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3.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

This epic 13-part documentary examines Christianity not as a religious faith, but as a historical and cultural force one that has inspired benevolence and conquest, sublime art, and barbaric warfare through the centuries. As with all Athena releases, this five-volume set includes plenty of extras to extend learning beyond the screen.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Athena
  • DVD Release Date: November 3, 2009
  • Run Time: 674 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001VB8U9A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,395 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on September 30, 2009
This DVD set consists of 13 episodes each about 52 minutes and is designed as a historical experiencing through the ages of how the Christian faith came about. It establishes historical differences and common beliefs/associations between Jews, Muslims, and Christians--such as how Jerusalem was negotiated to be the "City of Three Religions."

This documentary, originally aired in 1977, is hosted by Bamber Gascolgne, British, who has several historical documentaries to his credit as well as dozens of books. Occasionally, his presentations, and awkward smiles, suggest a sarcastic or jesting tone when dealing with points of religious fervor. He seems not to have a personal faith (although that is not stated). To be fair, Gascolgne states in the beginning that Christianity is a "faith"--not provable, but also not disprovable.

Christianity from all eras beginning with the first century AD is considered, with highlighted experiences predominantly dedicated to the bizarre and unusual activity of peoples claiming to be Christian. These include rich/poor, all manner of nationalities, all races, and minor groups such as Amish, monks, emperors, Zealots, Calvinists, Pilgrims, Orthodox, Protestants, and with a main focus on the Roman Catholics. That is somewhat explained because the general religion title of Christian covers slightly over 33% of the world's 2007 population, with Roman Catholic being 51% of that group.

The intent was neither affirmation, nor condemnation of Christianity as a religion; instead it is an outside-looking-in educational and historical study of the people, from rulers to the most common of men and women who claimed Christianity as their own.
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I watched this series when new in the 1970s, and then again recently in 2010. While the series is quite good, because of its wide scope there are necessarily some gaps, abridgments, and generalizations. I can live with most of those.

My greatest criticism is that the series (being a product of the 1970s), always assumes of the worst of Christians. Whether in their un-Christianlike treatment of each other, or, especially, in their treatment of other civilizations. More than once the host condemns Christians for their treatment of the (assumed superior) Muslims, but also Africans, native Americans, etc. In the 1970's mindset, no Christian ever did anything good. Yet even with the perspective of 30 years to look back on it, in his introduction the host said he still got pretty much everything right, including, despite 9/11, the good intentions of Muslims and bad intentions of Christians in their relations with each other.

On a more positive and rather amazing note, the final episode is titled "The Godless State," and deals with Christianity in the modern secular state, whether democratic or communist. In the west, he highlights Britain and Netherlands, and how well things go even when nobody goes to church. In the east, he highlights the strength of the Church in Poland under the communists. Coincidentally, the series was made in '77, the year before the election of John Paul II, so this is the amazing part. The election of the pope would have made a wonderful climax to the series. As it is, it's clear that the host expected the secular state in the form of communism to continue its expansion. (Perhaps everyone did in 1977.) But JP2 certainly made his contribution to world history as far as that is concerned.

So while I would say this series was and remains quite good and mostly valid, it really could do with a bit of updating.
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Below I have included the blurb at the back of the DVD case plus the episodes contained on each disk:

"Legendary British broadcaster, historian and author Bamber Gascoigne charts the history and evolution of Christianity in The Christians - a thought provoking and challengin documentary series covering two thousand years of history. The first show to be written and presented by Bamber Gascoigne, this four-disc set contains all 13 episodes of this acclaimed series for the first time on DVD.

Filmed in 1977 in more than 30 countries and broadcast in more than 50 countries worldwide, The Christians is a meticulously constructed, lavishly produced series that describes the experiences and actions of Christians from the birth of Christ, through the Roman Empire, the Renaissance and Lutheran reform to modern times. The series also considers the spread of Christianity, whether by violence - as in the Inquisition - or through the travels of missionaries.

This DVD features a newly filmed introduction to the series by Bamber Gascoigne."

Disk One
1. A Peculiar People - The birth of Christ and how Christianity began to spread its message
2. The Christian Empire - The adoption of Christianity by the Romans as the 'official' state religion
3. The Birth of Europe - Christianity faces the threat of barbarian invasions

Disk Two
4. Faith and Fear - Superstitions and the achievements of the Middle Ages
5. People of the Book - Three religious groups which have come out of the Middle East: Jews, Christians and Muslims
6. Princes and Prelates - The spiritual squalor of the Popes and the masterpieces of the Renaissance

Disk Three
7. Protest and Reform - The impact on Christianity of Martin Luther
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