Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery (Season 1)

Did Christ leave behind physical evidence of his existence? Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery is a television series that started airing on CNN in 2015, inspired by the book of the same name written by David Gibson. The show presents itself as an investigation of various artifacts allegedly connected with the historical Jesus, such as the Shroud of Turin, the Gospel of Judas, and the James Ossuary. Along the way, scholars, historians, experts, and ministers are interviewed about questions and ideas surrounding the figure of Jesus and the artifacts under study. The first season spans six episodes, while a second season began on March 5th of 2017. This review briefly covers each episode of season one.

Episode 1: The Shroud of Turin

Finding JesusThe Turin Shroud is a cloth that some believe once held the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Mark 15:46 makes mention of Joseph of Arimathea wrapping the body of Jesus in linens for burial. However, the shroud does not appear in any writings or records prior to the mid-14th century. Religious relics were quite popular during this time in history, and countless fakes and forgeries were produced to profit off the willingness to believe among the faithful. To make matters worse, the Catholic Church allowed for testing of the cloth in 1988, and the conclusion reached by three independent laboratories was that the artifact originates from the 13th century.

Of course, this is not the end of the story. Those who consider the shroud to be authentic insist that there are traces on it that merit further inspection, lending credence to an earlier dating. They contend that the testing done in the 1980s took its sample from a part of the cloth that had been repaired after the object was damaged in a fire in 1532. Yet the report published in 1989 in Nature specifically says the samples were taken from a spot on the cloth away from patches and charred areas, with attention to the material being sampled. Frankly, Finding Jesus does a surprisingly poor job of covering the debate at this point. Little is said about why the dating has been questioned or about why skeptics and scientists want to uphold the original dating. What gets brought up instead are claims about blood on the shroud, whip markings, impressions left by the crown of thorns, the piercing in the side, and so on. The radiocarbon testing is referenced almost in passing, as wilder and more speculative theories are given the spotlight.

John Jackson and the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) are consulted for the episode, without any note made whatsoever about the religious ties of the project’s members, or its affiliation with the Holy Shroud Guild. These omissions are important when reporting on the alleged expertise of people who have strong vested interests in affirming the shroud’s authenticity. Another troubling omission would be in the astoundingly short focus that is given to the possibility that the image on the cloth was created by an artist. Nicholas Allen is trotted out as the resident skeptic, but his “camera obscura” alternative is so far-fetched that it’s easily and quickly dismissed on the show. Allen proposes that the shroud is one of the earliest examples of photography, using an ancient method for projecting images. Yet as one guest rightly asks, where are all the other photographs for this painstaking process? This permits the believers to practically overlook the more promising idea that the shroud was produced not by some innovative early photographer, but by a painter.

Corroborating this theory is a letter from Bishop Pierre D’Arcis written in 1389 that proclaimed the shroud a hoax, and stated that the bishop’s predecessor was even able to get this confirmed by the artist who had “cunningly” painted it. Disappointingly, to my recollection there is not a word said about this in the show, either. It does bring to mind, though, John Calvin’s own opinion on the shroud in his Treatise on Relics. Calvin wrote, “How is it possible that those sacred historians, who carefully related all the miracles that took place at Christ’s death, should have omitted to mention one so remarkable as the likeness of the body of our Lord remaining on its wrapping sheet?”1 Indeed, this question is a substantial one, and backed by Bishop D’Arcis’ claim of forgery, as well as the laboratory testing from 1988, it seems like it should soundly challenge such specious arguments as the “blood type” on the shroud, the visual signs of crucifixion, “invisible reweaving,” etc.

Joe Nickell, a skeptical investigator of paranormal and miracle claims, also reviewed this episode of the show and documented several missing facts and half-truths.2 Microanalyst Walter McCrone was sent surface samples from the shroud taken by STURP, and found that they contained red ocher pigment, consistent with medieval techniques used to paint blood. And reports of actual blood and DNA being identified on the shroud are not as impressive as they might sound. In a 2016 paper for Internal Emergency Medicine, Giovanni Di Minno and co-authors observe that “due to its religious nature, the Turin Shroud has been displayed and handled over many years by untold numbers of people. Contamination of feminine DNA, likely due to women that worked on or kissed it, was present on the Turin Shroud.”3 Furthermore, even if the shroud could be dated earlier than the 13th century, this would not mean the artifact is genuine. It could simply be that a forger used something ancient to pass off a forgery, which would certainly not be unheard of.

