'Living in the Time of Jesus' to Air Tuesday

New documentary brings historical context to Jesus' world

Executive producer and three-time Emmy winner Simcha Jacobovici has recreated Jesus' days to the smallest detail in order to help the public better understand the story of Jesus.

The journalist has a new three-part documentary, titled "Living in the Time of Jesus," airing Tuesday night on the National Geographic Channel. According to Jacobovici, by understanding the physical history around Jesus' time the audience gets to connect on a human level.

The film, a two-year project, takes viewers on a journey to three iconic scenes in the Bible.

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"The idea was to look beyond three iconic scenes – the overturning of the tables, the blind man and the arrest at Gethsemane as opposed to most documentaries that would focus on the theology," Jacobovici explained.

"We decided to go in a sense behind this theme. Who are these people? Why are they changing money? What did it look like? What did it smell like? What clothes did these people wear? Or what did they do?"

"Most Christians know the Bible stories, but they don't know Jesus' world," he noted. "By understanding the jobs you understand the story better."

Although the focus of the series is Jesus, the true main characters are those whose lives intersect with him such as in the cleansing of the temple scene. Historically, who were the people that angered Jesus so intensely, the executive producer posed.

In the documentary host Arne Kislenko, associate professor of History at Ryerson University in Toronto, time travels to the answers by taking viewers to a living replica of the past. With him, viewers visit the lives of tax collectors, high priests, farmers, money changers, fishermen, weavers, and many other professionals in context with Jesus' quotidian life.

The host takes a stroll down the ancient streets in modern day Jerusalem where Jesus is believed to have walked to demonstrate what experts have said about Christ's world.

"People want to know; that's why they come to Israel, that's why they go on pilgrimages, they go to Nazareth, they go to Jerusalem," said Jacobovici.

In the first episode, which examines typical professions of the day, Dr. James Tabor of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte says it is more likely that Jesus was a stone mason than a carpenter.

On another interesting note, the film reveals that fishermen were economically comfortable and that miracle workers in Jesus' time were celebrities, mainly because people in biblical times faced death regularly – the average man lived about 31 years, the infant and child mortality were in the 50 percent range, and a mild ailment, like a cut on one's hand or a tooth abscess could become life-threatening.

Along with providing perspective on health care in biblical times, the other two episodes also provide context for the crucifixion of Christ.

Through the documentary, Jacobovici stressed that he only wishes to share the historical context of the Gospels and not refute people's beliefs, Christian or non-Christian.

"I don't think it will affect people's faith if he was a carpenter or a stonemason," he noted. "By understanding the sources it will connect them to the history. It will make people go back to the stories and look at it with new eyes.

"These stories are the pillars of western civilizations and we are giving textures to the stories we think we know and suddenly making people look at it with new eyes; it's a great feeling."

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