Air Date: Friday, May 20, 2005
Time Slot: 10:00 PM-11:00 PM EST on ABC
Episode Title: "N/A"
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Elizabeth Vargas Travels to the Holy Land and Talks to Scholars, Writers and Theologians About the Debate at the Core of the Christian Faith, Airing on "20/20," Friday, May 20 on ABC

"He probably literally got up...and walked out of the tomb," William Lane Craig, Talbot School of Theology

"I think it was visions or hallucinations," Kathleen E. Corley, Jesus Seminar

"Something definitely happened," Daniel Schwartz, Hebrew University

Did Jesus rise from the dead? 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? In a special hour-long report on "20/20," Elizabeth Vargas and ABC News take viewers on an extraordinary journey into the heart of the debate where it all began in Jerusalem, in search of the truth about the story that is at the core of the Christian faith... the Resurrection. Vargas asks scholars, theologians and archeologists the questions millions of faithful and interested Americans might have pondered: Was the tomb empty? Did Jesus physically walk the Earth after his death? Or were his followers just dreaming? The in-depth exploration airs on "20/20," FRIDAY, MAY 20 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

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. And yet his followers carried on, planting the seeds of a religion that would eventually rule the western world. What convinced them to continue? 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. What happened next is a mystery.

"20/20" visits the two shrines in Jerusalem thought to be the location of Jesus' burial site -- the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb -- and talks to a broad range of scholars, writers and theologians who have investigated the topic, from evangelical Christians to controversial progressive thinkers, in search of answers to everything from the exact location to what Jesus followers really saw that first Easter Sunday.

William Lane Craig, Research Professor, Talbot School of Theology and author of The Son Rises, says that Jesus "took off the grave clothes and unbound himself... he probably would've literally got up and shed these grave clothes and walked out of the tomb...He would be palpable, he would be physical, he would be tangible." But Rev. Richard McBrien, Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Roman Catholic Theology at the Notre Dame University, disagrees: "If they had digital cameras in those days, and they took ... tried to take a photo of Jesus, you know, 'Get over there with Peter... would you stand with Mary Magdalene? This would make a great shot. I mean, no one will ever believe this.' You take a photo of that scene and you'd get Peter and Mary Magdalene, but not Jesus," he tells Vargas.

Vargas also interviews Jewish scholars in Jerusalem who are experts in the history of the early Christian movement there. Professor Daniel Schwartz of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Professor Albert Baumgarten of Bar Ilan University help shed light on the mindset of the first followers of Jesus. While neither believes a physical resurrection occurred, both concur that something extraordinary took place shortly after Jesus' death. "I think definitely something happened," says historian Daniel Schwartz "I don't know how they convinced themselves. But the historical fact is, you've got people who are convinced he was resurrected."

Some of the other scholars, writers and theologians interviewed by Vargas include: Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith and host of PAX TV's "Faith Under Fire"; Karen King, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Harvard Divinity School; Rev. John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop Emeritus of Newark and author of Sins of the Scripture; Paul L. Maier, Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University; and Father Jerome Murphy O'Connor of the C cole Biblique in Jerusalem.

"20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. Davi Sloan is the executive producer.

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