Media Matter Nick Thomas
Let's look on the bright side. At least the BBC still acknowledge Easter as a religious festival, rather than just an excuse for screening even more old films than usual, and commissioned Jeremy Bowen's series Son of God. The corporation also showed its reverence for the event the only way corporations know how, by indulging in gratuitous expense. It was fair enough to send Bowen to Palestine k) film this investigation, but a quick hop to New York and back, just to talk to a forensic scientist about people sweating blood under extreme stress, seemed a little over the top.
That was another minor detail in the quest for evidence to support the Gospels that was interesting in its way, though hardly worthy of the breathless excitement Bowen evinced throughout. He found another scientist who was testing the strength of the human hand with and without the support of the legs, in order to determine exactly where the Romans put the nails when crucifying their victims, and one did feel that this gentleman's time could have been better spent.
As for the much-trailed rebuilding of a first century Jewish face, I have to say that. the result bore an uncanny resemblance to the 21st century Jewish face belonging to a chum of mine called Rob, who must have been vastly amused to find his mug on the front cover of Radio Times. What on earth was the point of going to all that trouble on the skull of an unidentified man roughly contemporary of Christ? I think we already knew that He was Jewish, didn't we?
There was a paradox at the heart of Son of God. When practical historians set out to discover whether Julius Caesar was telling porky pies about his achievements, by building bridges with Roman tools and so forth, it can be surprisingly gripping stuff. But Christians can justly feel patronised when scientists or reporters set out to "prove" their beliefs for them. Deep down somewhere is the desire to destroy faith by making it redundant, a nasty and ultimately evil impulse.
I'm Out suggesting that this was Jeremy Bowen's conscious purpose. but at the very least he was guilty of missing the point by a mile. To hear him announce that Jesus undoubtedly existed in first century Palestine you'd have thought he'd stumbled on the greatest scoop of his career, whereas, as far as I'm aware, this simple historical truth has never and nowhere been in doubt. Where Christians differ with those of other faiths and none is, of course, principally over the divinity and Resurrection of Christ, and I really don't want some boffin to "prove" the truth of these, and then tell me what a clever chap I am for having said so all along. Not that it's likely to happen. As Bowen himself lamely remarked, while sitting in something possibly quite similar to Our Lord's tomb (or maybe not): In the end, after 2,000 years of argument, it's really very simple. Either you believe it or you don't." What breathtaking insight.
So, sadly, Son of God was not the high point of my Easter viewing, minimal though the competition was. In the end the prize went to something so bad it was a perverse joy to watch, namely Jason and the Argonauts, the video of which I heartily recommend to anyone in need of a good laugh. I have, in the course of my researches on your behalf, seen some dross in my time, but Jason defied belief, at least for a production with such budget and pretensions. There were some great specific effects, and ... that's it. Uniformly awful acting, even from Dennis Hopper sleepwalking his way through his role as the evil Perlias, only emphasised the abysmal dialogue and picture-book script. It takes real effort to make Xena, Warrior Princess look like great dramatic an.