'Bible's Buried Secrets' Presents Nothing New, Says Scholar

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    These tiny scrolls, made of corroded silver, contain prayers from the Book of Numbers. Dating to about 600 B.C., they are powerful evidence of the antiquity of the Hebrew Bible.
By Josh Kimball, Christian Post Reporter
November 19, 2008|8:54 am

A two-hour documentary that claims to have “new discoveries that shake the foundation of biblical archaeology” presented nothing new, says at least one Bible expert.

“In sum, the program was well done and well illustrated,” commented Dr. James E. West, an adjunct professor at the Quartz Hill School of Theology in California.

“However, anyone who has opened up a commentary or a history of Israelite religion in the last 40 years has had access to everything it contains,” he wrote in a live blog during the airing of “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” Tuesday night.

Produced by Rhode Island-based Providence Pictures for PBS's science series Nova, “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” stirred up fresh debates since its presentation during the Summer 2008 Television Critics Association (TCA) Tour.

It is “a shocking film in many ways, but it’s truth, revolutionary, and it’s as fresh as yesterday,” claimed Bible scholar William G. Dever, who appears in the documentary.

“I knew this one would be good,” he told the press during the TCA Tour.

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For the documentary, Providence Pictures scouted and filmed at archaeological sites throughout the Middle East – including Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria – and interviewed biblical scholars from around the world.

Producers say the interviews – along with historic works of art, ancient artifacts, animations of biblical passages and scenes, and dramatic recreations – provide the latest account of the ancient Israelites and how they found their one God – the God not only of modern Judaism, but also of Christianity and Islam.

“We're confident that our film will be the definitive documentary on biblical archaeology for years to come,” they added.

As West noted on Tuesday, however, “nothing groundbreaking or new or revolutionary” was presented in the film.

“Instead, it simply summarizes scholarship to this point in what I confess was a balanced and fair way,” he stated.

Still, West said he believes the program would be a great tool to bring students and other interested persons “up to speed” with the whole field of biblical archaeology.

“At least it does a much better job than [Simcha] Jacobovici,” the Baptist pastor wrote to a fellow blogger, referring to the controversial documentary film director and producer whose “Lost Tomb of Jesus” documentary last year brewed up a storm.

West’s generally positive comments support arguments raised by NOVA Senior Executive Producer Paula S. Apsell, who defended the program amid claims that PBS chose to “insult and attack Christianity by airing a program that declares the Bible ‘isn’t true and a bunch of stories that never happened.’”

“Nova is certainly not out to disprove the Bible or to denigrate anyone's religious convictions,” she said in an interview. “Our approach is simply to present the results of mainstream, peer-reviewed biblical archeology and let viewers draw their own conclusions.”

Beginning Wednesday, the full program will be available for viewing online at pbs.org. The DVD version of the program will also available be available for purchase and is scheduled for release late next February.

 

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