tv CNN Presents CNN December 25, 2010 3:00pm-4:00pm EST
the third man's crime was mocked by the sign nailed to his cross, jesus of nazareth, king of the jews. jesus himself insisted his throne was in heaven, not of this world. but that didn't matter. the romans saw him as a political nuisance. to his fellow jews, he was just another failed messiah. no one even thought to record his death. the story of jesus has transcended generations and cultures. the tale of a routine execution that gave birth to a new religion. yet from that unlikely beginning, a great faith was born. and today, some 2 billion people believe jesus was the son of god. but even as billions of people pledge themselves to follow jesus' teachings, we have known almost nothing about jesus the man. no other great religious figure from moses to the budda to the
prophet mohammed is shrouded in mystery. >> it's hard to classify jesus in a single category, whether he was a sage or healer or teacher or car iz mat ig figure. and i expect the most accurate response to the question who was jesus at the time would be a mixture of all of these different identifications. >> the startling discovery of what some claim to be the burial box of jesus' brother, james, reopened the biggest detective story of all-time. the mystery of jesus the man. the plain limestone container is inscribed with a tantalizing clue in the language jesus spoke. james, son of joseph, brother of jesus. the public was enthralled, from people who flocked to see it on display to biblical scholars from around the world.
could this be the first physical evidence that jesus walked the earth? so when the israeli authorities alleged eight months after its discovery that the ossuary's inscription was forged, the quest for the historical jesus became ever more urgent. did they have a real brother? was mary really a virgin? how did jesus live? and why did he have to die? who was jesus the man? why is the greatest story ever told also the greatest mystery never solved? almost all we know about jesus' life comes to us from the four books of the gospels called mark, matthew, luke and john. yet the gospels were written anywhere from 40 to 70 years after jesus died. and with an eye to converting people. >> the gospels weren't meant to be historically accurate accounts in the way we would
think of. they weren't written according to our standards of biographical accuracy. they were meant to proclaim the good news of jesus' life, death and resurrection. >> one of the stories that historians are debating is the christmas card scene of his humble birth in a manger heralded by a star in the east and attended by three wise men. it's only mentioned by matthew and luke, and they don't always agree. so is any of it true? scholars say yes. to a degree. >> when we look at the gospel of matthew and the gospel of luke, we can see that there are about 12 pieces of information, 12 facts that they share in common, that they both know about jesus' early years. they both know that his mother is mary, that the father or stepfather is joseph, that they're from the family of david, that the birth took place in bethlehem. so they have this string, a
skeleton of information about the very formative years of jesus and his conception. but they don't have much beyond that. ♪ >> sadly, the birthplace of the man christians call the prince of peace is often a war zone, as it has been for centuries. ♪ but the manger that generations of pilgrims have sought out is a bit of a shock. a stone grotto that doesn't look much like a cozy stable. caves like this one pock mark the region where bethlehem lies. but one scholar suggests that we've got the wrong address. there is another bethlehem, one that borders joseph and mary's home territory of nazareth. >> that suggests to me that this is the bethlehem that we ought to be looking at instead of
bethlehem of ju daya. >> it is unlikely this argument is going to trump centuries of tradition that point to the bethlehem of faith. >> it is a historical faith revered for centuries by the faithful. it is the place where it is celebrated jesus was born. that's enough for me in my devotion. it's not enough for me in -- as a scientist. >> and what of the other great tradition of christmas, the star in the east? was it a myth, or did it really exist? astronomer michael mullnot may have found the answer on a 2,000-year-old coin he bought a few years ago for $50. on one side he noticed the astrological sign for aries which stud for ju daya for as
trolg. on the other side was the god jupiter. >> when i came across the coin that showed me the aries the ram was the sign of the jews and i asked myself, well, what event would have happened in aries the ram? >> so armed with a computer and chance of the ancient heavens, mullnar started plotting the course of jupiter in the constellation of aries around the time of jesus' birth. and he suddenly hit the mother of all celestial alignments. >> according to the beliefs of 2,000 years ago, if you have the sun, jupiter and the moon accompanied by saturn in the sign of aries the ram, this created the conditions for the birth of a devine and immortal person. >> if there was a star in the east, that would have been it. just when exactly did this star appear? mullnar did some more calculations. >> the computer came back with only one answer.
