..

THE APOSTLES COLLECTION

Review by Michael Jacobson

Narrator:  Martin Sheen
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  None
Length:  170 Minutes
Release Date:  February 25, 2003

“I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”The Second Letter of Paul the Apostle to Timothy, 4:6-7

Film ***1/2

They were the twelve unlikeliest of men; a motley crew consisting of uneducated fishermen, farmers, shepherds, a tax collectors and more.  One’s name would be etched for all history as synonymous with betrayal.  The others were told by their master to go out and shake up the entire world.

And they did it.

A&E’s double disc presentation of The Apostles Collection, originally airing on The History Channel, is a fascinating piece of both religious and world history.  Narrated by Martin Sheen, these discs combine scriptures, historical records, and modern scholarly assessment to shed light on who these men were, what they were like, and most of all, how they managed to do the work they did.

The first disc is The Story of the Twelve Apostles, which chronicles the assembly of the original Apostles, their lives with Jesus of Nazareth, their foibles and failings, and ultimately, their miraculous victory in spreading the early Church all over the world.

It explores in some detail the troublesome question of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed his master cruelly, yet ironically set the wheel in motion for a major world religion.  Was it really thirty pieces of silver he was after?  Or was he anxious to see his Jesus use his powers and miracles to overthrow the Romans and re-establish the kingdom of the Jews on earth?  Some modern theorists speculate that his betrayal was his means of forcing the issue; that if Jesus was cornered and facing execution, he would become the fiery deliverer Judas expected him to be. 

The second disc is The Story of Paul the Apostle…a tale worthy of its own feature.  It details the events in the life of the man who went from violent persecutor of the early Christian Church to its single greatest evangelist, bringing the Gospel for the first time to the Gentiles and spreading the message of Jesus all across Europe.  During his life’s work, his epistles became the first written records of Christianity (even predating the Gospels themselves), as well as compiling a third of the New Testament. 

Perhaps most significant was his successful effort to convince his fellow Apostles that Gentiles need not subscribe to the Mosaic laws to become followers of Jesus.  It wasn’t a decision that made everyone in the new faith happy; Paul’s life was filled with turmoil and danger everywhere he went.

These features use some modern re-enactments and plenty of artwork and paintings to give life to their subjects.  Best of all are the visits to historical sites…we see the actual Garden of Gethsemane, and the church built up around the rock where it was believed Jesus prayed and wept before being given up.  We even get to see the room where it is believed the Last Supper took place, and the monument that marks where Jesus’ return to heaven took place. 

From a scholarly point of view, this set is a remarkable offering, rich in historical detail and texture.  It may or may not please devotees of the Christian faith, as it doesn’t really attempt to affirm or deny the message or persona of Jesus of Nazareth.  For my own part, being very familiar with the scriptures, I found the use of outside materials and modern scholarly opinions to be very effective in lending perspective and opening up ideas I hadn’t considered before.

The bottom line is, whether you follow the Christian faith or not, no one can deny the historical impact of Jesus of Nazareth, nor certainly that of the dozen men who greatly shaped the history of the world.  This set chronicles those crucial, formative years, and even carries the impact of what was done then forward into our own 21st century, where their work carries on even today.

Video ***

The full frame presentations look quite good for both features.  Most impressive is the collection of artwork throughout the ages depicted the men and the events in their ministries; these discs offer a virtual Christian museum!  Modern footage blends well with some silent movie clips (from D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance) to bring the stories to vivid life.  Nicely done.

Audio **

The stereo soundtrack is a pleasant offering, but naturally centers around Martin Sheen’s narration and the dialogue of other scholars, as well as bits of background music here and there.  It all plays cleanly and clearly…no complaints, just nothing to really challenge your system either.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Twelve ragtag men, one impossible charge…yet one undeniable victory.  The Apostles Collection documents the triumphant story of the unlikely group that was asked to change the world and did it.  It’s a fascinating historical trek for the religious and non-religious alike.