The Resurrection of Jesus Discussed on 20/20

The “resurrection of Jesus” debate that will feature a number of notable scholars, theologians and archeologists from around the world is scheduled to air May 20 in a special “20/20” hour.

The “resurrection” of Jesus, the core tenet of the Christian faith, has left millions with questions since its occurance on Easter almost 2,000 years ago.

Was the tomb of Jesus really empty? Did Jesus physically walk the Earth after his death? Or were his followers just having illusions?

These are some of the questions Anchor Elizabeth Vargas will ask in her interview with theologians.

Also, Vargas will interview Jewish scholars in Jerusalem including Professor Daniel Schwartz of the Hebrew University and Professor Albert Baumgarten of the Bar Ilan University. Both experts of Early Christianity, agree that “something” must have happened on that day.

"I think definitely something happened," said Schwartz. "I don't know how they convinced themselves. But the historical fact is, you've got people who are convinced he was resurrected."

Karen L. King, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Harvard Divinity School, argues that the resurrection is not of the physical body.

"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," King said.

Paul L. Maier, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, says there would be no Christian church today if the body had been discovered.

“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," said Maier, who has written "In the Fullness of Time" and "Pontius Pilate.”

Some of the others interviewed by Vargas include: Lee Strobel, author of "The Case for Christ" and "The Case for Faith" and host of PAX TV's "Faith Under Fire"; the Rev John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop Emeritus of Newark and author of "Sins of the Scripture"; and the Rev. Jerome Murphy O'Connor of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.

The report airs Friday, May 20 at 10 p.m./9 Central.