Canon Tom Wright, the canon theologian of Westminster Abbey, also accuses the BBC program of being historically flawed and potentially offensive to Jews. The canon said the corporation had ignored critical aspects about Christ´s life because of fears that the issues would be too "difficult" for viewers, the newspaper said.
He said he had been "devastated by the omissions" and that the producers had rejected his pleas to explain Jesus´ conviction that God was about to inaugurate a new kingdom on earth. He added that the three-part documentary, which was to air tonight and end on Easter, overemphasized "political relevance."
Canon Wright, the chairman of the Historical Jesus section of the international Society of Biblical Literature, said: "There was plenty wrong with the wealthy and oppressive aristocracy, but Jesus´ movement was far more than another center-Left protest march."
Wright added: "He was saying that God´s new day was dawning and that now everything was going to be different. Unfortunately, the BBC didn´t want to know about that. Their audience wouldn´t understand it, they said. But without it, they won´t understand the rest either."
The program stresses Jesus´ opposition to the strict purity laws upheld by the wealthy class of chief priests, and his sympathy with the sick and disabled who were pushed to the margins of society. The canon said, however, that it was in danger of making Jesus sound anti-Jewish, "which is historically absurd as well as offensive and dangerous."
The series, which uses computer technology to recreate first-century Palestine, will include a reconstruction of a contemporary Jewish skull, which the BBC producers believe closely resembles that of Christ. Presented by Jeremy Bowen, the series tries to challenge assumptions about Jesus´ life and death, suggesting, for example, that he may have colluded in his "betrayal" by Judas and that he may have been drugged on the cross to make him appear dead.
The comments from the canon will likely embarrass BBC. Senior executives had hoped that the programs, the most lavish ever produced by its religious broadcasting department, would allay criticism from church figures that it has been trivializing or marginalizing Christianity.