As a starting episode, it’s understandable why the Turin Shroud is captivating material for viewers. But in terms of providing the arguments and facts, this first part of Finding Jesus is spectacularly deficient. The bulk of the episode seems centered around building up to discussing the evidence, sifting through lots of speculation and commentary on the familiar story of the crucifixion. The grisly details are emphasized, the devotion of the early followers, and other matters that are barely relevant to the main focus of the episode. Joe Nickell’s description of this as an act in confirmation bias is surely not far from the truth.

Episode 2: The Bones of John the Baptist

In episode two, the focus shifts to John the Baptist, which is somewhat strange for a series about finding Jesus. Of course, the scholarly guests do their work of tying in John with Jesus, though assumptions made here are based exclusively on the story in the gospels. There is not even mention of the passages on John in Josephus’ writings. While it could be true that John shared many of Jesus’ views and did baptize him, and the gospel authors sought to explain this odd detail that could suggest John’s superiority to Jesus, it could just as well be that the gospel authors exaggerated John’s relationship with Jesus precisely because John was a well known figure. Claiming credibility in this way was not uncommon in the ancient world.

By the second part of the series, you begin to wonder if this show would have been more accurately titled “Medieval Christian Relics That Probably Aren’t Genuine.” It might not be as snappy or mysterious sounding, but it also wouldn’t be as misleading. At the beginning, a teaser is introduced concerning bones from a 5th century Bulgarian church that has traditions linking the bones to John the Baptist. Brief comments are made about how there is evidence showing the bones date to the first century… and then we never hear anything more. The tidbit is trotted out again for the ending, though this is not at all what the episode looks into. Instead, the only bone (singular) of John the Baptist the show really gives any attention is a finger-bone relic in Kansas City that goes back to the 15th century.

To fill time, the testing of this finger-bone is drawn out and spliced up with commentary on how the Bible portrays John the Baptist. The man was an apocalyptic prophet, he came into conflict with Herod Antipas, who had him killed, and of course he baptized Jesus. All this is information easily gleaned from the gospels in about a tiny fraction of the time it takes for the show to spell it out. Aside from this, there is nothing in the episode that would be news to anyone with the most cursory knowledge of Christianity. And didn’t you know it, that finger-bone? It dates between the 7th and 8th centuries, as revealed at the end. What especially feels cheap is that this is practically hinted at from the start, when it is noted that over 200 relics of John were in existence by the 15th century, and most of these were doubtlessly frauds.

It does not seem that anything more on the 5th century box in Sveti Ivan, Bulgaria has come to light since this episode originally aired. News reports from 2012, three years before Finding Jesus premiered, provide about the same level of information.4 Not only is it explained that a peer-reviewed study was not conducted before heading straight to a documentary special, but the researchers were quick to add that a first century dating still could not confirm if the bones do, in fact, belong to John the Baptist. Dr. Georges Kazan believes there is some evidence that monks took the bones of John to Constantinople, where they were later delivered to the church at Sveti Ivan as a gift, but this appears quite speculative. As Andrew Millard of the University of Durham puts it, “The question really is how well they could have identified the remains of John the Baptist in the fourth century.”5

Unfortunately, it’s not a question likely to be resolved anytime soon. Believers may continue to trust in their traditions, but for those of us that want a little more evidence, the trail seems to have gone cold at least for now. All things considered, there isn’t much reason to imagine that the bones in Bulgaria are actually John the Baptist’s.

Episode 3: The Gospel of Judas

The media seems to love the very idea of a gospel of Judas. This shouldn’t be all that surprising at a time when anti-heroes and reluctant savior figures are making frequent appearances in film and television, but it is occasionally surprising just how often this document finds its way into even the least appropriate of contexts. Such as a documentary series covering the artifacts associated with the life of Jesus Christ. The preceding episode on John the Baptist is a little out of place, though it still makes a kind of sense. This episode, however, is really difficult to explain.

The Gospel of Judas is a non-canonical ancient text discovered in 1978 that presents a dialogue between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. It is in the Coptic language and was first written sometime during the 2nd century CE. None of these details are debated in the show. Instead, emphasis is put on the narrative and interpretation of the document. And if you’re curious what a text written on Judas a century or more after the latest of the four gospels could possibly tell us about Jesus, the answer may not be what you expect. Because it turns out to reveal even less than its moniker would suggest.

Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels walks us through the story of Judas’ gospel in the episode. It appears to make Judas the hero, the one who agrees with Jesus to betray him, for the good of the world. Not only is he not the reviled character of tradition, but he’s the disciple who gets it when the others don’t. Then along comes scholar April DeConick, who reinvents this take with her own translation. On Deconick’s reading, Judas is not the hero – he’s a demon! What we get in the Gospel of Judas is a tale even worse than tradition, where the one who betrays Christ is practically evil incarnate, sowing confusion and discord. Finally, the show reveals that additional fragments of the text have come to light and invite yet another interpretation.

In a bizarre twist, the gospel attributed to him isn’t really about Judas at all. Rather, it seems to universally condemn the disciples as simpletons, in order to levy a critique against the early emerging orthodoxy among Christian churches of the time. The connection to Judas is primarily symbolic; Judas is the outcast, one of the only characters disliked and shunned by most mainstream churches in the 2nd century. Here, though, there isn’t much said, and the presentation can seem hasty and convoluted. April DeConick’s interpretation spells things out a bit better, as she writes on her blog:

The Gnostics who wrote the Gospel of Judas thought that the concept of Jesus’ death as a sacrifice to God for the atonement of sins was horrid… So they were criticizing the catholics of their time for their central doctrine (atonement) and practice (eucharist or communion meal when Jesus’ body and blood were sacrificed on the church altar weekly and eaten). The demon Judas was responsible for this horrific act and the twelve disciples were responsible for teaching Christians to believe that this demonic act was really for the worship of God.6

This calls attention to another issue with the episode. Ben Witherington III, also featured in the show, notes that there seemed to be an almost deliberate attempt to avoid using the word “Gnostic.”7 I noticed this as well, which was strange to omit in discussing a document that is unanimously regarded by biblical scholars as Gnostic in its content. One wonders as to the motivation behind this omission, particularly when there is some minor commentary on the Zealots and how this could be one explanation for why Judas betrayed Jesus.

Whatever the case, it deserves mention that Amy-Jill Levine, who was on the team involved in the unveiling of the Gospel of Judas, has emphatically stated that the text doesn’t tell us anything about the historical Jesus or the historical Judas.8 It might make for higher viewer numbers or a catchy cover story, and the text is interesting in its own right, but it would not be exaggeration to say that this episode contributes nothing to the overall project behind Finding Jesus.

Episode 4: The Secret Brother of Jesus

In 2002, it was announced that an ossuary with an inscription linking it to Jesus had been discovered by a collector of antiquities named Oded Golan. Ossuaries are boxes that were used by many Jews for burying the dead during the first century CE. The James Ossuary, as it has become known, features engraving on the box that says in Aramaic: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Controversy ensued shortly after the discovery, when the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) arrested Golan and charged him with multiple counts of forgery, including forging the inscription on the James Ossuary. The defense and prosecution both summoned experts in epigraphy to debate the authenticity of the writing. Golan was later acquitted of all charges of forgery in 2012, although he was found guilty of illegally trading in antiquities.

The story of this artifact is fascinating. The box itself almost certainly dates to the first century, in part because ossuaries fell out of use around 70 CE, and also because the patina or sheen of the limestone indicates that it was probably stored for a very long time in the kind of climate you’d find in a cave. Even most of the inscription is believed authentic, but it is those three last words – “brother of Jesus” – that have ignited all the contention over the James Ossuary. To its credit, the show does a fairly decent job of summarizing these details. Unfortunately, it barely strikes the surface of things before it retreats to talking about other matters. We are left with the impression that it’s anyone’s guess if the ossuary is a modern forgery or not.

Considering what this debate comes down to, I’m somewhat inclined to find this attitude understandable. There has been a lot of arguing among scholars over whether the controversial segment of the inscription contains chemical traces that are consistent with the rest of the box. When one study concludes that there is a discrepancy, another expert comes along claiming that it can be explained as the result of cleaning techniques used by many antiquities dealers.9 When another specialist testifies that it would take decades of work and precise, in-depth knowledge to forge three words in the condition they’re found in on the ossuary, another scholar states that they have been contacted by a “well-known archaeologist” who saw the box without the words on it before it was made public, and later submitted a sworn deposition to authorities.10

Of course, there have been some quite convincing forgeries before, and for every accusation leveled against the IAA for cherry-picking opponents of the find, it has to be considered that there are likewise those who very much want the relic to be authentic. As is pointed out in the episode, if it is real, this could be the first ever physical evidence showing that Jesus of Nazareth existed, predating extant gospel manuscripts by numerous decades. My own personal opinion is that right now we do not have strong reasons for thinking the James Ossuary is the burial box of Jesus’ brother. There are too many questions and there’s not enough consensus among epigraphers and other authorities. The names on the box were not uncommon in their time, either, and while the show tries to drum up the odds to be unbelievable, it nonetheless seems like this overstates the rarity of an ossuary for a James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.

