NBC News
updated 2/23/2004 10:53:02 AM ET 2004-02-23T15:53:02

It's estimated at least 75 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian. Given that, it should come as no surprise that we got a huge response to our report on the death of Jesus of Nazareth. So many viewers responded, we thought we'd give some of them a chance to share their thoughts and feelings. We also spoke with a panel -- not scholars this time -- but Americans of different beliefs. What did they think? You can watch video of the panel discussion above, and read some of the viewer comments sent to Dateline below:

Stone Phillips' Reporter's Notebook (MSNBC's The Last Days of Jesus program) states "we are not exploring the mysteries of faith, but rather the mysteries of history."  With Christianity, the two cannot be separated.  The historical human Jesus is also the divine Christ of faith.  Christians believe that "the Word became flesh," that is, God revealed himself in the Jesus of history.  As the eminent historian and Bible scholar F.F. Bruce put it, "any attempt to separate the two is apt to leave the Christ of faith...without a foundation, to make him the product of our faith instead of the ground of our faith, if not indeed to make him a figment of the imagination."  Efforts to "disunite" the two have been ongoing since at least the second century A.D., when Gnostic philosophers held that the material world was evil and, therefore, it was unacceptable that God should take human form.  From the nineteenth-century "quest for the historical Jesus" to its modern reincarnation in the Jesus Seminar, these efforts continue.  To many Christians, the pronouncements of these self-proclaimed authorities remain as unconvincing as ever.  For centuries Christians have regarded the gospels as the Word of God and entirely authentic, accurate, dependable, and authoritative accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The speculations of liberal university professors notwithstanding, modern scholarship has confirmed, not shaken, this well-earned trust. 

Burke, Vt.

I am Jewish, although not a religious Jew.  Recently, while discussing the new Mel Gibson film over lunch, I had a comment from a very good friend who is by the way extremely intelligent.  The comment was that "you killed Jesus."  Although I believe he was being flipant and did not mean to offend me, it still caught me off guard and, with the recent controversy, was the first time since I converted to Judiasm that I honestly felt uncomfortable.

I want to thank you for presenting this historical view of the event. Hopefully, those who watched your program will be able to view the event by the actual facts rather than simply passion.  Unfortunately, I believe that once the movie is released only one side will be in the majority of our society's mind.

Seattle, WA

There is no story of Jesus without faith. If Jesus was just a man, then why does his death remain more significant than any other martyr of the Bible? Jesus is God clothed in flesh; he willingly offered himself as a sacrifice for man’s sin. Unlike Buddha or martyrs, there are no relics ofhis body. He rose from the dead, and his appearance three days after his death was recorded in secular history. Why did you not report this? Again I say there is no story of Jesus without faith.

Antioch, California  

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