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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Jesus is brought to life
Image of Christ
This biblical image of Jesus is questioned by the programme
By the BBC's Michael Osborn

BBC One's new documentary, Son of God, attracted plenty of hype for dispelling the notion that Jesus was a fine-featured, fair-haired man.

This programme turned out to be worthy of all the publicity, as the stunning graphics that recreated Jesus's face were used to bring his life to gritty reality - somewhat removed from Biblical views of Christ.

Jeremy Bowen was well-placed to present this lavish documentary. This is not only because he knows the Middle East like the back of his hand, but he also admitted that he came away from the Holy Land still a non-believer.

In this first programme, a whole host of myths were dispelled, but with plenty of experts and computer simulations on hand to make it all very credible.

Computer generated image of what Jesus may have looked like
A rather different view of Jesus Christ
Jesus was probably born in a cave, not the stable of a thousand Nativity scenes. Bowen took us to a Palestinian settlement where people still live with their livestock.

And Mary was a single mother saved from a tragic death by Joseph - ancient historians claim the Immaculate Conception may have been a dangerous liaison with a Roman soldier.

The programme moved slickly and seamlessly to Jesus's childhood, which was fairly mundane until he went to Jerusalem for the first time and started talking to learned people - sewing a revolutionary seed in his young mind.

Special Effects

Then the special effects came into their own, with a stupendous recreation of the Jewish Temple, complete with some strikingly real animated people.

Bowen occasionally found himself in the middle of one of these mock-ups, as carts rumbled by and geese clacked at his feet.

Then there was the shopping trip for gold, frankincense and myrrh which was more like an excerpt from daytime TV

Michael Osborn

There were only a couple of weak moments in the programme, the main one being when Bowen went to a desert cave to experience Jesus's forty days in the wilderness.

Yet he only stayed a night and was accompanied by a camera. I half expected him to fashion a pair of shoes out of underwear like Joanna Lumley on her desert island.

Then there was the shopping trip for gold, frankincense and myrrh which was more like an excerpt from daytime television.

But the reason for this programme is compelling - to look at the life of the most influential man ever, using science and history as opposed to religion and faith.

It has been lavished with attention, from those superb graphics to the classy incidental music.

It opened my eyes and mind to a figure who is rooted in history yet surrounded by deeply entrenched myth and legend.

It seems that this programme has much to offer for the faithful, sceptical and unbelievers alike, as it continues to chart Jesus's life as a peaceful revolutionary to its tragic conclusion.

Son of God is on BBC One, Sunday April 1 at 21.10

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26 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
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