As the season of Lent begins, and Christians everywhere are turning their minds to the life of Christ, CNN is preparing to launch their newest instalment of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery. This investigative program looks to explore the physical locations where Jesus lived, and examine how the events which unfolded there shaped human history as we know it. Crosswalk took a moment to sit down with Reverend A.R. Bernard, who worked on the upcoming project, and discuss what faith-based viewers should expect from this thrilling journey into the past.
What would you say is the basic premise of Finding Jesus for those who are just now hearing about the series?
I would say Finding Jesus is less an investigation of the life of Jesus, and more an exploration of the evidence, the writings, the archeological findings, and the people involved in his story.
What portions of Jesus’ life should viewers expect this series to cover?
Well, like the gospel of John says, there’s so much to be written about his life that a library couldn’t contain it, but I think selecting key characters like Herod, Pilate, Peter and Thomas, who were key disciples, and of course the life of Lazarus. We examine Jesus’ childhood home and what that meant to the context.
Promotional material for Finding Jesus claimed it would be using state-of-the art scientific techniques. Could you give us any more insight on this?
They have some great contributions from scholars who have taken this apart and really looked at things like the tomb of King Herod, the bones of Peter, Lazarus’ tomb where he was raised, even the very childhood home of Jesus, because many of these are still debated as to whether those are the actual spots. I will tell you, the impact this would have (and I hope it has) on the viewers, especially those who are not believers, is the same impact I experienced my first trip to Israel. To be in the location, to walk the very places that Jesus walked, to see and touch the very things I read about in the Biblical accounts, deeply changed my relationship with scripture. Hopefully, these archeological findings will change other individual’s relationship with scripture and move them from sceptics to believers.
Now, how did you became involved with this project?
I was invited through a relationship, and of course my questions were, “What’s the objective of this project?” When I understood it was more of an exploration that still allowed people to come to their own conclusions I was excited. More exciting for me is the platform, CNN. Something like this is conventionally shown on a Christian network, or the Discovery channel, or a network similar to that, but to put it on a network platform that has the journalistic reputation that CNN carries, and the reach, I thought that was absolutely brilliant and I applaud them for doing it.
Could you maybe describe how your own personal faith was affected by this project?
What really intrigued me was during the production of my particular segments, I was asked by the producer, “Imagine what it would have been like to be a Thomas, or be a Peter. Imagine what Herod was like.” I’m a history buff, and had enough information in my own mind to take my imagination beyond the pages of the text, into the context of the times socially, politically, economically, spiritually in which these characters existed. That really, really intrigued me as I said.
Finally, what kind of journey do you hope audiences, specifically Christian audiences, will experience from Finding Jesus?
I want Christians to become stronger in their faith. We don’t need archeological findings to legitimize the Bible or our Christian faith, it’s great to have that supportive evidence, but I would like to see Christians feel more affirmed in their faith, become deeper rooted in their faith, and come to place where they can sit down and have a critical conversation with someone who doesn’t necessarily believe what we believe. I think that’s important.
*Rev. A.R. Bernard is a member of the Christian Culture Center of New York. Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery premiers on CNN March 5th, at 9PM ET. To learn more about the program, visit the official webpage.