Religious Studies Resources from BBC Active

Inside a church

BBC Active has a large library of educational videos on a broad range of subjects, among which are some excellent Religious Studies resources. Church videos such as Bible Mysteries bring Biblical times and characters to life through dramatic re-enactments, based on genuine historical and archaeological evidence. The series, first broadcast in 2004, consists of 9 compelling 50-minute episodes, each exploring a major Biblical event or figure from a new angle. As well as absorbing re-enactments, the series uses CGI graphics and expert opinion to form a comprehensive exploration of the subject matter at hand.

The series opens with an examination of the protagonists in, and events leading up to, the Crucifixion in the style of a murder investigation. It consults some of the foremost Bible scholars and historians to ponder who was ultimately culpable for the death of Jesus. Was it, as many believe, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, or Caiaphas, High Priest of the Temple at Jerusalem? Or was it even Christ himself, whose deeds and teachings set him on a path which would inevitably be considered revolutionary by the ruling Roman Empire? The programme looks at the politics at play in 1st-century Judea along with the actions and motives of those concerned in the events which would culminate in the most significant of episodes in the history of Christianity. Episodes 2 and 3 in the series look at some of the major figures in the life of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene and The Disciples respectively. What was Mary’s role in the life of Christ and the birth of Christianity, and is her reputation as a prostitute warranted? What brought together such a disparate group of men as the disciples and how, after the death of their mentor, were they able not merely to stay together but to found a faith which today encompasses a third of the world’s population?

Other episodes in the series look at some of the most well-known Biblical stories such as Joseph and his Coat of Many Colours, Joshua and the Walls of Jericho, David and Goliath and the infamous tale of Herod and the Bethlehem Massacre. Biblical archaeologists and other experts look at the evidence which could indicate whether these stories are allegorical or whether, and to what extent, they are actually rooted in historical fact. And of course, no study of Bible stories would be complete without examining the book of Revelations, which has inspired both fascination and fear for over 2000 years and which marks the conclusion of the Bible Mysteries series. All in all, this is a totally absorbing series, not only as a Religious Studies teaching resource but equally as a thought-provoking documentary for non-religious viewers.

In another fascinating video on religion, The Story of God travels across continents and cultures to look at the belief in a higher power which is common to all of the world’s major civilisations, past and present. It examines how religion has shaped our cultures and behaviour, and the major role it still plays in our thinking today. It also looks at one of the challenges the church faces in the modern world, the struggle between religious faith and the teachings of modern science – yet faith endures for many of us, so how are these two seemingly opposing views reconciled? This series is a must-watch for anyone who has wondered what place God has in modern society.

A page in the bible

Perhaps as interesting as religion itself are the buildings in which worship has taken place down the centuries. The series of church videos entitled Churches: How to Read Them looks at the rich and varied history of our places of worship. It charts their evolution from relatively simple buildings designed primarily to protect the altar and the sacrament of the Eucharist, through medieval times when religious symbolism began to be more prominent in the form of intricate carvings, stained-glass windows and ornate floors and walls; it looks at the devastation wreaked by the reformation on many of our church buildings and the transition to less turbulent times following the restoration, into the 18th and 19th centuries and right up to the present day. These buildings, fascinating in their own right, also have much to reveal to us about the prevailing religious views at the time of their construction.

These programmes and various other Religious Studies resources are available on DVD and in digital and other formats from BBC Active Video for Learning. Titles come complete with full, non-theatric licence, allowing them to be shown as part of theological lectures and seminars and many other religious instruction and education settings.