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Searching for the Historical Jesus

Join historian, biblical scholar, and best-selling author Jean-Pierre Isbouts to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
Searching for the Historical Jesus is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 39.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from A stimulus for reflection This presentation allows one to move beyond the Christ of sectarian strife to a more expansive view that includes the social conditions of Jesus' time. There is an ecumenical emphasis given in the introduction that sets the tone for the series. This is a refreshing departure from the issues that divide many churches today, from within and without. I have caveats with two things: First, Jesus quotes the opening line of psalm 22 on the cross, which traditionally meant to imply the whole text, which in this case ends with ultimate deliverance and justification. I would not claim to know anything about the degree of despair experienced by Christ during during His passion. Second, Paul may have well been influenced by oral tradition when writing his epistles, as the description of the Lord's Supper mirrors that found in Luke. It is a matter of which came first, the chicken or the egg. The purpose of the coming of Christ was to die and rise from the dead. This is a cosmic event that was foreordained before the creation of the world. His teaching on the Son of Man rising from the dead was a scandal to his disciples-as we read in his rebuke of Peter. One does not expect something so unflattering to be recorded in the Gospels unless the veracity of the even requires a faithfull telling. Nevertheless, were one to imagine Jesus from a historical perspective one might take liberties with the Gospel accounts to challenge the imagination. As for Dr. Isbouts query as to the reasons behind the thousand-fold divisions among Christians world-wide, I have this reflection to offer: Thomas Merton found solace in the writings of the Zen masters the widom of the East. He encountered the mystical Christ, which is a universal, divine presence encountered in a silence that is often intimidating to those accustomed to a culture of sound, words printed and spoken, and constant, incessant argument and debate. If we are called to die to self, this means dethroning the ego and giving it its proper place as a tool of consciousness, rather than the raison d'etre for being-in-the-world: " what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause", as the Bard has Hamlet muse in the eponymously named play. It takes faith to trust in what is unseen, while the ego is often on the defense or the offense or some other unlikely project of self-justification.
Date published: 2023-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We Really Enjoyed It I purchased this to watch with my 94-year-old mother, who is pretty religious. I'm not, but she is. We both thoroughly enjoyed it and now I'm watching it again with my girlfriend. Professor Isbouts is extremely knowledgeable and does a great job of presenting the material. He's such a good lecturer that I purchased both of his other courses to watch with Mom.
Date published: 2023-03-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good With a Grain of Salt You need to have some existing level of understanding regarding the life of Jesus in both a biblical and historical context in order to get the most out of this. It's generally decent, and the academic information, is usually well sourced if not at least plausible, and even the speculative elements are generally well portrayed. I do say generally because some of the elements of speculation are demonstrably subjective and used only to build a narrative. It's clear that there was an intention to form the story of Jesus on the basis of realism, and while as a Christian myself I do believe such a thing is possible, I fear that at times (IE: The electromagnetism episode you have no doubt read about in other reviews) it tries way too hard to explain away things using...questionable reasoning. From the perspective of documentary film making the film is good, although it's a fair analogy of the academic state too. It's about as good in videographic composition as it is in the truth of it's content. It's ok. The performative structure is obviously being used to validate the building of the narrative, and confidence is being used to fulfil a sense of cohesion as to what parts require speculation. Overall that is a stylistic choice and is personally fine by me so long as the audience has the film production knowledge to understand why. To others, it can come across as foolish, and frustrating but it goes with the territory of it being informative entertainment. I cannot tell if Jean-Pierre Isbouts has filmmaking knowledge overall because his structure and performative style suggest a study of film, and his framing is usually very good but the overall inconsistent framing, occasionally poor audio, lighting, and poor adaptation of images into film (applying a slight motion such as zoom to still images in order not to break up pacing is documentary 101) suggest this is a first try or cheap production. There are some really weird drone shots with horrible mechanical camera movements because they didn't use a gimbal juxtaposed by some beautifully lit, sweeping drone shots of landmarks that are stunning and well captured. In that sense, from a craft perspective, it's generally fine and mostly good. The documentary fulfils its main function as an overarching narrative of the life of Jesus from a contextually historical platform. It uses a generally balanced mixture of academia, informed opinion and hypothesis to paint a theoretical picture of the life of Jesus and doesn't stray away from accepting the times when historical facts and biblical stories don't overlap. It does so without diminishing the Gospels as a source in their own right as I have seen before. This is good for people who are able to think objectively about the documentary they are watching, you have to use your brain. I think, despite its failings, it's quite good although it's disappointing at times. 6.5/10
