National Geographic Explores the Mysteries of Christianity

(WASHINGTON, D.C. -- MARCH 17, 2009)  Christianity is founded on the belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected after his crucifixion, an event that is celebrated every Easter.  But what is straight fact and what is multilayered fiction in the history of one of the world's largest and most influential religions is constantly debated among scholars, theologians and conspiracy theorists. 

What really happened the day Jesus was crucified?  Did the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate send him to his death, or was it the Jewish high priests who called for it?  Has Jesus' final resting place been discovered?  And what of the Knights Templar, the mysterious Christian crusaders of the 11th century?  Did this secret brotherhood participate in decidedly anti-Christian acts?


On Monday, April 6, 2009 -- six days before Easter -- the National Geographic Channel (NGC) premieres three hours of original programming that explore controversial theories that, if true, could unravel mysteries at the heart of the Christian tradition.  Each compelling hour features renowned scientists and biblical scholars who dissect archaeological and historical evidence revealing provocative insights that could challenge the faithful, and leave others still believing in the miraculous.  Familiar tales and characters are recast in a new light as we investigate conspiracies and cover-ups that some claim have obscured what could be the true history of Christianity.

Premieres Monday, April 6, 2009, from 8-11 PM ET/PT:
In Search of Jesus' Tomb premieres at 8 PM ET/PT
Secrets of the Knights Templar premieres at 9 PM ET/PT
Who Really Killed Jesus (wt) premieres at 10 PM ET/PT

Descriptions of each program after the break:

In Search of Jesus' Tomb
Premieres Monday, April 6, 2009, at 8 PM ET/PT


In 1980, archaeologists investigated a tomb outside Jerusalem.  They found boxes of bones and a series of names that led to a sensational claim -- that this tomb could contain the remains of Jesus Christ, as well as shocking evidence that he was not resurrected, but had married and even had a son.  This radical theory outrages most scholars, who say it's based on conjecture, fantasy and even forgery. 

Thirty years later, controversy still rages over the "Jesus Tomb Theory."  Using 21st century DNA analysis, scientists may be able to determine if there is a bloodline connecting the remains of two boxes that believers in the theory say are inscribed with the names of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Some experts feel the evidence is convincing, based on the tradition of the burial plot, its location and the unique collection of names.  James Tabor, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Caroline at Charlotte, believes the finding could be the real deal:  "It's not just the names, but the cluster of names.  It's not just any Jesus.  It's Jesus son of Joseph, [with] a mother named Mary [and] a brother named Joseph."  However, many experts dispute the uniqueness of the inscriptions, and their very interpretation.  Joan Taylor, senior lecturer, University of Waikato, New Zealand, notes, "People like drama in terms of archaeological discovery and, if someone comes up with this idea that this could be the tomb of Jesus and his family ... what greater drama is that?" 

With no conclusive evidence that this is the tomb of Jesus, the search for answers, and the debate, continues.  

Secrets of the Knights Templar     
Premieres Monday, April 6, 2009, at 9 PM ET/PT


A secret sect -- guardians of Christianity's most valuable relics.  A greedy king who will stop at nothing.  And an exiled pope caught in between.  It's a tale of heresy, betrayal and hidden treasure.  Overnight, the most revered Christian warriors become the most reviled criminals.  Now, a secret document, hidden for 700 years, reveals the politics and deception that destroyed the legendary Order of the Knights Templar. 

In 2003, Vatican historian Dr. Barbara Frale discovered the Chinon Parchment, a document lost for 700 years that revealed shocking confessions of heretical acts by the Christian crusaders.  These acts included denouncing Christ, spitting on a cross and intimacy with other male members of the order.  But the Templars were renowned for their purity and unmitigated allegiance to Christianity.  How and why was their reputation smeared in this way?  Were these confessions made under torturous duress? 

The Templars were formed in the 11th century to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land.  They became famous -- and very rich -- as custodians of Christian relics.  However, when King Philip IV of France went bankrupt, he seized their funds and had them tortured at Chinon Castle.  The Templars and their leader, Jacques de Molay, broke down and confessed to heretical acts.  And yet, Pope Clement V absolved them unconditionally because he believed the acts were committed as a test of endurance.  According to Frale, "Disciplined and courageous men were needed to fight against the Muslims who used to force their Christian prisoners to renounce their faith."  Six years later, de Molay recanted and passionately defended the purity of the order.  To this day, the truth behind what is written in the Chinon Parchment is still debated. 

Who Really Killed Jesus? (wt)     
Premieres Monday, April 6, 2009, at 10 PM ET/PT


The trial of Jesus Christ is a defining moment in history.  An epic confrontation between two men: Jesus and Pontius Pilate.  One became the face of Christianity.  The other is veiled in mystery. 

Is Pilate really an innocent man - or is he the man who killed Jesus? According to the Gospels, Pilate reluctantly orders Jesus' crucifixion, then washes his hands of any responsibility.  The Christian story acquits Pontius Pilate and blames the Jews in his place.  Helen Bond, senior lecturer, New Testament, University of Edinburgh, notes, "People have seen that as the Jewish nation accepting the guilt for Jesus' death, and that has had tremendous repercussions."  But historical evidence disputes the Gospel accounts.

Pilate was assigned to maintain law and order in Judea, and he quickly earned a reputation for brutally suppressing rebellions. It is Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, who accused Jesus of sedition, of claiming that he is a king and rival to Caesar.  Contrary to the Gospels, the clear historical evidence is that Pilate would not have hesitated to execute an agitator accused of sedition.  So, why would Pilate be portrayed as ambivalent and the Jews blamed for the death of Jesus?  One theory is that the Gospels have an anti-Jewish agenda.  According to Tabor at UNC Charlotte, "The Gospels were written after the year A.D. 70.  By then a new Christian movement had begun to spread.  The Gospel writers had to convince their Roman audience that they were not enemies of Rome."  Yet others believe that once he met Jesus, Pilate became a believer.  The latter seems unlikely, since Pilate was "recalled" by the empire and stripped of his duties because, ironically, he had ordered too many crucifixions. 

2 Comments

all in one search engine

http://trypu.com

When will I be able to order the dvd "Who Really Killed Jesus?"...I watched a few times already and would like to have it for my personal collection.

Thanks,

jack palzer

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