But again, the bulk of this episode of Finding Jesus is not really even about the James Ossuary. Its central question is more like, “Did Jesus have a brother?” Anyone who has read the New Testament knows the answer is yes, and the show’s attempt to construe this as some big mystery or secret feels incredibly forced. Sure, there are many Christians who don’t read the Bible, or who think, like Father James Martin says in the episode, that Jesus’ siblings were from a previous marriage Joseph had, but I have a hard time imagining that the very idea of Jesus having brothers is so foreign to people. Documents like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of the Hebrews are brought in to ’round out’ some of James’ story for the show, and yet so little credit is given to the New Testament’s own remarks about the family of Jesus.

Sensationalism is thus the order of the day again, which is a shame, because this is otherwise one of the better moments of the series. It tells about James and his run-ins with Paul, discusses the important role of Judaism for James in the early church, and other issues that might actually be less familiar to modern Christians. This contrasts nicely and interestingly with the ossuary itself, which provokes historical questions at the same time it evokes thoughts of life, death, and family. It fosters the opportunity to think on these figures and their relationships to each other, in the same way we can understand that someone like James could well have wanted to set himself apart from his brother but also wanted to honor him after his death.

Episode 5: The True Cross

One of the more interesting things that is missing from the early Christian movement is any tradition of veneration of the tomb of Jesus. “[S]uch interest in a tomb,” biblical scholar James Dunn has noted, “is wholly lacking.”11 The earliest known site that has been claimed to be Christ’s tomb is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was not discovered until the 4th century CE. According to Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine, a pagan temple had been built over the tomb by the Romans, in order to “obscure the truth.” Constantine demolished the temple and replaced it with the famous church, but there is actually no evidence prior to this time that identifies the site as the place where Jesus was buried. It raises further suspicion that this same site was where Helena, Constantine’s own mother, would later unearth the so-called ‘True Cross’ upon which Jesus had died.

The fifth episode of Finding Jesus tells the tale of Helena’s purported discovery, and does so with precious little critical scrutiny of the motives of Constantine and his mother. What we get is a dramatic depiction of an elderly woman on a mission to Jerusalem to find confirmation of her faith. It is mentioned how Constantine’s murder of his son Crispus, followed by the murder of his wife Fausta, unleashed a scandal that may have fueled the expedition for the cross as a means of diverting attention away from matters at home. This heinous act, it’s speculated, could have made Helena fear for her child’s eternal destiny, prompting her to seek out the True Cross in the hopes that it might lead Constantine to repentance. Absent from this story is any information about whether the cross that she found was the real thing. It’s left an open question if the cross was a fake created to suit their purposes.

“The reality is,” Noel Lenski states in the show, “that we don’t know precisely what happened in Jerusalem.” True as this may be, what we do know is that Constantine did a great deal to Christianize the Roman empire. Some of this is addressed in the episode by touching on the new legal status of the religion under Constantine, or how he helped the cross became a more familiar and accepted symbol within Christianity, but there is next to no coverage of the kind of Christianization that became more common in the later era of his reign. Constantine banned the construction of pagan temples in Constantinople, banned sacrificial rituals used by pagan religions, funded the building of Christian churches, and, as noted above, he eventually ordered that pagan temples be pillaged and torn down. One theory common among historians is that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the True Cross ‘found’ there were both crafted as part of that effort to ensure the dominance of Christianity in the empire, by giving it more prominent centers of tradition and using it to overwrite traces of paganism.

What here is the fact portion from the show’s subtitle, though? After Helena made her alleged discovery, it’s said that she broke up the cross into pieces and redistributed it throughout the empire. One of the biggest and most revered of these fragments, the show claims, was taken by a monk to a church in Spain, yet this is not available for testing. In its place, we get an examination of the Waterford cross that was given by Pope Paschal II to the King of Ireland around 1110 CE. Amazingly, the carbon dating of this relic reveals that it goes back… to about 1110 CE. Apparently, in those days on your journey you’d pick up a little something for that special someone right off the side of the road, in the same way you might pluck flowers for a loved one straight off the garden in the neighbor’s adjacent yard.

