Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years – DVD Review

The history of Christianity is a tale of contradictions. Christ was Jewish, and yet the interpretations of God’s laws by his followers caused them to split off and form their own religion. Christ taught peace, love, and respect, and yet many of those in charge of the church fomented war, treated non-Christians with outright hatred, and loved only power and money. I’ve often thought that if Jesus could see what became of his teachings, he’d be very disappointed with where we took it.

Those contradictions are probably why the history of the religion is so fascinating. The influence it and its greatest thinkers have had on the shaping of our world the past two thousand years cannot be overstated, and Christianity’s evolution from cult to worldwide religion makes for a fascinating story.

In many ways, the history of Christianity is the history of the Western world, and because of that this lengthy documentary takes us from the sands of the Middle East to the windswept shores of Ireland to the New World. It chronicles the offshoot cults from the religion’s early days, such as the Gnostics, who believed that the world was created by a mad, blind angel that thought it was God, and that Jesus tried to save us by showing us the way to transcend this broken world into the realm of the true God. Particularly interesting are the various councils convened to determine who Jesus really was and what gospels should be included into the official bible.

This documentary helps us understand our world (that is, the Western part of it) better and why so many believe the way they do and is a fascinating and entertaining look at an important facet of our recent history. Unfortunately, it probably won’t appeal to people other than history buffs and theologians. The documentary treats Christianity as a historical phenomenon, and even though priests, preachers, and other theologians are brought in to speak about various concepts or historical moments, there are no places where God is mentioned except as an abstraction, and I’ve known enough evangelical Christians in my time to know that this won’t go over well with them. The idea that the Bible and certain core tenants of the faith were created by men is anathema to their deep-seated belief that they came pure and uninterpreted from God, and because of that the incredible history behind it unfortunately gets ignored

The special is presented Fullscreen with the audio in Dolby Digital Stereo. No subtitles are provided for non-English speakers or the hearing impaired.

Historical Timeline

I’m a great believer in the importance of knowing our history, so, not surprisingly, I think everybody should see this special. It’s very well put together and manages to be both entertaining and informative. My only gripe with it is a small one, and that’s that the first twenty or so minutes in the second part recap everything from the first, making it a bit monotonous. That very minor quibble aside, this is a very good special that I highly recommend to everyone. Just make sure you have plenty of time to watch it, because this sucker clocks in at six hours. Given that and the lack of replay value, I’d say rent this instead of buying.

A&E Television Networks presents Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years. Running time: 6 hours. Rated NR. Released on DVD: March 16, 2010. Available at Amazon.