Returning to CNN this spring, Finding Jesus explores the ground-breaking archeological and scientific discoveries that are revealing more about the life and times of Jesus and His world.
Six episodes look at six purported artifacts—including the childhood home of Jesus, the tomb of King Herod, the bones of St. Peter, relics related to the Apostle Thomas, the Pilate stone and the tomb of Lazarus. It’s a dramatic way to retell “the greatest story ever told” while introducing a broad audience to the history, controversies and newest forensic science. In the process, it attempts to sort the facts from the fiction of would-be forgers and deceivers, drawing on experts from all over the world.
One of the principal consultants on both seasons of Finding Jesus is Dr. Mark Goodacre, professor of religious studies at Duke University. The main focus of the English-born academic is the New Testament and early Christianity.
Faith & Friends interviewed Dr. Goodacre at his North Carolina home.
How did you become affiliated with the series?
I was approached because I’ve done quite a bit of work for similar TV documentaries. I met with the producers in the early stages to brainstorm possible areas of interest. Later, I participated in script consultations and fact-checked the final result.
Were you pleased with the outcome?
Absolutely. Because it is airing on CNN, it avoids the kind of Da Vinci Code sensationalism you sometimes get in fringe-network documentaries. The research behind Finding Jesus is outstanding, and gives the series a great degree of academic rigour and respectability.
Not only will you have Christians, Jews and Muslims watching but non-believers as well. Do you think that the episodes can satisfy everyone?
Finding Jesus strikes a balance. One of the things about the first season was that we got praise and criticisms from all camps. That means we got the balance about right. And the second season also keeps things as grounded and objective as possible.
Do the episodes make an allowance for faith?
I think so. To give you a specific example, one of the episodes deals with the raising of Lazarus from the dead, one of the most striking miracles in the Gospels. To try and take a purely historical approach is difficult but one of the things that the episode tried to do was make very reasonable allowances for faith. I don’t think anyone will be upset by the approach it takes.
What’s your favourite episode of Season Two?
The episode where we look at what might be the childhood home of Jesus, simply because this is an area of Jesus’s life that we know the least about.
Now is this actually Jesus’ home?
No one knows, but what it certainly seems to be is a first-century house in Nazareth, which is where Jesus was raised. So we’re trying to fill in the picture of what Jesus was like as a child. You can’t go to the biblical texts to get that, so this is where archeology fills in the gaps.
Has your faith deepened through your work with this series?
My knowledge, my interest and my intellectual stimulation is always increased by looking at the historical context of the biblical passages, and for me, that’s one of the exciting things about my job. I think that anybody who has ever studied Christian origins will find that there’s a fascinating world out there. It’s difficult to say whether that’s the same thing as one’s faith being deepened, but the more you get into the archeological context, the more intellectually stimulating it becomes. At the end of the day, it’s exciting when Christianity becomes something people want to analyze and study.