Who is Jesus Christ? This weekend, his 2.3 billion followers will observe Easter, the Christian high holy day marking his resurrection from death.
Every decade or so, a cottage industry of scholars, filmmakers, authors and clergy plow through the sparse biographical details of the man who claimed to be God in human form to discern how he lived his life.
More recently, artists, not theologians, have led the way, starting with Akiane Kramarik, a a homeschooled child from Mount Morris, Ill., whose striking head shots of a bearded, tousel-haired Jesus came from visions starting at the age of 4. By the age of 9, she was appearing on Oprah Winfrey.
Film efforts range from the gritty "Last Days in the Desert" (2015) with Ewan McGregor portraying an emaciated and doubting Jesus enduring 40 days in the wilderness to the Lumo Project's "The Gospel Collection" (2014-2018), a word-for-word presentation shot in Morocco and featuring British-Tamil actor Selva Rasalingam. Cultural authenticity is key; Rasalingam looks convincingly Jewish and the actors – taking a cue from Mel Gibson's 2004 "The Passion of the Christ" – spoke in Aramaic with subtitles.
The most recent pop religious portrayal is The Chosen, a seven-season TV production that traces the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Some $45 million – mostly through crowdfunding – has been poured into the first two seasons of the production. A third will premiere in the fall. Hopes are to raise $100 million to eventually reach an audience of 1 billion. The show is closing in on 390 million views now.
Being that Capernaum – Jesus' Galilean headquarters – was on a trade route, producers have cast a variety of Caucasian, Black and Asian actors as the Roman soldiers and the pagan, Samaritan, African and Jewish characters who would have traversed first-century Israel.
The lead actor, Jonathan Roumie, has an Egyptian-Irish parentage and family roots in Syria. His followers include a mix of ethnicities: Tamar, an Ethiopian woman (Amber Shana Williams); the quasi-autistic disciple Matthew, played by Paras Patel, a South Asian, and Israeli-born actor Shahar Isaac, who plays the disciple Peter.
Regarding the cast, "We tried to run the gamut because that is authentic," says executive producer and director Dallas Jenkins. "Our story is that Jesus came for everyone."
A little artistic imagination
As Jesus' personal bio and vital stats are scanty, the producers have had to use what Jenkins calls "a combination of historical context, biblical context and a little artistic imagination" to construct additional details.
"I want people to feel, taste, smell. I want them to feel the dust, what it must have been like back then," he says.
"Back then" was first-century Israel, a bleak landscape overrun by Roman soldiers who could kill people on a whim. Jesus, who spent much time in wilderness areas on the run from Jewish authorities, is portrayed as a nomad in a brown knee-length tunic typical of working men of the time. Over that is a tattered mauve cloak – "they didn't have sewing machines, so hems were frayed," says costume designer Leila Heise – befitting a man who only owned one set of clothing.
"This is a person who sleeps outside, bathes outside, eats outside, builds fires – and builds things," says screenwriter and executive producer Tyler Thompson. Jesus is also depicted as a handyman who, in a scene from the second season, is found repairing a disabled cart.
"The Jesus that we imagine is a person of the people," says screenwriter and executive producer Ryan Swanson. "He has a real life... I just figured he might be nostalgic for working with his hands. It's like he missed tinkering under the hood. He was walking through a village and stopped to help someone."
Being that a Roman soldier could compel any Jew to carry his armor and other burdens for at least a mile (Jesus referred to this practice in Matthew 5:41), it behooved the locals to not stand out. Jesus' appearance was so nondescript, his traitorous disciple Judas had to point him out to soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane. He probably wore a beard, as was customary among Jewish men at the time, and despite popular art portraying him with shoulder-length locks, Jewish men wore their hair short.
Although The Chosen has been successful to date, its producers have had to deal with long-standing distrust from evangelical Christians who tend to look down on any kind of poetic license with the Scriptures.
"Movie Bible projects are usually stiff, formal – they go from Bible verse to Bible verse," says Jenkins, "and everything is very, very black and white. I think we have to round the edges a little bit making this show feel a lot more human," hence scenes showing Jesus dancing at a wedding or joking with his disciples.
"Imagination is something evangelicals are scared of," Jenkins admits. "Evangelicals think that if we imagine too much, well, we're relying on our own human brain, and we can't trust that."
