Last Days of Jesus: PBS Two-Hour Special Airs This Week

This special two-hour PBS program airs tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 4th, 8/7c and is repeated Wednesday and Thursday, see local listings for times. I am one of the presenters and we filmed on location in Israel this past January. I have not seen it yet but I think it will take a nicely different direction from the more typical “Bible” documentaries that show on TV regularly.  It includes the political perspectives from the time—and especially the man it seems no one has heard of—the notorious anti-Semite Sejanus—who more or less ran the Roman Empire during the reign of Tiberius and even appointed his close friend Pontius Pilate to be governor of Judea.

A little over 2,000 years ago, the story of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, son of a carpenter and stone mason, begins in a tiny village in the hills of the Galilee. Some 30 years later, in Jerusalem, his life ends and the story of Christianity unfolds. Little is known from the Gospels about the man himself until he steps onto the scene as a popular preacher who captures the imagination of the crowds. A man, first celebrated and adored, who experiences the ultimate downfall in the course of only six days during the Passover holidays, tossed around like a pawn in a chess game. 

Based on crucial archaeological evidence and historical analysis, “Last Days of Jesus” peels back the layers of the traditional Gospel narrative to shine a new light on the historical Jesus. It explores key members of the Herodian Dynasty, such as Herod Antipas, the Jewish Governor of Galilea and son of Herod the Great, as well as the main characters in the capital of the Roman Empire, bringing to life a man that has been almost completely erased from history. Lucius Aelius Sejanus, head of the Praetorian Guard with dubious yet fierce ambitions who, in the absence of Emperor Tiberius, reached for ultimate power around A.D. 30, just when Jesus’ ministry was more popular than ever. 

This is the story told by leading scholars and authors in the field of classics, religion, history and archaeology based on existing as well as new evidence from ancient texts and artifacts. “Last Days of Jesus” illustrates how the ever-changing political landscape in Rome impacted Jesus’ life, and connects the dots between Rome, Jerusalem and the backwaters of the Galilee. This film sheds new light on Jesus’s final days, who was caught up in a political power play hatched by two of the most powerful men in the Roman world. 

“Last Days of Jesus” was produced by Blink Films, Associated Producers Ltd., PBS, Channel Five Televison, LTD., SBS Television Australia and ZoomerMedia Limited.