it said it happened only once in aries the ram, that was april 17th, 6 b.c. >> christmas in april? jesus born six years before we thought? it's likely true, since king harrod who went on a murderous rampage when he heard of jesus' birth died in 4 b.c. but after his birth, jesus largely disappears from view. and the mysteries of his early life deepen. who are jesus' parents? his brothers and sisters? just how did jesus grow up? >> jesus was probably doing what most other teenagers were doing, honing their job skills, meeting other people, helping to support the family, learning what he could about his community and his tradition. >> his tradition was jewish. and his community was the village of nazareth in rural galilee. just as the ancient prophets had said, the messiah would be a nazarene.ah
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nazareth in the first century was just a small town in rural galilee. a world away from cosmopolitan jerusalem, 100 miles down the road. yet it was here the gospel of st. luke tells us that an angel of the lord appeared to mary, and told her something extraordinary. she was going to be the mother of god's son. but what do we know about this woman who would change the course of history? >> we don't know very much about mary. we get little tantalizing snapshots. and from those tantalizing snapshots, she appears to be a lively, intelligent, but basically down-to-earth woman. >> and maybe not a woman at all when she bore jesus, but a girl with a remarkable life ahead of her. >> mary was very young when she became pregnant with jesus. she was probably just in her
mid-teens. which meant that by the time jesus was doing his public ministry, maybe she was 45. >> joseph, jesus' earthly father, is perhaps the most mysterious figure of all. by the time jesus has begun his public ministry, joseph has vanished from the story. that has led to speculation that joseph, a carpenter by trade, was many years older than mary. life in the nazareth of jesus' day was hard. today a group of biblical scholars and archaeologists have built the nazareth village to get a better idea of what jesus' life was like. >> there were no paved streets, no luxuries of any kind. the houses are made of field stones that are insulated with mud and straw. it was a very basic kind of hand-to-mouth existence.
>> it was also an existence that closely followed the rituals of jewish life. in fact, the only time the gospels mention jesus as a boy is during a vilgs it to the temple in jerusalem. this visit would have made an enormous impression on a devout 12-year-old from the hinter land. jerusalem was the place where particularly at festival times people always hoped that maybe now god was going to do something dramatic. and that sort of sense is in the air, and that it's going to happen, the new thing is going to be born. >> jesus sat with the teachers of the law, the great rabbis, the one who ran the academies in jerusalem. and had deep detailed discussions about the hebrew bible, the old testament with them. and these teachers and rabbis looked at this kid and said, this kid has a real gift. we should sign him up. let's get him to enroll. he's wasted up there in
nazareth. >> it was a mission, the gospels say, that jesus thought more important than his earthly family. for when they had departed for nazareth, jesus was still in the temple. >> and on the way home, mary and joseph suddenly realized after a few days, that jesus is missing. this always struck me as somewhat like "home alone." and they come back and stofr him in the temple and mary is very upset and says, how can you do this? >> jesus in his 12-year-old know it all state said, don't you know, i needed to be about my father's business? and he understands that his destiny is somehow here, the temple is where he belongs discussing these religious issues is what he's supposed to do. >> how could mary and joseph fail to notice jesus was missing? did this mean that the family was so large, a child like jesus could just disappear? the gospels speak of jesus' four brothers, james, joseph, judas and simon.
and at least two sisters. but many believe that mary remained a virgin all her life. and that these siblings were either stepchildren from joseph's earlier wife or cousins. texts seem to say that doesn't need to be the case. >> the word that's used of james and jesus' other siblings, the greek were for brother, it is the word for brother. some people thought, well maybe they're cousins, for example. well, there is a greek word for cousin, and that's not the word that's used here. >> the theological questions are profound. and the debate is a difficult one. especially if you're a jesuit and a scientist like tom fitzpatrick. >> i don't know if we're ever going to get to a definitive answer that satisfies every question or every person on this. it's been a very important
doctrine, mystery for the church over 2,000 years. it's not the most important doctrine. >> just as fascinating as jesus' family tree is the debate over just what jesus looked like. this certainly isn't a matter of doctrine. but it has always been a source of intense speculation. a centuries-old guessing game. >> i could never reconcile myself to him having long blond hair and blue eyes because he comes from a part of the world where people are basically swarthi with dark hair and dark eyes. >> is what does science say is the true face of the son of god ? boss: just going over how geico helps people save in even more ways... ...with good driver discounts, multi-car discounts, defensivdriver discounts... boss: just going over how geico helps people save in even more ways... woman: you! oh, don't act like you don't recognize me! toledo, '03?
