Biblical accounts of what Jesus did on Earth for the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension are sparse, but a new project by the History Channel, titled “Jesus: The Lost 40 Days,” offers insight into one of the least-documented times in his life as a man.
The project explains that non-biblical sources could reveal “astonishing information and detail about these seemingly lost 40 days.”
It is scheduled to premiere tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
Image from “Jesus: The Lost 40 Days”
The History Channel explains, “According to the Bible, Jesus came back from the dead and walked the Earth for 40 days before ascending to heaven. But the New Testament reveals little about this defining miracle of the Christian faith.
“Using tools of history, technology, science and faith, HISTORY tells the little-known story. Long-buried non-biblical sources, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Secret Revelation of John and the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus yield astonishing information and detail about these seemingly lost 40 days.”
The promo speculates, “Could Jesus’ words in these ancient manuscripts contain some of his most important teachings, even though they were not included in the New Testament? The producers also build upon the CGI image of the crucified Christ created from the Shroud of Turin in ‘The Real Face of Jesus’ to visually depict the moments when Jesus appears to his followers in resurrected form.”
Prior to Easter last year, WND reported that Downing had used 3D computer technology to produce the “real face of Jesus” from the image of the crucified man in the Shroud of Turin.
In this year’s special, Downing explores the 40 days following the disappearance of Jesus from the tomb when, according to the New Testament, Jesus provided the evidence of his resurrection by appearing to his apostles and followers.
Image from “Jesus: The Lost 40 Days”
“The show celebrates the 40 days following Easter,” Downing told WND, “when Jesus appeared as a living, flesh and blood man to prove he was not just a disappeared body, but that he had arisen in his greatest miracle that began 2,000 years ago the Christian movement that continues worldwide today.”
Downing’s previous special, “The Real Face of Jesus,” ends with the tormented face of Christ crucified, as shown in the Shroud of Turin, opening his eyes, looking up and blinking.
With this year’s special, “Jesus: The Lost 40 Days,” Downing and his team at Macbeth Studios in upstate New York attempted to visualize Jesus alive again as his followers saw him, from his appearance to a weeping Mary Magdalene, to his final ascension from the Mount of Olives.
Presented in a documentary format, “Jesus: The Lost 40 Days” mixes dramatizations in which the viewer sees Jesus move among his followers to prove he had risen from the dead, intermixed with computer graphics showing how the “Real Jesus” was recovered from the images in the Shroud of Turin and commentary from Bible scholars explaining the importance of the post-resurrection period to Christian theology.
Further broadcasts are planned April 21 at 1 a.m. Eastern, April 23 at 10 p.m. Eastern, April 24 at 2 p.m. Eastern and again at 2 a.m. Eastern.
WND reported on the original report on the “Real Face of Jesus?” based on the image from the Shroud of Turin, which reveals the full-body, back-and-front image of a crucified man that is said to closely resemble the New Testament description of the passion and death of Christ.
The 14-foot cloth long has posed mysteries because of its age and its negative image of a bloodstained and battered man who had been crucified. Believers claim it to be the miraculous image of Jesus, formed as he rose from the dead.
When the first project was revealed, Downing said the presence of 3D information on the ancient cloth was surprising.
“The presence of 3D information encoded in a 2D image is quite unexpected, as well as unique,” Downing said at the time. “It is as if there is an instruction set inside a picture for building a sculpture.”
Negative image of a man’s face as it appears in the Shroud of Turin (photo courtesy of the History Channel)
He told WND some scientists debate whether 3D information is provided in the shroud.
“It’s so unusual to find this kind of information – in ancient cloths, photographs, paintings, drawings and etchings – it’s so unusual that some think it’s a miracle and some doubt it’s even there,” he said then. “The people who say it’s not there haven’t examined it for themselves. Disbelievers disbelieve it. Believers think it’s a miracle ”
3D computer image of body based on information found on the Shroud of Turin (photo: History Channel)
Downing said there are two lessons within the story of the shroud.
“There is the story of the shroud which, artistically and scientifically, is the story of a transition from two dimensional to three dimensional. But there is as well the story of the man in the shroud, and a record of His transformation from death to life,” Downing observed. “The two stories are intertwined; they seem to be one and the same.”
In 2009, Downing and the History Channel traveled to see John Jackson, a physics lecturer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who runs the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado, to learn more about the science of the cloth from the man who has studied it first-hand.
In 1978, Jackson led a team of American scientists that was given exclusive access to the Shroud of Turin for five days of intensive scientific examination. Jackson has continued his analysis of that data.
Shroud of Turin
“People are so fascinated by this because there’s a real possibility that this might be the historic burial cloth of Jesus,” Jackson told WND when the first History Channel project appeared. “If it’s the burial cloth of Jesus, then it would also be the resurrection cloth. Suddenly, you have a physical object – here we are 2,000 years later – that conceivably could just bring us right into the Easter tomb.”
Among the findings Jackson cited:
- Bloodstains on the shroud are real, and the blood has not been degraded by heat.
- Historians say the stains are consistent with crucifixion, including puncture wounds from thorns and scourge marks from a Roman whip.
- A puncture wound in the man’s side is consistent with a Roman spear. And the wound marks showing nail holes through the wrists and heels are consistent with Roman crucifixion.
- A textile restorer, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, in 2002 announced the stitching found in the material had been seen in material from only one other source: the ruins of Masada, a Jewish settlement destroyed in A.D. 74. And the herringbone weave was common in the First Century but rare in Middle Ages.
“It would seem that it’s pretty unique,” Jackson explained. “Crucifixion was done quite a bit in the Roman Empire. It was their way of controlling the population that they wanted to subjugate. But the crown of thorns, according to the gospel accounts, was something that was invented for Jesus because of his claim of being King of the Jews. He was also scourged as well. There was no record that the other two men who were crucified along with Jesus had it happen to them.”
The cloth is in the custody of the Vatican, which stores it in a protective chamber of inert gases in Turin’s Cathedral of St. John. It was exhibited in France about 1360 by Geoffrey de Charney, a French knight who owned it then.
Computer graphics artists use Shroud of Turin images to create 3-D figure of crucified man (photo courtesy of the History Channel)