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"Nova" The Bible's Buried Secrets (2008)

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Exploration of the Hebrew Bible Through Archaeological Evidence

Author: classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
19 November 2008

NOVA again hits it out of the ballpark with an outstanding exploration of how archeology can help sift through the ancient history of the Hebrew Scriptures, aka the Old Testament, and Hebrew/Jewish tradition. Several of the conclusions are quite startling in which both archeology and tradition corroborate each other in some instances and contradict each other in several unexpected circumstances. The documentary presents time lines to show where the Bible references particular events and periods and where the archaeological evidence places those same events and periods. Simultaneously, it is also a kind of treasure hunt for the origins of the Bible. It sets out to answer the questions of who wrote and who re-wrote the Old Testament, and when was it written. And how did the idea of monotheism, the worship of one God, originate.

For example, according to the documentary's presentation of the archaeological evidence, Israelites and Canaanites were not completely separate people who were always adversarial. By literally sifting through the sands of time at archaeological digs, it has been proved that Israelites were in fact of Canaanite origin. Canaanites who became Israelites splintered off after some kind of rebellion in a major Canaanite urban center. It is hypothesized that this splinter group and another group of Canaanite slaves from Egypt (hence the Moses story of Exodus) may have joined to become the first Israelites. No archaeological evidence has ever been found to corroborate the mass exodus as described in the Pentateuch (i.e the first five books of the Old Testament, aka The Book of Moses). How these scholar-archaeologists piece together the evidence is truly amazing through the discovery of similarities between Canaanite language and culture with Hebrew language and culture.

Simultaneously, through painstaking research, the excavation of a large fortress and palace in the oldest area of Jerusalem, and the excavation of other sites and artifacts, scholars confirm the existences of King David and King Solomon. They determine most of the buildings of these structures probably occurred under Solomon around the 10th century. This is generally consistent with Biblical tradition and texts. However, it appears that many groups of Israelites practiced both polytheism and idol worship during a much longer stretch of history than previously believed. This is proved through excavations of carved idols in known ancient Hebrew/Israelite households dating from 700 to 1000 years before the time of Jesus of Nazareth. This does not corroborate with Judeo-Christian tradition which contends that Moses stopped his people from idol worship after the destruction of the Fatted Calf and God's bequeathal of the Ten Commandments.

They also distinguish between the several writers or scribes of biblical texts, determining that several different hands composed the Bible at different times, sometimes centuries apart. Through research, they determine that certain writers had particular conventions. For example, one scribe uses the more sacred name of God, Yaweh, while another uses the more familiar name Elohim for God. Another "revelation" is that the Bible that has been handed down to modern times is not the text as written supposedly over 3000 years ago, but in fact just a few hundred years before the time of Jesus. Circumcision was introduced at this time and was not practiced by the first Israelites, i.e. Abraham, which contradicts the older tradition.

However, through an amazing piece of archaeological luck, they prove the existence of the Hebrew scriptures by at least 400 years before the writing of the Dead Seal Scrolls. An exemplary piece of both fact-finding and a survey of the origins of religious tradition. A fitting prequel to Frontline's From Jesus to Christ.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Very interesting but left me wanting more

Author: annzpics from Chicago, Illinois, USA
6 April 2011

I must disagree with the above reviewer who claimed this program was "not fair or factual." She offered no specific objections to back up this claim. To refute the interviews with numerous internationally-respected archaeologists and dating scientists she offered only one name: a "PhD scientist" (not in archaeology) who has long been associated with organizations whose scientific credentials have long been discredited such as the Institute for Creation Research.

In short: The words "fair" and "factual" do not mean the same thing as "doesn't challenge my pre-existing opinions."

I must also (respectfully this time) disagree with the reviewer who claimed that the program was "not at all science". Nova has a long tradition of featuring "softer" sciences such as archaeology and psychology - it has never been limited to just physics or biology. Archeologists do use Biblical traditions and texts as guides to the possible cultural context of this ancient society, just as they would when studying any ancient society with such long-preserved texts. This does not make them ethnocentric. Nor does it invalidate their research, so long as the archaeologists remember to use them only as possible guides, not evidence. As for the alleged misstatement of facts, the reviewer did not offer specific examples and I was unable to spot any myself.

