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Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years (2001) – DVD Review

Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years DVD


Narrated by: Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Dorian Harewood, Gloria Foster


  • Historical timeline

Released by: A&E
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A, appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent it.

A lot of documentaries talk about various subjects and how they shaped the course of the world. As far as world shapers go, this subject happens to be one of the granddaddies. With a number of scholars commenting on two millennia of Christian progress, the narrators spin an overview of the history of one of the biggest belief systems on the planet.

[ad#longpost]As far as the content of the discs go, they’re fairly good. I was initially worried that we would get a punches-pulled look at the Christian belief system, but luckily within the first couple of tracks my fears were allayed. The overview is fairly objective, with the experts picked delivering very candid commentary on the history as it plays along. If there are faults to be had, they are few. This is not an in-depth look at the two thousand years–that’s the job of a bigger boxed set than this. But still, when topics are addressed, they usually get a few minutes at the least and then moving along to the next bit. This can be frustrating, especially when detail is what is desired. But again, that’s what personal research is for.

The topic is discussed with the proper amount of distance–in other words, nobody actually makes the assertion that Jesus actually came back from the dead. That’s what the belief system states, but it’s treated like any good hearsay story, and points are given out for that. If there’s anything to be said about the actual presentation, it’s that sometimes the narration gets a bit too trumpeting and hyperbolic–same thing with the music playing in the background. This happens more on the first disc, with Davis taking the brunt of the speaking. Also, the maps in the first volume seem to be pretty static. Instead of showing us Europe and talking about the movement of peoples and beliefs, why not throw some more moving arrows around? Some color? This was fixed for the second disc, so all is well.

For the discs themselves, there’s not much to talk about–a historical timeline is present, but it’s essentially two screens for each thousand years. It would have been nice to have, along with the obligatory scene selection, a way to click from the timeline directly into that portion of the program. But, ah well.

Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years

To sum up, it’s a fairly good presentation that managed to teach me a few bits about the Christian belief system that I had not run across before. It’s also a pretty devastating account as to how the teachings of a single man can be manipulated into being the cause of more destruction and death than almost anything else on the planet. Talking with Cat earlier this evening, I realized that the distinction had to be made: between Christianity the religion and Christianity the system of power. It’s just a shame that more people are victimized by the power system than actually practice the faith. Those with a need for a good overview of the subject–history professors, religion professors, history of religion professors–should purchase; the rest of us should give it a watch without making that particular leap.

Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years Timeline
Historical timeline

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