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i'm martin savage at cnn center. more of "cnn presents" the mystery of jesus in just a moment. but first a check of the top stories. it is a rare white christmas in the deep south where snow is falling in parts of alabama, georgia and north carolina. delta airlines has canceled hundreds of flights out of atlanta. the really rough weather is still ahead. bonnie schneider is in the weather center. >> we're tracking the snow working its way to the east. this is just the beginning of a larger storm system that will develop tomorrow and into monday. just when people are traveling at the peak of the post-christmas travel time. notice the temperatures getting colder in alabama where it's been snowing, and in huntsville. the rain is changing to snow.
that's happening across georgia and south carolina right now. so we're watching for that. all right. we have winter storm warnings posted up for a good portion of the south. to the north, we have winter weather watches, advisories posted for tomorrow and monday. we're going to see some very heavy snow with the possible blizzard-like conditions for areas in northern new england. maybe even further south, with very heavy snow at times as this system gets cranking offshore. that's what's happening on sunday as low pressure works its way up the coastline. we'll be watching out for a big nor'easter for tomorrow. and a little bit of wet weather for coastal california. generally speaking, though, the middle of the country is looking pretty good for travel so far. we don't have airport delays but we're looking for a white christmas for many, and a little more snow for the south. >> thanks, bonnie. the actor seriously injured in the spider-man musical is up and walking following back surgery. he took his first steps today. he remains in stable condition in icu according to his father.
tierney fell 30 feet and show resumes thursday on new safety procedures that were put into place. the taliban are claiming responsibility for a suicide blast that killed at least 43 people in northwest pakistan. the victims were lining up at a food distribution center. at least 90 other people were hurt. a taliban spokesman is denying reports that the bomber was a woman. the attack comes one day after security forces killed 40 militants along the afghan border. in the netherlands, arresting 12, all of somali origin were arrested at several locations in rotterdam. a spokesman said it was believed an attack might be imminent. who hotel rooms, a pawnshop and four homes have been searched. no weapons or explosives have been found. i'm martin savage at the cnn center. let's get back to "cnn presents"
the mystery of jesus. trying to figure out what jegs us really looked like has kept men busy trying to supply the answer. but the difficulty in trying to flesh out the image of jesus is that his contemporaries considered his message, not his looks all important. also, judaism forbids the worship of idols, especially someone claiming to be god. of course, that does not stop
christians from imagining how jesus looked. he was first depicted as a triumphant sun god. since then, jesus has been reimagined by every generation. and movies have never tired of portraying him. from jesus christ superstar, to the brooding artist in jesus of montreal, to the smile iing chr of the film dogma. >> jesus, as far as i can tell, is not the blond, blue-eyed version, that we get from the movies. >> i think they would have looked very much like what we know by the term hippies. >> now we may be able to literally put some flesh on the
bones of centuries of guessing. as for the noted medical forensic artist richard nieve did when biblical scholars gave him a cope of a skull found in present-day israel. they wanted to get an idea of what a man of jesus' time and place might have looked like. >> it's a strong skull. and to live satisfily, especially the kind of life that jesus lived, you're going to have to be a fairly tough, rugged kind of fellow. he walked miles, he carried stuff, he could be flogged, he could carry his cross. i mean, you know, that takes a lot of physical strength and determination. and so he's not a wimp. >> nieve has spent nearly 30 years reconstructing the heads of mystery people. anonymous murder victims, ancient archaeological finds and suicides. but how would he approach a recreation of a face from 2,000 years ago? >> it's done in exactly the same
way as you would handle a forensic case. there's absolutely no difference, except that in this case, a nice clean prepared cast rather than the original skull. and you make a copy of that, and that's mounted onto a metal stand, pegs are inserted into the skull at specific anatomical points, and these indicate the average thickness of tissue that you're going to get, say there, or there, or there. >> nieve's skull was rendered into an image by the bbc. and further developed by the artist jim coaler with the help of nieve and biblical scholars. the result is a startling image, nothing like the jesus that history has imagined. >> the nose is quite prominent. the mouth, a youngish face, between 30 and 40 i suppose. >> nieve stresses that his jesus head is not the jesus head.
at best, it represents a face that jesus himself might have seen or had, and still it attracts debate. >> i've had one or two comments from people, and suggesting that it doesn't look anything like jesus. which, of course, doesn't surprise me. and they actually, some of them do gone to say that they know exactly what jesus looks like because they fook a photograph of him only three weeks ago. >> even though science has given us a better idea of what jesus really looked like, jesus' face wouldn't matter if it not for what he said, not what he did. and the gospels tell us in surprisingly short time, just three years. what was the message of this carpenter's son from galilee? and why did it get him killed?