And Jenkins comes from a family line that made its fortune in imagining extra-biblical scenes. His father, Jerry B. Jenkins, co-wrote (with Tim LaHaye) the "Left Behind" series about events leading up to the Second Coming that, after selling about 65 million copies, is one of the higher-selling series of all time. [In 2004, Newsweek estimated that one out of eight Americans was reading the books].
Where it gets tricky is Jesus' interactions with women. The Chosen producers included a scene during the first season where he hugs a deranged Mary Magdalene, thereby healing her on the spot. In first-century culture, it was very rare for an unrelated Jewish man to touch a woman.
"The notion of him not being able to touch this woman who was suffering would come across as cruel to a modern audience," says Thompson.
However, Jesus was no modern-day feminist, says Amy-Jill Levine, the New Testament and Jewish Studies professor at Hartford International University, in Hartford, Conn. None of his disciples were women, she adds.
"I think he's actually quite conservative," she says. "The Pharisees allowed for divorce; Jesus does not," referring to a comment from Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32.
And he was soaked in the Scriptures, says Alabama psychiatrist Andrew Hodges, author of the 1986 book "Jesus: An Interview Across Time." Hodges portrays Jesus as a precocious child who realized, at age 12, that he was the Messiah through Hebrew scriptures and conversations with Jewish scholars at the temple in Jerusalem.
"Jesus had the perfect mind," he said, "but he had to learn that he was divine."
Although the New Testament does not record Jesus' teenage years, it is thought that his father, Joseph, died around that time, as his presence is not recorded during Jesus' adult life. The Gospels portray the Messiah as suffering setbacks, longing for human company and friendship, getting worn out by the constant crowds desiring healing, being harassed by Jewish leaders and getting mocked by his own brothers. Previous generations may have portrayed Jesus as impervious to his treatment, but the current trend is to emphasize how human he was, says Michigan pastor Kenneth Tanner, whose upcoming book "Vulnerable God" (Baker Books) explains how a fragile person can also be God.
"He just wanted to serve. He is vulnerability, he is weakness," Tanner says. Referring to an incident on the Sea of Galilee where a storm nearly swamped a boat that Jesus and his disciples were in, "On that boat, he was just as in danger of drowning as they were," he says. "At the same time, he was this walking, talking tree of life."
The late Carmelite priest Joseph Girzone, whose best-selling "Joshua" book series portrayed a Jesus-like character in upstate New York, spent much of his life meditating on the Nazarene's life. He was struck by the constant criticism Jesus endured coupled with the high expectations of the crowds for whom Jesus was cheap entertainment.
"If you are a healer of Jesus' caliber, there must have been thousands of people around day and night," he said in a 2009 interview. "They must've come by the bus load."
At one point, Jesus headed north on a 100-mile trip to the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon to get away from the crowds because he was depressed about several setbacks.
"He was having emotional problems," Girzone said. "People ask: 'How can you say this about God?' I say, 'Well, he was one of us.' "
What scholars are now sayinng about Jesus' life
Scholars are likewise revisiting Jesus, whose sayings – depending on the decade – have been picked apart as historically inaccurate or somewhat less than true holy writ. During much of the 20th century, academics evaluated Scripture via a method that viewed many biblical texts as human-inspired writings devoid of any divine inspiration.
Scholars who've questioned whether Jesus or his environs actually existed – one 2008 book even called his hometown Nazareth a 'myth' – have been foiled by recent archeological discoveries showing that Nazareth was a bustling town of 1,000 people. A "Jesus Seminar" of 74 New Testament scholars who guessed that only 20 percent of the statements attributed to Christ in the Gospels actually came from him no longer carries the punch it once did. Begun in the 1980s, the seminar featured several dozen scholars voting on the authenticity of biblical passages by dropping colored beads into a ballot box.
"In the 1990s, the bubble burst on how ridiculous this approach was," says Nijay Gupta, author of the 2019 book "The State of New Testament Studies" and a New Testament professor at Northern Seminary in Chicago.
Today, scholars are approaching the New Testament in a variety of ways, he adds, that respect the fact that the Gospels were based on eyewitness testimony, the best the ancient world had to offer.
"You can trust eyewitnesses to get things right," he says, "but not perfect."
Because of the many first-person accounts of miracles, it's not illogical to believe Jesus actually healed people, says Rob Plummer, a biblical studies professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
"What else would it have taken to have drawn crowds of thousands of people?" he asks. "You need charismatic power to draw those crowds and loyalty. Jesus' opponents did not deny that he did miracles – they just said he did it by sorcery. They accused him of satanic power.