Some other funny things pointed out during the episode are how over a thousand claimed fragments of the cross of Jesus are out there, and how so many existed even by Calvin’s time that he was inspired to remark that they could probably all fill an entire ship. I find myself siding with the anonymous voice at the beginning of the show that states, in essence: ‘I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that it’s the True Cross of Jesus.’ There is plenty of reason to be skeptical and practically no good reason to believe. The show tries its best to make an entertaining 40 minutes out of quite possibly the most ridiculous of its relics, but we are left in ample doubt and with further pause to ponder what this really has to do with any notion of the historical Jesus. Particularly in light of all the discussion around crucifixion that occurs in the first episode, this one just feels unnecessary and shallow.

Episode 6: The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

The season one finale explores another favorite controversy in the circles of Hollywood religion and Dan Brown-style conspiracy theories. Did Jesus have a wife? It’s a tantalizing idea, as is the suggestion that early church leadership may have staged a cover-up to hide the less savory aspects of Jesus’ life. However, it certainly isn’t a new idea that Mary Magdalene might have been more than just a disciple to the renowned preacher of Galilee. One of the sources cited in the show is the non-canonical Gospel of Philip, which has a line that tells of how Jesus “used to kiss her often on her […].” Unfortunately, the manuscript has a gap at the pivotal spot, indicated by the ellipsis. This leaves us clueless about whether the text was saying that Jesus kissed Mary on the cheek, on the forehead, on the hand, or on the lips. But it doesn’t stop Finding Jesus from tossing in a scene of a saucy near-kiss that cuts out at just the right second. Or from reusing this scene four more times throughout the episode.

Some comment is made about how a number of extrabiblical texts present a sort of unified portrait of the male disciples, especially Peter, showing resentment towards Mary. It’s speculated that this may point to an underlying kernel of historical truth, but I would disagree. Most of these non-canonical documents discussed throughout the series date to the 2nd century and show signs of Gnostic theology. Again, it’s curious why the show seems so bent on refusing to call these Gnostic texts what they are, but it’s particularly an issue when a recurring theme in so many of them is challenging the established church and the established orthodoxy of the day. This does appear to be what the male disciples represent, whereas Mary is the stand-in for the unpopular, unorthodox Gnostic perspective.12 Nevertheless, the sensationalist idea of Mary being the wife of Jesus is dropped very suddenly in the show, as it’s conceded that there is just too little evidence for it.

A part of the focus is devoted to talking about Mary’s presence at the crucifixion and the tomb, as well as clearing up the common misconception that the Bible describes her as a prostitute. Every time these conversations roll around, diving into how important a character is in the gospels, it’s difficult to see much merit in them. They aren’t lengthy or informative enough to serve as Sunday school lessons or even as Bible trivia. Rather, they feel almost like a strange kind of PSA addressed to people who want the equivalent of a 125-character summary of the most basic concepts and figures in the gospels. Surely, there are Christians who will be delighted that a show like this is ‘spreading the word’ at all, but my impression is that there is a great potential risk of things getting lost in translation and lost in the noise of these episodes.

It isn’t until the remaining six minutes of the show that the gospel it gets its name from is paid any attention. Quite briefly, we learn that the text depicts Mary as a teacher, resented by the male disciples, but privy to things about the kingdom of God which they do not know. Of course, the Gospel of Mary dates to the 2nd century, although we’re told it has value for shedding light on the debates around gender within the early church. Even so, it can hardly be helped if we should still find this a bit of a hand-waving explanation. If the producers wanted to do an episode on women in the early Christian movement, that would’ve been well and good, but what it has to do with finding Jesus, or finding a historical Mary Magdalene, is never really explained.

Unlike Judas, Mary is not a starring character of the gospels – she’s mentioned perhaps more than most other women, but comparatively little to the men. This is noted in the episode, and it’s a problem for the aim of unveiling the “real” Mary that is implied. However, the situation also isn’t like the John the Baptist episode, because at least we had the alleged bones of John to look into! What is there in this finale that really bears the burden of an investigation? Frankly, it doesn’t seem like the show itself could figure that out.

Conclusion: Lots of Seeking, Little Finding

Primetime Bible TV shows on major networks are an odd thing. They tease and entertain because this is either necessary or assumed necessary for making it into that coveted time slot. For the same reason, they also tend to steer clear of definite answers and intensive analyses, regardless of what conclusions they support. Such things are deemed too ‘boring’ for the audiences watching primetime television. These decisions probably do make for a more exciting viewing experience, but they come at the cost of the real grit we actually find in scholarly debates and archaeological studies. This isn’t to say that entertaining presentations of historical evidence and textual scholarship are bad or impossible, though it is a false dilemma to believe that you must either sacrifice quality for entertainment or entertainment for quality. Finding Jesus is one of many shows in this genre that hasn’t learned that lesson.