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when jesus suddenly reemerged into the public eye, so the gospels tell us, he was about 30 years old. and he had a powerful mission, to rock the ancient world with his teachings. his public ministry would last just three years. but in that brief span, the obscure galilean carpenter would arouse such passion that his followers would not call him just the son of man, but the son of god. so who was jesus? a faith healer? a rebel? a messiah? >> some scholars think he was principally misupd as a jewish rabbi. some think he was better understood as a social
revolutionary, even a political revolutionary. some people think he was an ancient philosopher, a jewish philosopher. and probably the majority of the scholars continue to think he was best understood as a kind of jewish apocalyptic prophet. >> but jesus the prophet was not alone in his search for souls to save. scholars tell us the landscape was teeming with jewish groups, each with their own take on god's word flts one such sect were apocalyptic jews who lived in the desert by the dead sea. when their writings were discovered in the caves in 1948, we suddenly gained startling new clues about jesus' own spiritual roots. >> we have from comran just a small bit of a manuscript that shows us that there were other jews just before the time of jesus who were waiting for a messiah, who would exert miraculous and healing power and who would also have the power to raise the dead. and jesus embraces that
messianic expectation. >> the gospels tell us it was performed by the man who scholars say was jesus' cousin. john the baptist lived in the wilderness wearing camel skins, eating locusts and wild honey and baptizing people in the jordan river to cleanse them of their sins. this was a radical new spin on the purification bath. john was turning an ancient ritual into a new sacrament. >> john the baptist, he recognized jesus at the baptism. and he said, this is the man i've been waiting for. this is the person i'm preparing the way for. and he expected jesus to be the messiah of israel. >> and that's the message jesus took to the jewish people. as the gospels tell us, he returned home, found his first disciples among galilean
fishermen, and soon he called attention to himself by casting out demons and healing the sick. >> the healings would have attracted greater and greater crowds, and the crowds would have provided the base for jesus' other teachings. >> a healer, an exorcist, and soon a miracle worker. according to the gospel of john, jesus' first big public miracle was at a wedding at cana, turning water into wine and saving his friend's party. science can never say whether a miracle really happened. but scholars say there would be no mistaking the message that jesus was sending. >> in turning water to wine at the wedding, he is saying, i'm the bridegroom of the great mess onic banquet. and the messiah has arrived on the scene. >> the miracles kept coming.
raising laz a reth from the dead. walking on water. and repelling satan. but magicians and healers and exorcists were everywhere in those days. >> we have various accounts of miracle workers in the first century. the book of acts presents other, orrists who seem to be successful exorcists. >> we can put jesus on a continuum of other healers. but he does break the mold. he does more than they do, and more frequently. >> and more than miracles, jesus reached beyond social boundaries to include women prominently among his disciples. one woman who followed jesus has become second only to his mother in the story of his life. mary magdalene has not exactly been regarded as a virgin. >> christian tradition depicts mary magdalene as a prostitute. but she's never called a prostitute in the new testament,
or indeed in the first couple centuries of christianity. the first we know about her is that she is dependent. luke tells us she was possessed by seven demons and had been exorcised by jesus. so perhaps she followed him because he had performed a healing for her. other than that, mary is an independent woman. prostitute, no reason to think so. >> but what was she to jesus? could jesus have been married to mary magdalene, as some legends have it, or to anyone else? >> we have no indication in the gospel tradition that jesus is married. would it have been unusual for a jewish man to have been unmarried? no, not at all. >> whatever the details of jesus' personal life, his fellow jews, what he said was as important as what he did. he gave them a radical agenda, scholars say, one of which society's outcasts could play a central role. his manifesto promised that the powerful would be brought low and the meek would inherit the
