Scholars' Perspectives

ByABC News
May 10, 2005, 6:10 PM

May 10, 2005 — -- In a special "20/20" hour, Elizabeth Vargas travels to the Holy Land and talks to scholars, writers and theologians about the mystery at the heart of the Christian faith.

Below are brief biographies of those included in the special report, which airs Friday, May 20 at 10 p.m. ET /9 Central on "20/20."

Albert Baumgarten
Professor, Bar Ilan University in Jerusalem
Baumgarten's expertise is in the application of social scientific methods to writing Jewish history and the history of Second Temple Judaism.

"The people who crucified Jesus and wanted him removed were almost certainly working on the assumption which is if you have a movement like this, and you get rid of the leader, eventually the movement collapses. It normally works. What makes the Jesus story so interesting and so different, is that the usual expectation that the movement will collapse did not take place."

Kathleen E. Corley
Oshkosh Northwestern Distinguished Professor of New Testament, University of Wisconsin-OshKosh
Corley is the author of "Women and the Historical Jesus"

"I think that his women followers would have looked for his body to give him burial rites as much as they possibly could. I think they were unsuccessful in finding his -- the location of his body because I think Jesus was probably buried in a criminal's grave that would have been a large pit for a large number of people."

William Lane Craig
research professor, Talbot School of Theology in La Miranda, Calif.
Craig is the author of "The Son Rises"
"Jesus took off the grave clothes and unbound himself. He probably would've literally got up and ... and shed these grave clothes and walked out of the tomb. He would be palpable, he would be physical. He would be tangible."

Arthur Dewey
professor of Theology, Xavier University in Cincinnati
Dewey is the author of "Spirit and Letter in Paul" and "The World in Time."

"As a historian, one could say, that there was no Resurrection as a fact. What we can say is that, people claim to have visions. People claim to, uh, have as it was -- sightings -- post-mortem sightings, of Jesus."

Luke Timothy Johnson
R.W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Emory University
Johnson's books include "The Creed" and "The Real Jesus."

"I must respectfully suggest that those who are obsessed about the physicality of the resurrection don't really understand what they're talking about. Because if they really get a purely physical resurrection, then all they have is a resuscitation, and that's not good news."

Karen L. King
Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Harvard Divinity School
King is the author of "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala" and "What Is Gnosticism?"

"I don't believe it was a physical resurrection exactly in the way we understand the body today-we have Jesus walking through walls -- those kinds of experiences suggest not the kind of physical body that we would see today. But something that if we have to use our categories would look much more like a visionary experience."

Paul L. Maier
Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University
Maier's books include "In the Fullness of Time" and "Pontius Pilate."

"If the body had been discovered, there would be no Christian church today. It would have died out as a little sect in the Judean wilderness probably and everybody would have laughed about a crucified criminal being the son of God, come on."

Rev. Richard P. McBrien
Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Roman Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame
McBrien's books include "Catholicism, Lives of the Popes," and he is the general editor of the HarperCollins "Catholic Encyclopedia."

"If they had digital cameras in those days, and they took ... tried to take a photo of Jesus, you know, 'Get over there with Peter ... would you stand with Mary Magdalene? This would make a great shot. I mean, no one will ever believe this.' You take a photo of that scene and you'd get Peter and Mary Magdalene, but not Jesus."

Father Jerome Murphy-O'Connor
Ordained Roman Catholic Priest, Professor of New Testament, Ecole Biblique et Archeologique Francais in Jerusalem
Murphy-O'Connor's books include "Paul: His Story" and The Oxford Press Archaeological Guidebook, "The Holy Land."