The History Channel US 'Decodes The Past' this Christmas

 MUMBAI: The History Channel in the US will celebrate Christmas with a slew of initiatives.

On Christmas Eve 24 December 2005 it will air Decoding the Past. For centuries the Shroud of Turin has been a touchstone of faith for millions. Many believe it is the primary evidence of the way Jesus Christ died on the cross. But is it real or a clever forgery? Did Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci play a trick on the Roman Catholic Church?

The channel will showcase the latest theories and the most current tests, some commissioned especially for the programme. Despite centuries of scrutiny from scientists, theologians, and art historians, the linen cloth with the faint image has remained a three-and-a-half by fourteen foot enigma.

In Search of Christmas examines whether there is actual evidence of the birth of Jesus. Was he born in Bethlehem or Nazareth, in December or April? Were the three wise men kings or Babylonian astrologers? What compelled Joseph to believe Mary's implausible tale of a divine impregnation?

The channel journeys back 2,000 years in a quest for the answer to these and other conundrums. It retraces Mary's arduous odyssey across ancient Israel as a host of scholars attempt to uncover the historical truth of an event as mysterious as it was momentous.

The Real King Herod looks at one of the most fascinating and appalling biblical figures, King Herod remains an enigma, the cruel king portrayed in countless Christmas plays as the monster that slaughtered hundreds of babies in an effort to kill the infant Jesus. But who was Herod?

The channel draws physical evidence from current excavation of Herod's magnificent port Caesarea, written accounts of Josephus, and scrolls newly unearthed at Petra.

Another special will showcase relics. Relics of the Passion of Christ are sacred objects supposedly scattered around the globe.Among the relics included are the crown of thorns; the holy nails of the cross; the Titulus, a small sign stating Christ's name and crime atop the cross, a mysterious burial cloth called the Sudarium, an image of Jesus that appears on the Veil of Veronica; and the Holy Grail. Are they what the faithful believe them to be?

The channel does detective work to track down where

these relics originated and where they can be found today, explain their meaning, and often question their authenticity. The Passion of Jesus Christ encompasses the violent end of a martyr, an unsolved forensic puzzle, and the start of a worldwide religious movement.

Meanwhile Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas tells the story of how the bawdy Roman Saturnalia, a week-long festival of food and drink that culminated on December 25, became the centerpiece of the Christian year. The special explains why the holiday is known as much for shopping as the birth of Christ. Interviews with experts, harried bargain hunters, and excited children round up the programme.

Bible Battles looks at things from a war perspective. An ancient people called the Israelites forged an army and carved out an empire. Their ancient military exploits are described in one of history's most famous religious texts, the Old Testament of the Bible.

The channel explores the biblical world from a military perspective from the time of Abraham until David's ascension to the throne.

In the special A History of God the channel looks at how God has manifested himself to people from Abraham's days to the present. Here is the story of thousands of years of wrenching and revolutionary encounters with God that prophets, saints, and mystics have experienced, and mankind's quest for comfort and meaning.

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