Levine says it's difficult to determine the extent of Jesus' powers, but "I think he healed people. Miraculous healings do happen."
Gupta says at least the pendulum has swung back to believing the Bible on its own merits. Unlike past scholarly treatments, "Post-modern approaches won't rule out God or spirituality," he says. "Most scholars would now say that Jesus was Jewish, he was a real figure in history, he had disciples, died on a cross, created a stir and then it's a free-for-all as to where you go next."
Producers and filmmakers tackle the Resurrection
The Chosen's producers have indicated that the entire final (seventh) season – slated for 2026 – will be devoted to the Resurrection and the days following, material not often covered in film depictions.
"We want to cover the period between Jesus' death and Resurrection: what were the disciples doing, were they in hiding and what was that like?" says Jenkins.
"I imagine there were repeated encounters with Christ," says Jonathan Lunde, associate professor of biblical studies and theology at Biola University's Talbot School of Theology in California. "These men were convinced they had encountered the risen Christ. You might explain away this encounter or that, but you don't have group hallucinations over a 40-day period."
There are others considering the same real estate. Filmmaker Mel Gibson, whose 2004 biblical epic "The Passion of the Christ" stunned observers by raking in around $612 million, has been announcing a sequel that would include Jesus' pre-Resurrection visit to hell to rescue the souls of the just dead. However, there's no word of pre-production in the works, although Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in the original, says he has been asked to reprise the role.
How to depict Jesus during this period has vexed filmmakers.
At the end of "The Passion," Caviezel was shown as naked with holes cut through both hands, waiting to exit his tomb. But when Jesus appeared on the first Easter, he looked so normal, says Tanner. Mary Magdalene – the first person on the scene – mistook him for a gardener.
"He wasn't floating three inches above the grass," Tanner says. "He wasn't glowing with ghostly energy. God was not interested in throwing out our humanity. God became human forever."
The streaming phenomenon, produced just outside of Dallas, is winning converts with its Friday Night Lights spin on faith.Does The Chosen follow the Bible? ›
Dallas Jenkins, its creator and director, has explained clearly that “The Chosen” isn't the Bible but that it does not contradict scripture. One of its purposes is to show Christ's first disciples as human beings with worries, joys and extended families and friends.What religion is Jesus in The Chosen? ›
Jonathan Roumie is an American actor best known for his role as Jesus in The Chosen, a crowd-funded television series about the birth of Christianity. He is also a voice artist.Who is Jesus in The Chosen? ›
The ChosenWhat church is The Chosen affiliated with? ›
“As I've said, many, many times, the content of the show has zero influence or input from any formal faith tradition or church. None.” However, Latter-day Saints are involved with the show. “The Chosen” is distributed by Angel Studios, which was co-founded by Latter-day Saint brothers Neal and Jeffrey Harmon.Why is The Chosen called The Chosen? ›
Jesus calls them the “chosen” or, as the Greek word may be translated, the elect. These are all whom the Father has chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Eph. 1:4). Only these chosen ones will constitute the company of the redeemed when Christ returns in glory.Is The Chosen TV series Catholic? ›
The series was conceived within an explicitly Christian framework with an approach that is intended to be ecumenical. Writer and director Dallas Jenkins is an Evangelical, but the actor who plays Jesus, Jonathan Roumie, is a Catholic.Are The Chosen people of God? ›
In Judaism, the concept of the Jews as the chosen people (Hebrew: הָעָם הַנִבְחַר ha-ʿam ha-nivḥar , IPA: haʕam hanivħar) is the belief that the Jews, via descent from the ancient Israelites, are the chosen people, i.e. selected to be in a covenant with God.What the Bible Says About chosen? ›
Called and Chosen Bible Verse:
Ephesians 1:4-5 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
Like most Christians, Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Creator of the World.
The Chosen - Based on Luke 5.Who created The Chosen? ›
He also happens to be one of the script consultants for The Chosen and previously had the show's creator and director, Dallas Jenkins, as a student.What was Jesus chosen for? ›
Jesus Christ Became Our Chosen Leader and Savior
Jesus Christ was chosen and foreordained to be our Savior. Many scriptures tell about this (see, for example, 1 Peter 1:19–20; Moses 4:1–2).
