NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets

Tue, 11/18/2008 - 8:00pm

The Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

Providence Pictures

NOVA takes television viewers on a fascinating scientific journey to the beginnings of modern religion in The Bible’s Buried Secrets, a landmark new documentary airing Tuesday, November 18 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1).NOVA’s comprehensive archeological and literary investigation traces the origins of the ancient Israelites, explores the evolution of their belief in one God and reveals how the manifestation of their faith, the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament, was written.

In-depth discussions with leading biblical scholars and archeologists were filmed with the remnants of ancient cities dating back three thousand years as a spectacular backdrop. These interviews — along with historic works of art, ancient artifacts, animations of biblical passages and scenes, and dramatic recreations of extraordinary events — help tell the story of the ancient Israelites and how they found their one God — the God not only of modern Judaism, but also of Christianity and Islam.

The Bible’s Buried Secrets’ vividly recounts the saga of the Israelites and digs deeply into the both the Bible and the history of ancient Israelites through the archeological artifacts they left behind,” said Paula S. Apsell, NOVA senior executive producer. “This remarkable film, which is both a scientific detective story and dramatic adventure, challenges viewers of all faiths with thoughtful inquiries and provocative theories.”

Producer, director and writer Gary Glassman explains that The Bible’s Buried Secrets focuses on the Hebrew Bible as the foundation for the great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. “We worked with an international team of scholars and researchers who interpreted stories, examined artifacts, deciphered ancient manuscripts and hypothesized how — in a time of human sacrifice, idolatry and slavery — the concept of one God emerged.”

A powerful partnership between science and scholarship, The Bible’s Buried Secrets examines the most pressing issues in biblical archeology: Who actually wrote the Hebrew Bible? Is there a real historical core to stories of Abraham, Moses and the Exodus, and King David, a warrior and writer of psalms, and his son, Solomon, who built the great temple in Jerusalem? Was Judaism always a monotheistic religion?

Provocative new answers emerge from the program’s investigation of decades of literary research and archeological investigation in the Holy Land. One vital clue is a recently found inscription at Tel Dan in Israel, referring to the “House of David” — the first text outside the Bible to confirm that the heroic monarch David actually existed. Another exciting find is a carved Hebrew alphabet — in fact, the earliest complete alphabet known anywhere in the world — at Tel Zayit, an excavation site southwest of Jerusalem. It suggests the existence of a literate royal court at the time of David and Solomon, the 10th century BC, raising the possibility that scribes could have written portions of the Hebrew Bible at that time. Even more extraordinary, the discovery of pagan idols at dozens of archeological sites throughout biblical Israel challenges old assumptions about the rise of monotheism. The idols prove that this momentous change to the worship of a single God could not have emerged fully until the Israelites’ devastating exile in Babylon, centuries later than previously thought.

For the first time on television, The Bible’s Buried Secrets brings together more than a century of meticulous literary research and decades of archeological exploration in the Holy Land and challenges many long-held assumptions. Filmed throughout the Middle East, the documentary transports viewers into the world of the Old Testament through guided explorations of ancient ruins and advanced digital animation techniques, which bring sacred places, including the long-lost Temple of Solomon, to life. As part of the project, NOVA commissioned a hand-crafted, illustrated Bible — a bound collection of artwork featuring images of ancient frescoes, illuminated medieval manuscripts and paintings by European masters. These striking visuals evoke memorable scenes from biblical literature such as God speaking to Moses from the burning bush and David as he slays the giant Philistine warrior, Goliath.

According to Apsell, “We believe that The Bible’s Buried Secrets will leave a lasting impression on viewers and become the definitive documentary on biblical archeology for many years to come.”