Jesus’ Rise to Power

In less than four centuries, the little-known cult of Jesus rises from a disparate collection of beliefs that do not even go by the name of Christianity into a dynamic, coherent force that dominates the mighty Roman Empire. This extraordinary story is an epic human drama filled with suspense, political intrigue, brutal religious persecution, and sheer luck. In a landmark three-part series, Jesus: Rise to Power, Dr. Michael Scott sets outs across the historic landscapes of the ancient world to discover how and why Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire.

First up at 8P is Jesus: Rise to Power: Messiahs: In his quest to find out about the rise of Christianity within the Roman Empire, Dr. Michael Scott tackles the birth of the Christian religion. The Romans executed Jewish Messiah Jesus of Nazareth in the most humiliating way they could. In a world where people are defined by the manner of their death, Jesus should have been branded a failure and rejected. But he is not. Jesus’ crucifixion becomes one of the defining moments in Christianity and he is heralded as the Messiah. Michael’s quest uncovers how the Christian message spread and grew through Roman expertise and technology, how it became more visible and therefore more vulnerable to attack by the Roman authorities, and how it organized itself and broke away from its Jewish roots.

Video: The the only existing artifact that proves Crucifixion is analyzed by two archaeologists in Israel:

Then, at 9P on Jesus: Rise to Power: Martyrs: Roman authorities become increasingly intolerant as Christians refuse to sacrifice to the State’s pagan Gods. With their strange, secret and mysterious practices like communion, Christians are condemned as cannibals and deviants. And yet Romans are reluctant to put Christians to death. In an act of defiance at the Arena in Carthage, the martyr Perpetua assists her executioner by putting the sword to her own throat. Rome’s attempt to stamp out Christianity ends up inspiring it and ultimately helping it develop into a worldwide political and religious force.

Video: A young woman who refuses to conform to Roman rules becomes a saint for her permanent sacrifice: 

Last up at 10P is Jesus: Rise to Power Christians: After nearly three centuries, Jesus’ followers have endured a succession of persecutions, but none as severe as Diocletian’s Great Persecution. Although many Christians die, once again Christianity pulls through, this time with an organized hierarchy bound together by the struggle to survive. It has become the Church. Now Emperor Constantine, recognizing its indomitable spirit—and with his enemies still worshipping pagan Gods—adopts Christianity, moves the capital from Rome to Constantinople and begins to Christianize his empire. Julian, after him, attempts to disempower Christians, but the bond between Church and State is now irreversible. In 381 AD, Theodosius outlaws paganism and proclaims Christianity the one and only legal religion. The faith has evolved from the crucifixion of Jesus into a religious and political force, permanently woven into the fabric of the Roman Empire.

Video: Christians suffer consequences when they refuse to make sacrifices to Roman Gods:

Don’t miss the three-hour event of Jesus: Rise to Power tonight starting at 8P.


  1. gwetherly87
    March 28, 2013, 10:12 pm

    I can’t believe that at Easter, Nat Geo would stoooooooooooooooooooooop! so low.

  2. A Hitchner
    USA Delaware
    March 28, 2013, 11:47 pm

    Dr Scott states clearly that Christians were severely persecuted for a time. And for a time they were. He also makes clear those that fell as martyrs fell when Roman society was crumbling. There was no organize program for the Christians to make a spectacle of their own deaths. Rome was so in love with violence that it had become entertainment and that had become the crux of the fear the emperors used to hold it’s people captive. The Christian could not sacrifice anything because Christ was and is the one and final sacrifice. Though I have no bent whatsoever for martyrdom, Rome would have had to kill me also…

  3. Drew
    March 29, 2013, 1:30 am

    This is so slanted one way toward the Roman Empire it reminds me of a Michael Moore documentary. Very dissappointed!