Date published: 2023-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Just finished this series on streaming. The Professor is a really good lecturer. Straight forward and stays on the topic. Down to earth and delivers discussion that is well researched. Sometimes these type of courses start with the assumption that the Bible is all myth and fables. He is able to correlate history with the biblical narrative that strengthens your faith not questions it. Much impressed.
Date published: 2023-02-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Beautiful, but has some issues Beautiful footage, music and narration. A real quality production, but there are some real questionable issues. One episode suggested that Jesus' healing miracles were the result of "quantum physics" and electromagnetic Eastern healing practices. This crystal-woo-energy explanation seems to have irritated both Christians and atheists (judging by the other reviews) and I just have to subtract a full two stars
Date published: 2023-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Balance, historically based story of Jesus I grew up Southern Baptist but am now Buddhist. I have long struggled with faith and my true spiritual path. The beautiful historical figures of Jesus has always fascinated and intrigued me as I have gone through my spiritual journey. Was he God? What tampering has the Catholic Church and other denominations done to weaponize Jesus for their own sometimes unsavory goals? This series uncovered Jesus for me in a new and, to me, coherent light. The wonderful illustrations and clips of the Holy Land - particularly the Sea of Galilee were breathtaking and helped me understand so much more fully the world and times of Jesus. Dr. Isbouts is a wonderful teacher - he affirmed my confusion around the gospels - e.g the 2 gospels that do discuss the birth of Christ differ in their presentation of this event and 2 gospels do not even mention the Nativity. Dr. Isbouts explores differences across the gospels and highlights the differences rather than attempting to explain them away. I came away from this course with my belief that the life of Jesus as described in the gospels is a mix of oral tradition, allegory and historical facts and that taking a leap of faith is to recognize this and to find the truth of Jesus as it resonants for you, the individual. I recommend Dr Isbouts other courses too. In the Steps of Vincent Van Gogh is excellent! As is the archealogy of the Bible. Thank you, Dr. I - Keep those courses coming!
Date published: 2023-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Footage Ever & Respectful I don't know about you, but I always dread finding a course about Christ on here. Am I going to get just another rabid, frustrated atheist academic, hell-bent on seeking to convince himself of his decision to refute God's existence by trying to tear down the belief of others? I was grateful to hear that at least THIS academic considers himself a practicing Christian. Sigh of relief. In the end, you may still heartily disagree with his conclusions, opinions, and assertions, but that's okay. I did for some of them, too. But I know many of my fellow Christians will ardently disagree with my own 4000-year-old tradition's teachings as a Christian metaphysician, being the student of an ancient mystery school that traces its roots back to Abraham. So I am fine with the fact that each of us must come to know Christ in our own way at our own special time. This course is in many ways like his journey and it is a beautiful, loving one most especially because he doesn't make it all about him like some others. A humble, reverent, but sharp and critical thinker. I respect that. For me, it was such a treat and treasure to walk with him through every blessed scene of the Gospel and the spread of Christianity under Paul. Before watching this, I knew Israel was beautiful, I just had no idea how beautiful. I ACHED to be able to step into these scenes with him, and though I have watched many such documentaries and courses before, he took me to places and taught me things about the Holy Land I'd never seen or heard. It was also one of the best evaluations of 1st-century history in this part of the world I have studied. So many valuable insights into the life and culture, and concerns of the times. I loved every minute of this. Thank you for this incredible contribution to history and to the faith. I hope others can simply enjoy the best of it that they can use, and leave the rest that they can't. It left me inspired and full of peace.
Date published: 2023-02-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Reiki-Voodoo-Hocus Pocus I foiund this series quite enjoyable, up to episode 10 where it came about Jesus' healing miracles. The lecturer tries to explain them as historically and scientifically plausible, because Jesus used some kind of energy healing similar to Reiki, chakra manipulation, etc. I have no idea why Wondrium allowed this to pass their internal "quality control". With such esoteric nonsense, I cannot recommend this series at all.
Date published: 2023-01-28
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Searching for the Historical Jesus takes you back two millennia to explore the history, context, and character of a humble carpenter who changed the world. Taught by Dr. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, a professor emeritus at Fielding Graduate University, these 15 thought-provoking episodes, filmed in the Holy Land, bring Jesus and his world to life with vivid detail, offering an excellent companion piece for anyone wrestling with history or with walking in faith.


