'Miracles of Jesus'

There was another fine example of religious programming on an otherwise secular history/science channel Saturday night. Discovery Science aired "The Miracles of Jesus", a docu-drama featuring the Christian magician Brock Gill turned Biblical Archaeologist. Gill, was shown pouring over an Internet downloaded version of the Bible on his lap top while trolling across the Sea of Galilee in a dinghy, and with a disheveled hair style that reminded me of Dana Carvey as Garth in Waynes World.

The three-hour special started out promising but literally did only get dumb and dumber. In the first hour, the show made parallels between three miracles of Jesus and Old Testament episodes. The raising of the widow's son by Jesus was compared with that of Elijah. Multiplying of the loaves and fish by Jesus was compared with the feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness by Moses. Walking on the water by Jesus was compared with Joshua parting the Jordan and leading the way into the Promised Land. So far, so good. However, for some reason, Gill does not feel that it was adequate for Jesus to have literally walked on solid ground (or to have directed Peter in how to do the same) even as Joshua and his followers did when they crossed over to pay dirt.

Gill and another "magician for Jesus" (as Wayne/Mike Meyers?) concede that they have no explanation for how Jesus performed his miracles, and therefore conclude that they could not have been tricks (like their own)! The fact that the miracles were re-enactments of Old Testament feats should have been the biggest clue that they were in fact deliberately staged, and that is was not the exact form that the "miracle" took which was important, but the identification of Jesus with Elijah, Moses, and Joshua. By performing such acts, the masses were induced to believe that Jesus was best qualified to assume those roles in their generation (over other candidates).

The second hour investigates several other miracles, but the comparison with Old Testament archetypes ceases. The "miracle" of the calming of the storm by Jesus is an obvious parallel to the story of Noah. In Mesopotamian accounts of the Flood, the Noah figure (Adapa) is so bold as to exercise a god-like ability to rebuke the wind and the waves, and becomes "as the gods" when the tempest subsides. In the Bible, when the water retreats Noah plants vines and makes wine. He turned water into wine, so to speak. In the process, Noah was himself turned into an Osiris/Dionysus by Ham.

The program next got into the "miracle" of Jesus' healing the man blind from birth. Gill claims this has to be real, because the brain development required for sight can only occur in the first two years of life, after which vision is no longer possible. The very impossibility is exactly the point. The message to the discerning reader was that sight of a man was not restored, but of an entire brainwashed and brain dead nation, to the man. That nation, according to Roman and Herodian leadership, also needed to be healed from the paralysis of an outdated religion and way of life.

The "chosen people" were going to be taken out of Israel, a land of "demons", just as the Israelites were earlier brought out of God-forsaken and disease-riddled Egypt. Israel, and especially Jerusalem, was to be destroyed and henceforth considered unclean and off limits to the redeemed remnant. Those resisting the "Exodus" would be killed, even as pharaoh and his army were drowned. Such a parable, written in retrospect, would have hit home to those Jews who had survived the trauma of a brutal Roman assault and deportation to Rome and other destinations where they were being Christianized and taught to respect Roman authority.

The final hour of the program goes from bad to worse with its treatment of the resurrection. An "expert" proclaims "there is no evidence that resurrection was a pagan idea" and that such as thing would have been repulsive to Hellenistic people of the time. This segment also contains stupefying apologetics such as, if the Gospel writers had invented the resurrection story, then they would have used credible witnesses, not women like the mother of Jesus or Mary Magdalene, and Peter! What's more, the resurrection could not have been faked, because the Romans were too good at killing people. No, it had to be real, because Christianity is now the biggest religion in the world. The success of Christianity is the proof.

The show ends with an evangelical appeal for modern people to have their own "vision" of the resurrected Jesus, even as Paul supposedly did. It seems that this would also be good for the Discovery Channel, because it will increase ratings for its new series, 'Years of Blood' (about the failure of the Middle East peace process), which it incessantly advertised for three straight hours.