  4. Al Williams
    March 29, 2013, 10:27 am

    This was probably the most honest depiction of the rise of Christianity ever made. The actors were cast perfectly and for the most part keep their mouths shut, which gives depth of spirit to the storyline and a sense of seriousness. If only a little more attention was given to Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, the Desert Father movement,St. Jerome and St. Augustine, an even better, more complete, history would have been depicted. However, it is still a powerful introduction to the main events of the first centuries of early Christianity.

  5. Lucia
    March 29, 2013, 11:33 am

    Mr. Scott contends that the Roman”s were not persecuting the Christians perse but anyone who did not make oblations to their pagan gods. He cites a letter/edict on this point and contends this falls under the concepts of Religios and Superstitio. This is illogical. It was directly aimed at persecution of the Christians, since they were the only group effected by it. The Jews had refused to make sacrifices to the pagan gods forever, and the Roman”s did not persecute them and throw them to the lions, etc. They refused to pay taxes, and they were not punished, they refused to have Ceaser’s portrait or statue in their temple and were not punished. So, why only the Christians? I(t certainly was a direct edit to persecute the Christians specifically. the idea was, of course that if they performed the oblations, then they would be making their own religion moot. But they knew that the Christians, {messianic Jews} would never do this, so it was directly targeting them. He should also remember that since the title Ceaser replaced “emperor” Ceaser considered himself a god in the pantheon. Neither the Jews nor the “Christians” would worship Ceaser.

  6. James
    March 29, 2013, 7:39 pm

    Dear NatGeo Channel why do you ruin our TV viewing experience by constantly throwing stupid informational pop ups in the middle of our screens isn’t it enough that you throw your logo in the bottom right corner and you constantly put wicked tuna’s up coming episodes in the upper right corner. I can look at my guide for this information. Who is the bright person behind this? I’m sure I’m not the only viewer that hates this. why go to the trouble of putting your show on film if you cover half of it up. At least the internet gives us the ability to eliminate pop-ups.

  7. Michael
    NY state
    March 29, 2013, 8:15 pm

    Unbelievable that such a serious documentary contains absurd little “info” boxes with pop culture references that appear about once a minute. I am reeling at the thought that the producers considered this drivel necessary . Why? The show stands solidly on its own merits.

  8. Richard Slezak
    Stockton, California
    March 31, 2013, 5:49 am

    On your TV show ‘Unearthing America’ an episode onthe ‘Providence, Rhode Island, Round Stone Tower, inwhich the narrator stated near the end of the show that the Masons/Templars came to America to establish religious freedom for all residents to include Muslims. The Templars knew that Muslims are Totalitarians and would never fight with them but always against Muslims.

    • Meghan Gleason
      April 1, 2013, 10:04 am

      That is actually a History Channel show.

  9. maja
    March 31, 2013, 8:48 pm

    How could I buy the series Jesus: rise to power from Michael Scott(National Geographic)? I could not find them on

  10. JaimeH
    April 11, 2013, 6:02 am

    I really enjoyed this documentary. I found it most informative. I loved that is was from a purely historical, dare I say secular?, perspective. I found Dr Scott’s explanations and delivery simple but at the same time informative. I have been searching for some bibliography but have had dfficulty finding it. Can someone please point toward a publiciation that covers more or less the same topic as this outstanding documentary series? Thx

  11. Anon Ymous
    April 21, 2013, 1:47 pm

    In the episode about Messiahs, which describes the spread of Christianity and Paul’s influence, the map they use in several places omits the island of Cyprus. Cyprus is the 3rd biggest island in the Mediterranean, much bigger than Crete, Corsica, even Malta (!), which are on the map. More importantly, Cyprus is crucial to Barnabas’ (who was from Cyprus) and Paul’s early work spreading Christianity, so the omission is not insignificant. In looking at the production of the show, I noticed that they used a Turkish ‘fixer’ (MA Productions). Did modern geopolitics erase a whole country and an important piece of history off the map?

  12. yolande
    south africa
    August 4, 2013, 10:20 am

    Hi Micheal, if you want to get great info about Jesus go to speak to professors from Brigham young university. They will give you more correct info.