The program was not perfect - there were some points, in the beginning, during which some nuance was lost, namely, the difference between showing the possibility that an event could have taken place vs. proving that the event actually did happen. The program did not claim the two were the same, but a less-than careful listener might be left with that impression. Additionally, during the introduction, which spent a chunk of time explaining what made the Israelites culturally significant to world history, the program felt a little more reflective and less detached than is typical for Nova. And the soundtrack did get a little heavy-handed at times.

However, the program really hit its stride once it arrived at its first main theme, namely, the emergence of Israelite society in contrast to the wealthier Cananite one. This was Nova at its best: examining new data discovered by rigorous methods and explaining its impact on a larger theory or discipline. Here, they took new information discovered by archeology and showed how it has enriched our historical understanding of an ancient culture.

The program lost some steam in its second half - unlike in the first half, it did not really build towards a single conclusion. Instead it reviewed a number of different archaeological finds that supported or clarified the current historical understanding of Israelite society over the course of the first millennium BCE until the end of the Babylonian exile. Nevertheless, overall it was a very good viewing experience about a very interesting topic.

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Informative But Definitely Incomplete

Author: Desertman84 from United States
3 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After watching Unlocking Ancient Secrets of the Bible that somehow tries to prove the authenticity of the events and characters of the bible through science and archaeology,I come across this documentary entitled The Bible's Buried Secrets which does the reverse using the same method.It tries to do detective work to somewhat disprove the bible. It tries to answer questions such as the origin of both the Hebrew Bible and the Israelites.Added to that,they explore the emergence of monotheism that and how Judaism,Christianity and Islam emerged.Finally,they discus the authors of the scriptures and try to explain the authenticity behind the stories written.

While I must say that the documentary can offend many Christians,I still found it informative.Added to that,I get to see another viewpoint about biblical history.But nevertheless,there were many things that bothered me.One of them is the fact that many of the scientists found their findings final and conclusive which I do believe isn't the case when it comes to archaeological artifacts for I do believe that there will be new ones that will be discovered in the future.Aside from that,I do not believe that political will is the sole reason why the bible existed for ages and why people believed in it.That is why I still find the documentary lacking and incomplete.Also,they limited their studies in the early parts of the Old Testament from Genesis to the time Joshua but never bothered to explain the later parts of it and the New Testament.Finally,I still believe that they should have addressed everything written in the scriptures and not only in events where archaeological evidence and artifacts aren't found.

In summary,more studies should be made to finally conclude that the bible is inauthentic and man-made.

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0 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Discredits Nova as a Science Series

Author: zubdog from United States
6 January 2009

This show is entertaining and informative, but not at all science and as such it should never have aired under the "Nova" series. More specifically, the show documents a particular religious view and interpretation of the bible's old testament. The "scientific" evidence used to back the interpretation presented is nearly entirely ethnocentric and in some cases the producers simply mis-state facts (i.e. lie) seemingly on the grounds of religious interpretation. This unfortunately does a disservice to the public that will in all likelihood regard it as scientific and fair.

Again the show is hugely entertaining, but it is not science nor scientific. Audiences should keep this in mind when watching.

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2 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

The Bible's Buried Secrets

Author: helen-502 from United States
18 November 2008

The Bible's Buried Secrets is not fair or factual. There are some scientists and researchers out there with evidence PBS has not presented.

Is there any evidence in support of the Exodus? Did it really happen?

Ph.D. scientist Gerald E. Aardsma has studied and written on the Exodus for many years. He has some compelling evidence which shows that the Exodus did indeed happen!

If you are looking for factual, scientific data, Dr. Aardsma has a book regarding the Exodus that you can order by going to The Biblical and ordering his book "The Exodus Happened 2450 BC."

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