I wish I could say I liked this series, honestly. It has contributions from some great scholars, like Mark Goodacre, Elaine Pagels, Ben Witherington, Candida Moss, and Nicola Denzey Lewis. I do think it is refreshing in particular to see so many women given a good balance of screen time among the show’s featured experts, when other Bible series have been rather non-inclusive. What really disappoints, however, is that none of these scholars are utilized all that well. In more than a few moments, they are treated like window dressing for lending an air of authority to the show’s wild forays into very loosely related and highly questionable territory. While I’ve heard from some biblical scholars that this is an unfortunate commonality with TV appearances, it still doesn’t make it any less disappointing when it happens. Professor Pagels alone could have provided some excellent commentary on Gnosticism, which we’ve seen was sorely missing from the show.

One other problem I had with the use of casting was that there are people on the, let’s say, theological side of the aisle whose presence is just baffling. Father James Martin seems to pop up in every episode, and his claim to fame comes from being on The Colbert Report as well as showing up on Fox News, CNN, The Huffington Post, and other media outlets. Martin, the resident Jesuit for the show, is joined by other ministers, like Timothy Gray of the Catholic Augustine Institute, Presbyterian Dr. Drew Sams, and megachurch pastor Erwin McManus. McManus’ inclusion remained a constant source of bewilderment to me throughout the series, as he would spout off one uninteresting observation after another, with tiny little threads connecting them to social and emotional pseudo-insights. These preachers mainly do all they know how to do, which is preach, and when it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the episodes, it nonetheless feels like trying way too hard.

It’s abundantly clear that the aim of Finding Jesus, despite its occasional lapses into speculation and 2nd century gospels, is primarily to uphold the traditional stories of Jesus’ life. The artifacts selected for the series either present no challenge at all to tradition (the Shroud, the bones of John, the James Ossuary) or they mimic a challenge, simultaneously saying ‘no, not really’ and ‘but wouldn’t it be interesting if it were true’ (the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary). But, as this review has pointed out numerous times now, there isn’t actually anything the series does cover that could realistically tell us about the historical Jesus. A far more important question to explore would be if we can trust the reliability of the gospel accounts, but instead the decision is made to merely retell those accounts with incredibly little critical examination. The proof in the pudding is in how absurdly melodramatic the acting is in the scenes that retell the stories.

So is it worth your time? If you go in without expectations, perhaps it can be. Episodes 1 and 4 are arguably the strongest, and if you aren’t that familiar with the subject matter in the remaining episodes, those might also be good for satiating curiosity. But by the end of it all, you may be as surprised as I am to know that this show wound up getting a second season. Good scholarship likely won’t win you many views, although invoking the name Jesus and promising to dive into the faith, facts, and forgeries around early Christianity apparently will do just that.


1. John Calvin, Treatise on Relics (1543), p. 239.
2. Joe Nickell, CNN’s “Finding Jesus”: Disingenuous Look at Turin “Shroud,” Center for Inquiry (Mar. 6, 2015). Retrieved March 19, 2017.
3. Giovanni Di Minno et al., “Blood stains of the Turin Shroud 2015: beyond personal hopes and limitations of techniques,” Intern Emerg Med 11 (2016): 507-516.
4. Relics ‘could be of John the Baptist’, University of Oxford (June 15, 2012). Retrieved April 3, 2017.
5. Ker Than, John the Baptist’s Bones Found? National Geographic (June 18, 2012). Retrieved April 3, 2017.
6. April Deconick, CNN, Finding Jesus, Gospel of Judas, (Mar. 17, 2015). Retrieved April 5, 2017.
7. Ben Witherington, Finding Jesus— Episode Three, The Bible and Culture (Mar. 15, 2015). Retrieved April 5, 2017.
8. A.J. Levine, cited in Ben Witherington, What Have They Done With Jesus? (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), p. 8.
9. Lois Fruen, Real or Fake?: The James Ossuary Case, American Chemical Society (Feb. 2006). Retrieved April 7, 2017.
10. Eric Meyers, Well-known Israeli Archeologist Casts More Doubt…, The Bible and Interpretation (Jan. 2004). Retrieved April 7, 2017.
11. James D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), p. 837.
12. Peter Kirby, Gospel of Mary, Early Christian Writings. Retrieved April 10, 2017.

%d bloggers like this: