New Original Series, “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery” premiers on CNN
Academics and theologians examine the value and authenticity of six objects which could shed new light on the historical Jesus in series premiering March 1, 2015.
Loved and worshipped by billions, Jesus of Nazareth is, unquestionably, the most famous person of the last 2,000 years. His influence on art, politics, education, literature, music, law, language, philosophy and philanthropy continues to this day. But he left no physical trace.
Or did he?
That’s the question at the forefront of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, a CNN original series by Nutopia Productions. Premiering March 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT this six-part series discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest state-of-the-art scientific techniques and archaeological research. Part documentary exploring the marvelous and mysterious artifacts emanating from the world of the Bible, the series is also a thrilling and emotional drama, examining the Gospel characters and stories connected to these artifacts – the baptism, the betrayal, the Passion, the Resurrection and after.
Each episode of the series investigates the value and authenticity of a historical object which could shed new light on Jesus: the Shroud of Turin, relics venerated as part of the True Cross, the gospel of Judas, relics believed to be of John the Baptist, the burial box of Jesus’ brother James and the gospel of Mary Magdalene.
Episode 1: The Shroud of Turin
There is no record of what Jesus looked like in the New Testament. There are no contemporary descriptions at all. However, the Bible does record how Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council and a sympathizer with Jesus, wrapped his dead body in expensive linen, and buried it in his own family tomb.
In the 14th Century a shroud, bearing the image of a crucified man, surfaces in France, before eventually finding a home in Turin. Is this the very shroud that Joseph wrapped Jesus in? Is the image of the man Jesus Christ? The shroud appears to tell the whole story of Jesus’ Passion in one image – the scourging; the Crown of Thorns; carrying the cross; the Crucifixion; the spear in his side.
For centuries, the shroud is a source of great controversy – many Christians believe it is genuine, but others have their doubts.
In 1978 a team of scientists lead by former US Navy physicist Dr. John Jackson spend five days intensively studying the shroud, before ultimately concluding it is genuine. It isn’t a forgery or the work of an artist. But a decade later, in 1988, the shroud is subject to Radiocarbon 14 dating – scientists at three separate laboratories date the samples of the Shroud to some point between AD1260–1390. This strongly suggests the shroud is a medieval fake after all.
In a final twist, the episode visits the Cathedral of San Salvador, in Oviedo, Spain, where there is another burial cloth—the Sudarium—venerated as having covered the face of Jesus. Some interesting aspects drawn from research on this could undermine the carbon dating of the Turin Shroud and throw current archaeological thinking back in to doubt?
Throughout the series, a first-class panel of on-screen contributors will provide expert comment – academics from the world’s best universities including Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Oxford provide historical and theological insight, while the likes of Father James Martin SJ (the editor of ‘America’ the United States’ national Catholic magazine), the Rev. Paul Raushenbush (executive religion editor of the Huffington Post), and Erwin MacManus, senior pastor of MOSAIC Los Angeles, help bring our characters and their emotional journeys to life for our audience.
Also appearing to offer expert analysis throughout the series is David Gibson, an award-winning journalist and filmmaker who specializes in covering the Catholic Church. He is co-author of the series’ companion book from St. Martin’s Press, also titled Finding Jesus, due to be released Feb. 24.
Rather than disparaging belief and faith as being inferior to scientific research, the “Shroud of Turin” episode was respectful of Christianity. It brought out intriguing historic details of life in 1 century Jerusalem that adds to the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. After presenting historic and scientific data and expert opinions, Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery leaves viewers with the idea that, when all is said and done, it comes down to faith.