(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Those eager to learn more about the implications of the first Christmas can catch PBS' replay of a two-part Frontline documentary about the history of Christianity on Dec. 24 and New Year's Eve.
With the input of 12 New Testament theologians, archeologists, scholars and historians, "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" attempts to present a broad and in-depth view of the lives of the Jews under the Roman Empire and the larger geopolitical context of the first hundred years after Christ, drawing on archaeological evidence and analyzing the Gospels and other historical writings to make its claims.
The series notably does not attempt to address Christ's claims of divinity, but instead directs its attention to explaining historical and cultural claims.
The show's first two hours hone in on the Jewish context in which Jesus was born and its fraught relationship with Rome. It then discusses the immediate years after Jesus' death, including Paul's missionary journeys and a failed Jewish revolt against Rome that lasted from 66-70 A.D., which culminated with the destruction of the Temple.
The final two hours, which will play on Dec. 31, investigates the writing of the Gospels, who their authors and their audiences were, and attempts to sort out the discrepancies in the narratives. It also discusses the uneasy relationship that ultimately divided Christian and Jewish groups.
In the documentary's final hour, Christianity's growth within the Roman Empire and the threat Romans felt it posed is also explored. Indeed, by the fourth century, under Constantine, the religion essentially became co-opted by Rome, which irreversibly affected the dynamic of the once underground religion.
The program is also available to watch for free online.