earth. the sermon on the mount was an edgy message, at a volatile time. >> the thought of jesus going up into the hills with his followers and giving them special teaching has a kind of revolutionary flavor to it. my goodness, we're being prepared to do something. this is not just lessons that will help us say our prayers a bit better, although it will. it will be much more than that. it's setting an agenda in a whole movement and how it's gooding to go. >> the gospels tell us that jesus as a messiah had a huge appeal for the masses. here finally was someone who could liberate the jews from a century of roman rule. >> jews in particular thought that this land that they occupied had been given to them by god. the idea that some other power was controlling this land was considered not only to be a political nightmare, it was also thought to be a theological blasphemous. >> if jesus is preaching in the kingdom of god, he's teaching anti thet cal to the kingdom of
roam. >> and if that isn't enough, jesus then took his disciples and his message to jerusalem. the heart of judaism, and a roman political power. a fuse was primed. the people wanted a savior. >> and as they sit here on this mount of olives where we are today, they say, okay, now are you going to set up the kingdom? we're waiting. we want to rule. >> and then no sooner had jesus' ministry begun, it was over. jesus was now reviled as a common criminal. was it prophecy or politics that sent jesus out to die? tretch arh over 190 times. each brita filter can take up to 300 of those bottles out of the equation. i can get a cc for just my signature? that's right, right now you can take home a volkswagen
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jesus came back to jerusalem, the gospels tell us, during passover. as a devout jew, he had been to the great temple many times before with his family. but now he came with a politically charged time, with a provocative message. >> passover is the feast of freedom. the city has swelled with well over 1 million pilgrims. there's a concern for roman occupation. pilot has brought his troops into the city. anybody who talks about the kingdom of god, and even more, anybody about whom the word goes out, this is a new king. is clearly a political liability.
>> not just a liability to the romans, but to the jewish hierarchy, led by their high priest. one of the most vivid passages of the gospel, a furious jesus attempts to cleanse the money changes he finds there. >> overturning the temple tables and offerings being sold which was the necessary business of temple work, was a direct prophetic assault on the religious institution. in a way, he was saying that a new era was beginning. this was about as much as the religious authorities could take. and they put together a plot to turn him over to the romans. >> but first, jesus would fulfill the rituals of his religion and eat the passover meal with his friends, known today as the last supper. >> according to our earliest
accounts, he knew that he was in trouble, and was likely to be arrested. and so he took these symbolic foods of the passover meal and installed new significance in them. >> it is a communion recreated today in churches everywhere. >> this is my body, which will be given up for you. >> it's difficult to know if he actually said these things. our reports are decades later. but i think he certainly had a last supper, and he may well have anticipated that he was going to be killed soon thereafter. >> according to the gospels, that's exactly what happened. betrayed among the olive trees in the gardens by his own disciple, judah. throughout christian history, judas has been made the arch villain in jesus' death. but just what did this trusted disciple to pray? >> when the kingdom comes, you'll be the rulers and i, of
course, will be the king of this coming kingdom. if that's what he was teaching them, then everything else falls in place. what judas betrays to the authorities is jesus was teaching this in private. they use it to bring a charge to pontius pilot. >> pontius pilot was the governor who had power of life and death over his jewish subjects, and often used it. >> pontius pilot, the very year that jesus entered into jerusalem, was in a very difficult political position. and as a consequence of that, he agreed to help kiafis, and to pin the whole blame for what had occurred within the temple, the disturbance there involving jesus, on jesus himself. >> scholars think that the most accurate part of the gospels
comes here, at the end. the eyewitness details of his death by crucifixion, perhaps the most gruesome form of capital punishment ever devised. >> it was a case of a state organized around the principle of terror. and you pointed this terror at anyone who is seen as posing a threat or posing a potential threat. that certainly applied in the case of jesus. >> and to many others. the romans crucified up to 10,000 people during jesus' lifetime, often people just like himself. >> it wasn't unusual at all to have somebody, even a prophet, arrested and executed. even in the gospels, he's killed with two other people that morning. probably they, too, were troublemakers. and the next day, pilot probably ordered a couple other people killed.
