>On November 18, PBS will air “The Bible’s Buried Secrets,” the controversial program that seeks to present a new theory of how the Bible was written. According to comments made by those who are critical of the program, the documentary will present a minimalist view of the Hebrew Bible. The following conclusions will be presented in the documentary:
- The Old Testament was written in the sixth century BC and hundreds of authors contributed.
- Abraham, Sarah and their offspring did not exist.
- There is no archaeological evidence of the Exodus.
- The Israelites were actually Canaanites.
PBS has released the trailer below for the two-hour television special.
People who have been following the minimalist/maximalist discussion probably will learn nothing new from this program. I am sure the documentary will present the same arguments that have been discussed before. Those people who have a low view of the Bible probably will be re-affirmed once again in their view that the Bible presents an invented history of Israel.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Archaeology, Bible, Nova, PBS
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>I’m not sure that I’d call those positions minimalist. Surely, Dever doesn’t fall into that count. After all, it does affirm that there was an ancient Israel and even perhaps an historical David.
>Jim,I have not seen the program yet, but the controversy is about whether the biblical text reflects ancient historical facts or whether the text was a creation of the post-exilic community. I believe Dever will maintain some historicity for the facts of the Bible but the bigger issue is what position the documentary will take on this debate. Claude Mariottini
>I am watching the show now.I had the opportunity in summer 1995 to participate in the dig at tel Hazor in Israel. Biblical archeology has advanced since the 1950’s based on taking the Bible locations as real places, and indeed this has panned out. Now, the ‘scholarly’ wish to present a case that although the Bible can be accurate in the sense of place, it cannot be accurate in the case of explaining God and his relationship to man. Instead the program promotes alternate-to-Bible explanations. It is sad that men take the little that they find from digs to conjecture greatly against the very accounts they use to find the places to search. Any archeologist worth their salt has to recognize that you only get a snapshot of time when you excavate a site. And to use their conjectures to build evidence that Monotheism is a man made concept is rather bold and rash.The faith of these men isn’t in God, but rather in their own ‘knowledge’. I can only sadly shake my head for their inability to utilize faith and intelligence together rather than seperate them like some chemistry experiment. P.T.
>I encourage you to watch the documentary. It’s very well done and even-handed. I’m using it this semester in a Bible as Lit course I teach, so I’ve been searching around and reading old reviews (like your’s). By training, I’m a rhetorician, highly influenced by Aristotle, who sought a golden mean in polarizing arguments like the min/max debate. A virtue is located between two vices. Surely through the processes of dialectical thinking we can work through this trap, the meaningless knee-jerk reactions, and our inability to even hear the other’s perspective. The evidence assembled in the documentary–which may seem new to those who haven’t studied the Bible from an academic perspective like you and I have but in fact is an overview of nearly a century of work–is quite convincing. It doesn’t mean that the Bible is proven false, as some may claim, nor is it disrespectful of faith. It merely says, “Here’s what we know and how we know it. The rest is unclear.”I take the verse in John to heart: God is a spirit and we who adore Him must do so in spirit and in truth. That means we don’t turn our brains off and ignore the evidence when we walk through the church door. We must reconcile our faith with the truths that science, archeology, and the academic world have given us. We must respect those truths (whose ultimate source for a person of faith must be the almighty himself, because he made it this way). We honor and adore the spirit by worshipping it truthfully, by respecting those things that we know. We must transcend the false choices, the existential corner, the argumentative trap that we’ve laid for ourselves. Neither a simplistic literalism nor arrogant rejection are acceptable. Being a person of faith does not require us to reject what we know and believe the earth is flat (which is the cosmology described in Genesis). It requires us to grow beyond our limited understandings and deepen our faith, to consider the evidence, to wrestle with it, groaning in our spirit. This doc and the academic work it summarizes are blessings, not a threat. They have deepened my faith, not weakened it. The guy who told me when I was 12 that evolution and faith are irreconcilable, the manipulative preacher who wept for all the souls lost to godless communists at the end of the Vietnam War, the ones who said turn off your brain to have faith in God–they are the ones who damaged my faith most, because they have distorted the spirit of love, truth, acceptance, tolerance, and honest, intellectual engagement that is the essence of God in my experience and reading of the scripture.Just a few thoughts from a fellow Illinoisan and a Christian….–Jerry
>Jerry,Thank you for your insightful comment. I totally agree with you. I am not afraid of the academic study of the Bible since I practice it and teach it every day. I am not afraid of dealing with the difficulties we find in the Bible because there are passages that are difficult to understand and there are passages that reflect the pre-scientific worldview of the writers.I watched the show and it was very good. The minimalist/maximalist debate is a complex academic issue that baffles many lay people. When it comes to the archaeological evidence, archaeologists must interpret the evidence and even the archaeologists themselves cannot agree in their interpretation of the findings.I have discussed the views of the minimalists in several posts. I believe that their conclusions are devoid of the historical and archaeological evidence that should be used to prove their theories.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini