One of the angles Downey and Burnett have chosen to pursue in order to fill out the story of early Christianity is by exploring the nature and fate of the Zealots, those in favor of the violent overthrow of Rome, sometimes at whatever cost. In Episode Five with follow the story of Boaz the Zealot, but this is juxtaposed with the story of the persecution of Peter, and the stoning of Stephen which draws this episode to a climax. Along the way Downey and Burnett have used the device of having the Christians huddling outside the city in a sort of base camp, where all sorts of things have been happening: 1) new Christians leaving Jerusalem and looking for a place of refuge and find it in the camp; 2) we are introduced to Philip who has the job of guiding the new followers of Jesus to this place of refuge; 3) we have a meeting between Caiaphas and Peter as well, and in due course Peter gets a beating. In Acts of course Stephen plays a significant role in Acts 6-7, including his famous speech in Acts 7 which is the most length of all the speeches in Acts, but alas we only get a smidgin of it in this episode of A.D. It’s too bad because the speech is full of interesting content, but the focus of this series is action, action, action, and some meaningful dialogues. Of the fictional story lines Maya has decided she cannot stay and watch her father being brutalized, so after soothing and cleaning his wounds, she tells him she must return to Galilee. Thus we have the tensions between the Jewish and Roman authorities, the tension of Peter’s family situation, the tension of the search for Boaz and the daily crucifixions until he is found, and the internal issues of the fledgling Christian movement. Downey and Burnett do make an effort to make sure the message of love and forgiveness doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, as even Boaz in this episode seeks forgiveness for his sins, but the message is too much of a sub-theme, and the violence too much of a theme. There needs to be more balance in the story telling, or else the story sounds too little like Acts and too much like Josephus’ chronicling of the Zealot movement leading to the Jewish Wars.
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