One of the big networks is about to investigate “the moment that changed the world,” according to promotions for the upcoming special.
ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas is hosting “Resurrection,” a “20/20” hour-long look at Jesus’ reappearance to followers after his death. The program will air Friday at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />10 p.m. ET.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
“Did Jesus rise from the dead?” begins an ABC News story about Friday’s show. “The stories of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ inspire faith and fuel controversy to this day. But what do we know about what really happened on that first Easter almost 2,000 years ago, a day that changed the course of history?”
Vargas travels to Jerusalem and interviews scholars, theologians and archaeologists about the claim at the center of the Christian faith. Interviewees include Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ; Rev. John Shelby Spong, author of Sins of the Scripture; Karen King, Winn professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School; and Ben Witherington, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
Vargas also talks to Jewish scholars in Jerusalem who are experts on the early Christian church there.
“I think definitely something happened,” Prof. Daniel Schwartz of Hebrew University in Jerusalem tells Vargas. “I don’t know how they convinced themselves. But the historical fact is, you’ve got people who are convinced he was resurrected.”
The ABC News story says, “Sometime between the year 30 and 33 of the first century, a young Jewish preacher named Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem. It was a brutal and humiliating death that should have ended his tiny movement right there.”
The movement didn’t end, however, because of what happened next.
“The Bible says that after Jesus died, his mother and other women who had followed him actually took his body down off the cross and that he was laid to rest in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea,” reads the story. “What happened next is a mystery.”
The ABC News message board is already getting posts about the special.
“Matters of faith are just that,” wrote one participant, “and neither 20/20 nor anyone else is going to change anyone’s opinion.”
ABC has covered religion with its high-profile newsmagazine shows before.
Vargas hosted the ABC News special “Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci” in 2003 after Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code lit up best-seller lists.
“Peter Jennings Reporting” produced “The Search for Jesus” in 2000 and “Jesus and Paul—The Word and the Witness” in 2004.
“These are topics that are near and dear to people,” Vargas told Hispanic Magazine when she was profiled in 2004 as a Latina of Excellence. “Yet I think there’s nothing better in the world than a spirited discussion about the Bible and Jesus and God and the Catholic faith, or the Jewish faith, or the Muslim faith—any religion.”
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
Click here for more about the ABC special.