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NOVA - Nov. 18/08 - Bible Historically Unreliable

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« on: November 18, 2008, 08:53:29 am »

                                Jonathan Storm: 'Nova' digs into the Old Testament

By Jonathan Storm
Television Critic
Nov. 18, 2008

Now that politics has died down, tonight's two-hour Nova goes into that other dinner-party no-no: religion. "The Bible's Buried Secrets" (WHYY TV12, 8 p.m.) merges science with scripture in an attempt to find the roots of Judaism, and hence, Christianity and Islam.
Filled with impressive graphics, including a virtual Bible stuffed with classic religious paintings, the show attempts to explain how the Old Testament came about and how the Israelites pioneered the concept of a single god.

"The Bible's Buried Secrets" meticulously - sometimes drily, despite its elaborate reenactments - correlates real, historical events, as recorded by age-old structures and inscriptions unearthed in the Middle East, with people and events mentioned in the Bible.

Millions who believe that the Bible is the word of God (even if it does have plenty of internal contradictions) won't care for the show at all.

"This is not about faith," William G. Dever, Arizona University professor emeritus of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology, said at last summer's meeting of the nation's TV critics in Los Angeles. "It's about history or the lack of history in the Bible. It's a shocking film in many ways, but it's truth."

Well - even the scientists in the show disagree about some things.

Using a standard measurement system, archaeologist Eilat Mazar figures she's found David's mighty palace on a hill in Jerusalem.

But using carbon-14 dating on olive pits found at the site, nuclear physicist Elisabetta Boaretto says
the dug-up structures were actually built 75 years after David died. That indicates David himself was not a king of kings, but merely some minor chieftain in charge of a Jerusalem that was little more than
a backwater cow town. Like Wyatt Earp or George Armstrong Custer, he might have gotten really good press at a later date.

"He or she who decides to ignore these results," says another archaeologist, "I treat them as if arguing that the Earth is flat, and I cannot argue anymore."

Nova has spent 35 years trying to teach people more about science and scientists, and this little set-to confirms one widely held conception - that scientists can be crusty and often socially inappropriate, even if most of them here seem as friendly as anybody else.

"The Bible's Buried Secrets" has many revelations about the book's creation. A couple of the major ones:

The Israelites were not one people, but folks from many backgrounds who came together from many backgrounds, seeking freedom and telling fables (Adam and Eve, the Red Sea parting, Noah's ark) to help form a collective identity.

As they started to include factual history in their sacred texts, they continued to worship many gods
for hundreds of years, before a cataclysm forced them to reconsider their religious practices and hew
to the dictum that there is only one god.

Interspersed is the usual insider Nova material showing scientists at work. It never ceases to amaze how punctilious they are, how they can see beyond the obvious.

And just because you don't believe that God wrote the Bible doesn't mean you have to give up altogether on the prospect of the divine.

Is it just coincidence that so many significant discoveries about the origins of the Bible came at the very end of a long day's digging, or on the last day of a season spent investigating some seemingly unimportant site, or, in the case of the oldest known biblical writings, when a bored, 13-year-old assistant was idly tapping a hammer on the floor of an empty cave?
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Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.

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