Jean-Pierre Isbouts


Fielding Graduate University

Jean-Pierre Isbouts is a historian, biblical scholar, and best-selling National Geographic author. After earning his DLitt at Leiden University, he served as a member of the doctoral faculty at Fielding Graduate University for more than 15 years and now holds the title of Faculty Emeritus. He gained worldwide renown with his National Geographic book The Biblical World and also wrote Archaeology of the Bible, In the Footsteps of Jesus, and Young Jesus. His course The History and Archaeology of the Bible is one of Wondrium’s most popular.

By This Expert

The History and Archaeology of the Bible
Searching for the Historical Jesus
In the Footsteps of Vincent van Gogh
Searching for the Historical Jesus


The Historical Jesus

01: The Historical Jesus

Begin your exploration by considering the diversity of Christianity today. With so many denominations around the world, what ties everyone together? What can a study of the historical figure of Jesus teach us? Let’s go back 2,000 years to meet the “historical Jesus” through historical and archaeological records.

23 min
Rome and Herod the Great

02: Rome and Herod the Great

To understand the life and times of Jesus, you must first understand the world of the Roman Empire. After surveying the big-picture story of Rome, Jean-Pierre zooms in on the historical circumstances of Galilee, which included onerous taxation, hungry citizens, and something of a police state under Herod.

20 min
Mary and Joseph in Galilee

03: Mary and Joseph in Galilee

What can we know about Joseph the Carpenter and the Virgin Mary? Continue your study of Galilee to see what the life of Jesus’s parents would have been like. In all probability, Joseph would have been a farmer, as well as a tradesman laboring on public works projects throughout the region.

18 min
The Birth of Jesus

04: The Birth of Jesus

Imagine what it would have been like to be a young woman having a child out of wedlock, at that time. Reflect on what Joseph and Mary may have thought about their circumstances, and then see how those circumstances evolved into the mystery of the Virgin Mary. Finally, consider how Jesus’s birth lines up with biblical prophecies.

21 min
Growing Up in Galilee

05: Growing Up in Galilee

The New Testament Gospels say little about Jesus’s upbringing, but a look at the political world offers clues as to what his childhood may have been like. As you will learn here, the kingdom of Judea suffered revolts and civil wars after King Herod’s death. Get to know the fervor and zealotry of the times.

20 min
Rabbi Jesus

06: Rabbi Jesus

At some point, we know Jesus became a rabbi, but where did he get his education? Leaning on evidence from history recorded in the Jewish Mishnah, Jean-Pierre speculates about the philosophies Jesus may have studied, his possible relationship with his family, and the influence of the Greco-Roman world on Galilee.

22 min
John the Baptist in the Jordan

07: John the Baptist in the Jordan

The political fervor of the era helps explain the story of John the Baptist, a preacher who represented a threat to the power structure. Examine the administration of Pontius Pilate, the way tax collectors tapped into the Temple treasury, and the rebellious message of John the Baptist.

22 min
The Ministry Begins

08: The Ministry Begins

After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus began his ministry in earnest. Using the words of the Gospels, as well as the histories of Josephus, you will compare Jesus’s message with the apocalyptic screeds of John the Baptist. See what Jesus’s ministry looked like, from traveling around Galilee to performing exorcisms and miracles.

20 min
In the Kingdom of God

09: In the Kingdom of God

Perhaps the apex of Jesus’s ministry is the Sermon on the Mount. Explicating this great sermon offers insight into the way Jesus, possibly, was working to reform Judaism through a grassroots movement. Trace the phases of his ministry, from roaming near Capernaum to sailing around the Sea of Galilee.

20 min
The Mystery of the Miracles

10: The Mystery of the Miracles

Continue your exploration of Jesus’s ministry with a deep dive into his miracles. After reviewing how the miracles align Jesus with Hebrew Bible prophets such as Elisha, you will reflect on the sick, malnourished world of Galilee in the first century. Consider a few scientific explanations for Jesus’s supernatural acts.

22 min
The Conspiracy against Jesus

11: The Conspiracy against Jesus

It is unclear from the Gospels whether there was a true conspiracy against Jesus, or whether he was a victim of unfortunate events. To tackle this issue, Jean-Pierre introduces you to the Sadducees; the Pharisees; the legal scribes; and Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee. See how they each would have viewed Jesus—and what made Jesus seem dangerous to them.

23 min
The Road to Jerusalem

12: The Road to Jerusalem

Round out your study of Jesus’s ministry by following him south to Jerusalem. By then, he had widened his preaching to include gentiles, and he perhaps hoped to reach a large audience in Jerusalem. What he found, however, was a Temple corrupted by sacrifices and money changers.

23 min
The Arrest and Trial

13: The Arrest and Trial

From the Last Supper to the meeting with the high priest Caiaphas to the trial under Pontius Pilate, follow Jesus through his last days at key locations in Jerusalem. Reflect on the challenge of authorship of the Gospels. Who wrote them? Who were they writing for? What biases might they have introduced into the story?

22 min
The Jesus Movement in Crisis

14: The Jesus Movement in Crisis

Move from the historical Jesus—a man gruesomely crucified—to a religious movement. After witnessing Jesus’s final days, shift your attention to the apostle Paul, the man whose evangelism created the Christian religion as he spread the word throughout the Roman Empire.

22 min
The Rise of Christianity

15: The Rise of Christianity

The church calls Jesus the Son of God. Jesus called himself the Son of Man. But before he was either, he was a man in a particular time and place. Jean-Pierre rounds out this course by following Paul into Asia Minor and the spread of the Jesus movement into a world religion.

25 min