>> if the crucifixion has always been depicted as an awful death, modern forensic science tells us it was even worse than imagined. after three decades as a medical examiner in new york, dr. frederick has investigated hundreds of homicides. but his research into death by crucifixion is as chilling as anything he has ever seen. a death that began with roman soldiers using a metal-bitted tip. >> it would enter the skin, up to the front of the body. the weight would carry it to the front, rip blood vessels, skin, it was literally brutal. >> jesus was then forced to
carry the 50-pound cross baem out of pilot's fortress. and through the streets of jerusalem, today called the way of sorrows. >> in the condition that jesus was in at this time, which is now being built up, the crowning of thorns, adding more shock, jesus would be stumbling, he would be unsteady on his feet. he >> finally jesus arrived at a hill outside the city walls called golgotha, which means the place of the skull. a site that today is covered by the ornate church of the holy sepulcher. in jesus' day this holy place was a killing field where a team of roman soldiers awaited their victim and quickly set about their grisly task. >> the members of it would hold their legs across their body, their arms, while they nailed the nails into their hands. >> though some victims lasted a
week, zugibe calculates that jesus spent about six hours on the cross. then it was finished. >> if i were to write a death certificate, i would say the cause of death was due to shock, which causes cardiogenic shock or the failure of the heart as a pump. and that would be the cause of death. >> while politics had a hand in jesus' death, scholars say so, too, did prophecy. they note that jesus' followers believed the prophecies of ancient scripture, that a political messiah, a glorious earthly king would come to free them from rome. but jesus had a new prophecy, one that was very different from what they had expected. >> he begins to teach them that the messiah must suffer and die. and that he would go up to jerusalem, he would be tortured, he would be beaten, he would be crucified, he would die and he would rise again. this was not an expectation that
they had for the messiah. >> so the gospels say when the disciples showed up at jesus' tomb three days after his death and found it empty, they were astonished. jesus said he would rise from the dead. had his prophecy been fulfilled? ♪ s cl right now." but that's not the only story. it's got turn-by-turn navigation, onstar, an available six-speed automatic transmission, remote keyless entry, and 10 air bags. it's a big story for a compact car. the all-new chevrolet cruze. get used to more. very well-qualified lessees can get a low-mileage lease on a 2011 chevrolet cruze ls for around $159 a month. call for details. [scraping] [piano keys banging]
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♪ christianity's defining moment came three days after jesus' death, when the gospels tell us he rose from the tomb and appeared to his downcast followers. in fact, scholars believe the gospels were written backwards, starting with jesus' death, because those were the facts that the apostles knew best and the facts that launched their faith. >> what makes jesus different isn't that his message was different. what makes him different is that after he was executed, his followers claim that he was raised from the dead.
christianity begins when jesus' followers proclaim his resurrection. >> but the resurrection is also the point where science stops and faith begins. skeptics have explained the resurrection as a mass hallucination or as a tale told to comfort jesus' followers, but none of those theories explain the mystery of faith. >> the belief that dead people don't rise was absolutely universal across the whole ancient world, with the exception of the jews, who said that at the moment, dead people don't rise, but one day there will be a resurrection either of the righteous or possibly of everybody. the best historical explanation for the rise of the early christian movement is that jesus really was raised from the dead on the third day. >> while science may not explain the resurrection of jesus, it can illuminate his life even to believers. >> i'm one of those persons, anyway. look at the secular world and
say, there's wonderful things going on there. and they can be a help to us, even talking about who jesus is. good. let's recognize that. let ourselves be tested by the world. we can only be helped. >> bring in as much of the other evidence as you can. coins, archaeological data. let's do the history thing properly. and then this figure emerges in three dimensions. and we say, my goodness, this is not just a religious icon. it is not just a wild-eyed revolutionary. it is somebody who is all of that and much, much more. and he's enormously compelling. >> perhaps more compelling in today's world, where religion more often than not seems to be a source of conflict. >> jesus as an historical figure provides now a point of dialogue among jews, christians and
muslims. because the islamic world accepts him as a prophet. the christian world accepts him as the son of god and clearly he was a jew. we will not agree from synagogue to church to mosque on what he represents, but at least we all have some claim upon him and that's the basis of conversation. >> so historians will continue to dig for clues in the dust of the holy land. sifting through new evidence and re-examining the old, all to capture the essence of this jewish rabbi who so changed the world. and faithful christians will continue to rely on jesus' own words to doubting thomas, words that define the mystery of faith. blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.