Written by Fumo Verde
As one who doesn’t believe in a god you would think I was sitting here with pen in hand taking notes and gearing up to trash whatever was presented to me on this DVD. Well, you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why with one simple word, truth. This archeological documentary isn’t trying to prove that what is written in the Bible is pure fact; it actually investigates how this book came to be and the history behind it.
Biblical archeologists and scholars piece together artifacts along with the written word not to defame the book but to get a clearer understanding. Like Homer’s Iliad or the writings of Tacitus the Roman historian, the Bible has historical facts, but how much is true and how much is embellished is hard to decipher. Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman roam through the past from Megiddo to Jerusalem to the museums of today to seek artifacts that help put this mysterious puzzle together. Along with others scholars who have studied the people of the past, they assist in unearthing the stories that have come together and created the text know as the Bible.
Piecing together the past is like wandering through a dark cave with a cheap lighter, but with each spark the writing on the walls begins to tell the story. The journey begins with the most important biblical site in Israel, Megiddo, which is still being excavated today. Here, Finkelstein checks the written record with the record written in stone. Layers of rocks hide a city built upon a city which was built upon another city and so forth. Beneath all the dirt and rock are artifacts such as tools, pottery, and clay tablets with the primitive form of writing. These objects tell the tale of life and how it was lived at the time period for each successive city. This is where fact and the embellishments there of, collide.
One example of this collision would be the journey of Abraham from the city of Haram to Canaan. There is no question to the fact that Abraham parted from his people and ended up in Canaan, but is it plausible he came out of Mesopotamia? To research this, Neil Silberman transverses history by reading the clay tablets, which along with the artifacts mentioned before, bring into existence a broader view of what actually was happening. From what records show migration at the time of Abraham came out of Canaan and into Mesopotamia.
Another example of this collision is Moses and the Exodus. It is true that Egypt conquered the people of Israel for it was recorded on a large stone tablet with all of Egypt’s other conquests of the time, but it is the only mentioning of the Israelites in the whole of Egypt’s written history. This is odd because Egypt only mentions Israel once where the Bible mentions Egypt about seven hundred times. Though the Bible’s timeline or what scholars consider to be the biblical timeline, may be off by a century this doesn’t mean the exodus didn’t occur, but here is where embellishments comes into play. The biblical account says 600,000 weapon-bearing men left Egypt and if you include women and children and older men, scholars translate this to being about two million people. At this time Egypt only had three and a half million people in country, so one would think two million of them just leaving would result in a huge down turn economically and socially, disrupting the Egyptian Empire drastically. Yet there is no evidence outside of the Bible to show this. Scholars know a lot about this time period and so to not even see a blip on the radar from any other cultures written record is very odd.
This DVD isn’t to prove or disprove the Bible or to mock any religious belief, but what it does do is reminds us all that any story, no matter how old or how new can be flavored by the historian who is writing it. This is a great documentary for those truly interested on the history of the Bible for it separates the known facts about the Bible from the embellished tales like the walls of Jericho. Yes, there was a Jericho, and the Israelites did take over the city, but at the time it happened Jericho had no walls and the people, afraid of the oncoming Israeli army fled the city days before it was captured. As the old saying goes, the winners write the history.