the message. We travel with Jesus from Galilee to Perea as he is baptized by John the Baptist, and then he prepares for his own ministry. We follow him into Jerusalem and speculate what he might have felt upon seeing the sacrifices and money changers in the Temple—the “den of thieves.” And we walk with him through the Garden of Gethsemane before his final moments in this life on the cross.

The Son of Man or the Son of God?

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, we see a man grappling with the challenges of a particular time and place. We see the Zealots reacting against the powers of Rome, and we witness Jesus modulating the political message of John the Baptist into a social message of love.

Although he called himself the “Son of Man,” Christians view Jesus as the “Son of God.” We cannot understand the historical Jesus without delving into the theology of how one man’s ministry became a movement—in large part thanks to the apostle Paul, who carried Jesus’s message throughout the Roman Empire.

From the high priests of Judaism to Gnostic Christians to the Catholic Church, Jean-Pierre examines the mystery of Jesus after the brutality of his crucifixion. With generous quotes from scripture, 3-D animation, and beautiful cinematography of historical sites, Searching for the Historical Jesus brings to life a man whose message shaped the world.

Released 11/2022

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