BBC denies 'The Nativity' drama had anti-Jewish libel

Leading rabbi criticises portrayal of a character who denies shelter to pregnant Mary.

The BBC has defended the British version of "The Nativity" drama film, saying it did not contain any "anti-Jewish" libel after a leading rabbi complained about the portrayal of one of its characters.

The drama, starring Tatiana Maslany as Mary and Andrew Buchan as Joseph, aired on BBC One on 20 December. It showed Virgin Mary getting pregnant after visiting Judah. The show also depicted Mary being denied shelter by a Jewish rabbi who instead shows her a way out to escape an angry crowd.

The story, written by Tony Jordan, focused on the difficult relationship between Mary and Joseph after her miraculous pregnancy and his fear that she had been unfaithful to him.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who sits on a panel that advises the BBC on religion and is a former chair of Reform's Assembly of Rabbis, said the BBC was "spoiling the season of goodwill" by including a scene that showed a rabbi denying shelter to the pregnant Mary. He added that "an anti-Judaic aspect has been twisted into the narrative" which is against the beliefs of millions of Christians.

The BBC rejected Romain's claims and said there was "absolutely no truth" to claims that the rabbi was depicted in a negative way.