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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Interview with Mike Fillon

Aired December 25, 2002 - 08:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: A story of science, history and faith -- it starts with forensic scientists who wondered what Jesus Christ looked like. They went back in time and used computers trying to capture the real face of Jesus.
Paula Zahn talked with Mike Fillon of "Popular Mechanics" magazine who followed the work of these scientists.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Great to see you. Nice to have you with us.

MIKE FILLON, "POPULAR MECHANICS": Great to see you, Paula, thank you.

ZAHN: I have to tell you the real face of Jesus is probably one of the last articles I thought I would find in "Popular Mechanics."

Why is it there?

FILLON: A big part of our article mix is science issues, cutting edge science. We are known as a magazine featuring automotive topics and home improvement, but science and technology are very important.

ZAHN: And where does science and technology come to play in this piece?

FILLON: Well, we discovered four years ago that religion and science, many people were interested in how they related. And so we did a story on miracles of the Bible, explaining them scientifically, and we had a great response.

We subsequently did another one on the same topic but with different miracles. We went to Israel to study the Dead Sea scrolls, try to find the lost treasures of the first and second temple, and the editors in New York heard about this research in Israel about reconstructing, as near as they could come, to the face of Jesus, and that is what prompted this piece.

ZAHN: Well, let's look at a picture that you have in the magazine of Jesus, and I want you to walk us through the process of how you even came up with this image. Now, there was a model actually made from a skull that was found near Jerusalem, right, that dates back to the first century.

FILLON: That is right. Exactly. ZAHN: And then, what did scientists do with that skull next?

FILLON: There are very strong rabbinical laws in Israel that you cannot tamper with a skull or any bones, so they needed to reconstruct the skull. Using a cat scan, which is very common in hospitals, they were able to recreate the skull precisely and make a cast of it. Then they put small wooden pegs, based on anthropological data, to figure out what the muscle structure and the skin would look like, and so they layered that on using clay-like substances.

ZAHN: Of course, there has been a debate for many centuries what Jesus looked like. What about the debate over what color hair he should have, and what color eyes?

FILLON: OK. In First Corinthians, Paul writes that any man that wears long hair would be disgraceful. Paul would not have written that if he knew that Jesus had long hair.

ZAHN: So does that explain why, in the image of Jesus in the Shroud of Turin, which is believed to be the cloth that Jesus was buried in, he appears to have long hair, and in your representation, he has short hair?

FILLON: That's correct. We got in a lot of trouble a couple of years ago, because we said the Shroud of Turin was a fraud. There are still people that believe that it is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus.

ZAHN: And in the interest of full disclosure here, we should also make it clear that the skull that was used to create this model was just a skull of someone who happened to live during the same period of time that Jesus is believed to have lived.

FILLON: Exactly. Exactly. There is no way that we are saying that this is the skull of Jesus. Jesus, as Christians believe, as the basic tenet of the faith, which I am a Christian, was that Jesus' entire body was resurrected, so there would never be any bones or skull or DNA evidence of Jesus. Plus, his ministry was very, very short. So it would be hard to find a lot of evidence.

ZAHN: Well, Mike Fillon, it's absolutely fascinating, and I'm still stunned as I page through this magazine to find Jesus somewhere in the middle of "Dirt Bikes Come Clean," and another technology page.

FILLON: Well, and we'll advise on what car to buy, so...

ZAHN: You can get it all in this issue. Have a great holiday, Mike.

FILLON: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Appreciate you dropping by.

FILLON: Bye.

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