It is the first multiseason series about the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Primarily set in Judaea and Galilee in 1st century, the series centers on Jesus and the different people who met and followed him.How tall was Jesus? ›
He may have stood about 5-ft. -5-in. (166 cm) tall, the average man's height at the time.Is VidAngel a Mormon company? ›
Then of course, VidAngel's owned by 8,000 Americans of all different faiths. But the two founders, we are faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.Is The Chosen made by BYU? ›
"We want 'The Chosen' to get into as many homes as possible, and BYUtv does that as well as anyone," said Dallas Jenkins, creator of "The Chosen." "When I first made a short Nativity film at my friend's farm in Illinois, I had no idea it would lead to 'The Chosen' and its global response.Why did The Chosen leave Utah? ›
“We had pretty much decided on Malta, Bulgaria, or Utah, and we found out Utah was a no, and that was because of COVID,” Eves said. At that point, Dallas Jenkins, the writer and director, went back to the farm where he'd filmed the short that inspired The Chosen and prayed they'd be able to keep going.What did Jesus mean when he said many are called but few are chosen? ›
According to the revelation of he who is the Lord God Almighty, “many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14). The testimony of Jesus is “the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10). Therefore, no matter what anyone thinks, relatively few Christians are going to end up in heaven.What does chosen mean spiritually? ›
Being chosen can provide a sense of purpose.
In the Bible, we learn that because God has chosen us, we can live not just for ourselves, but for God and others as well. Being chosen by a child can extend that sense of purpose.
Like Vick's congregation, a number of churches across the U.S. arranged for members, friends and community guests to screen and watch the latest installment of “The Chosen” — either in theaters or their church buildings.Who is Catholic in The Chosen? ›
It was easy for each of us to place ourselves in what was as close as we could get to actually being one of the 5,000. A lot of that had to do with the charismatic nature of Jonathan Roumie, the devout Catholic actor who plays Jesus. He seemed as impressed with the crowd as we were of him.Is Luke portrayed in The Chosen? ›
Introduced in Christmas Special 2021
Alex Veadov as Luke: a physician and a companion of Paul, who records an account of the life of Jesus by collecting historical accounts and eyewitnesses stories.
chosen people, the Jewish people, as expressed in the idea that they have been chosen by God as his special people. The term implies that the Jewish people have been chosen by God to worship only him and to fulfill the mission of proclaiming his truth among all the nations of the world.What does it mean to be one of God's chosen people? ›
The phenomenon of a "chosen people" is well known among the Israelites and Jews, where the term (Hebrew: עם סגולה / העם הנבחר, romanized: am segulah / ha-am ha-nivhar) originally referred to the Israelites as being selected by Yahweh to worship only him and to fulfill the mission of proclaiming his truth throughout the ...Why were we chosen by God? ›
In the Bible days, God Almighty made a choice among all the people He created and set them apart to execute the important purposes of His providence. That they were chosen to this high destiny was not on account of their extraordinary merits, but because God wanted to illustrate His glory to all mankind through them.What does it mean to be called chosen? ›
: selected or marked for favor or special privilege.Who is The Chosen one according to the Bible? ›
This servant is Jesus Christ, the Chosen One. The role of Christ was like no other role of any servant before or after him. His job was to “bring justice to the nations”.Does God choose us or do we choose God? ›
We find that all believers are chosen of God (Titus 1:1 NASB). Believers were “predestined according to His purpose who works out all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11 NASB).Who is Jesus to Jehovah Witness? ›
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is God's "only-begotten Son", and that his life began in heaven. He is described as God's first creation and the "exact representation of God", but is believed to be a separate entity and not part of a Trinity.
We believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh (John 3:16). We accept the prophetic declarations in the Old Testament that refer directly and powerfully to the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of all humankind. We believe that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the fulfillment of those prophecies.Are Mormons considered Christians? ›
Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many Christians don't recognize Mormonism as an official denomination. Mormons believe in the crucifixion, resurrection and divinity of Jesus Christ.What is the chosen one based on? ›
Netflix describes “The Chosen One” as a multilingual series in Spanish and English and based on the story of a 12-year-old boy who suddenly discovers he's returned as Jesus Christ, destined to save humankind. It is based on the comic book series by Mark Millar and Peter Gross.Is chosen a true story? ›
Inspired by true events, the film tells the story of a young lawyer (Mably) who fights back against the Nazis and, with the help of Judith (Ularu), embarks on a mission to save thousands. Keitel plays the lawyer in present day. Shooting took place in Bucharest, Romania and New York.Who wrote The Chosen devotional? ›
|The Chosen: Book Three - 40 Days with Jesus|
|Each devotion features: Scripture, suggestions for prayer, and questions|
|Faux leather with a full-color interior and ribbon marker|
|Author(s)||Amanda Jenkins, Kristen Hendricks, Dallas Jenkins|
Angel Studios, the streaming platform behind the Christian series “The Chosen”, announced this week it had raised $47 million in funding from venture capitalists. The financing was led by VC firm Gigafund and Bain-backed Uncorrelated Venture. Original seed investors Alta Ventures and Kickstart Fund also participated.Who is the father of The Chosen people? ›
Abraham emerged as that man and was therefore chosen by God to be the father of a people that would be given that task. "You are the Lord God, who chose Abram... Finding his heart true to You, You made a covenant with him..." (Nehemiah 9:7-8).Who made Christmas with The Chosen? ›
And just as director Dallas Jenkins and his crew have done in their depiction of the life of Christ over two seasons of The Chosen, this story of Jesus' birth just might invite you to see Jesus' arrival on Earth in a new—if gritty and grimy—light.How were Jesus's disciples chosen? ›
Jesus chose twelve Apostles to lead His Church. He prayed all night so that He could choose the right men. The next morning He chose and ordained twelve men, giving them the priesthood and the authority to be Apostles.Is the cast of The Chosen religious? ›
“Many of the actors are religious people,” Gary McAdam said. “They are not just playing a role they get in character for; it's what they believe in. They do this as a calling.” Jonathan Roumie, the 48-year-old native New Yorker who portrays Jesus, is a devout Catholic.
Jesus' name in Hebrew was “Yeshua” which translates to English as Joshua.How many pounds was Jesus when born? ›
How did Mary and Joseph know that Jesus was 7lb 6oz when he was born? They had a weigh in a manger!Who was Jesus kids? ›
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He came to earth to teach about love and fellowship. He represents the person that all Christians must strive to be. Jesus was a Jew who was born about 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.What religions are the cast of The Chosen? ›
Individuals working on the show come from various faith backgrounds, Eves said. There are Catholics, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Baptists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and even non-believers involved in the show.Is The Chosen a Catholic based series? ›
The series was conceived within an explicitly Christian framework with an approach that is intended to be ecumenical. Writer and director Dallas Jenkins is an Evangelical, but the actor who plays Jesus, Jonathan Roumie, is a Catholic.What denomination is the director of The Chosen? ›
Those partners play a vital role on this globally successful program - viewed more than 400 million times - handling fundraising, marketing and distribution. The director, himself an Evangelical Christian, has thus regularly spoken about Mormons and their faith, and some of his comments have raised the ire of critics.Is The Chosen endorsed by the LDS Church? ›
Pastors' note: We are not endorsing or promoting The Chosen, but we aren't discouraging it either. Since many of you are watching it and enjoying it, we are encouraging you to do that with discernment.Who founded The Chosen? ›
Dallas Jenkins (born July 25, 1975) is an American film and television director, writer and film producer. He is best known as the creator, director and co-writer of The Chosen, the first multi-season series about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and the most successful media crowd-fund of all time.What book is The Chosen based off of? ›
The Chosen (TV series)
|Created by||Dallas Jenkins|
|Based on||The life of Jesus|
|Written by||Tyler Thompson Dallas Jenkins Ryan Swanson|
|Directed by||Dallas Jenkins|
In 2001, Mormon billionaire James Sorenson started one of the earliest genetic test kit companies, Relative Genetics, in part due to his religious interests. It was later bought by Ancestry.com, another Mormon company. While today, Ancestry is a publicly traded company, it uses LDS church records and the IGI.What company does the Mormon Church own? ›
The Deseret Management Corporation (DMC) (/ˌdɛzəˈrɛt/ ( listen)) is a global operating company, managing for-profit entities affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).What media does Mormon Church own? ›
Bonneville International Corporation is a media and broadcasting company, wholly owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) through its for-profit arm, Deseret Management Corporation. It began as a radio and TV network in the Triad Center Broadcast House in Salt Lake City, Utah.Is The Chosen cast Christians? ›
What are the religions of The Chosen cast? Individuals working on the show come from various faith backgrounds, Eves said. There are Catholics, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Baptists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and even non-believers involved in the show.