The Bible’s Buried Secrets? Part 1

Part 1: Summary Evaluation/Critique of The Overall Metanarrative of The Mainstream

The two-hour documentary called The Bible’s Buried Secrets shows (aired in 2008) archaeological research from the Holy Land to discover the foundations of contemporary religion and the roots of the Old Testament from a mainstream academic standpoint. The mainstream contemporary archeologists do not think the Old Testament is historically correct, with several saying that significant sections of Scripture are lore or fiction. This approach is echoed by Duke University professor Carol Meyers, who said,

“most of us start out as naïve Bible readers and take it at face value, not understanding enough or anything at all about how literature was produced in the ancient world where there was no consciousness about the construction of history as such.”[1]

Because contemporary historiography did not occur in ancient times, the current mindset of some decides all ancient documents should be handled with an elevated concentration of suspicion and even pessimism. This is particularly right for religious documents. In exploring the crossing among scholarship and Scripture, the documentary makes several startling allegations. The Bible’s Buried Secrets acknowledges several biblical happenings and individuals yet challenges others. In this blog post, I will evaluate and critique the overall metanarrative of the mainstream approach. In the second blog post, I will give a detailed discussion of the history of the exodus presented in the video.

Israel

While this is a surprise to many Christians these days, during the last half of the 20th century, mainstream scholarship gradually embraced the view ancient Israel was not anything other than Canaanites who created a society different from the nearby setting. They even claim there was no Exodus or Conquest because the early Israelites were native Canaanites. Though records dating to the time of the Divided Monarchy obviously show a separate Northern and Southern Kingdom, the original era of Israelite antiquity is an intellectual battleground.[2]

Arguably the most important discovery so far on the earliest record of Israel is the Merneptah Stele. It was found in 1896 by Sir Flinders Petrie and was initially situated in the pharaoh’s mortuary temple in western Thebes. It is now held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and it cites the victory of Merneptah (1213-1203 B.C.) over nine distinct political parties in Canaan. In this precious inscription, the pharaoh “announces the entrance onto the world stage of a people named Israel.”[3] The text reads, “Ashkelon has been brought captive. Gezer has been taken captive. Yanoam in the north Jordan Valley has been seized, Israel has been shorn. Its seed no longer exists.”[4] Donald Redford of Pennsylvania State University says, “This is priceless evidence for the presence of an ethnical group called Israel in the central highlands of southern Canaan.”[5] Dating around 1209-1208 B.C., the stele celebrates a military battle in Canaan at a period when Egypt was still one of the greatest military forces in the ancient Near East. With spectacular style characteristic of Near Eastern kings, Merneptah brags about pounding his foes in Palestine. This includes Israel. Other diplomatic rules in Canaan are said along with Israel, further implying that it is a familiar nation. If it is sufficient to be listed amongst more recognized countries, it ought to have had a large populace because there would not be enough praise for the pharaoh to brag about beating an unknown band of wanderers.

The way the name Israel is authored is also worth mentioning. In the inscription, a hieroglyph known as a throw-stick comes after the name of Israel. This is applied to denote foreign nations. What comes after the throw-stick is a hieroglyph depicting a man and woman sitting down with three vertical strokes underneath them. This implies multitude and is employed to note tribal or itinerant individuals with a central government absent.[6] The two signs at the same time, give a picture that is extraordinarily like the portrayal of Israel in the books of Exodus through Judges. Israel is foreign, itinerant, or tribally established individuals with no king.

The Bible’s Buried Secrets suggests a tiny band of Canaanite slaves might have fled from Egypt, delivering the root that later formed into the huge Exodus tale. A lot of mainstream scholarship would acknowledge this is likely, but the data does not support this notion. Dozens of tiny villages appear in the Judean highlands in the 12th-13th centuries B.C., significantly expanding the populace of the region.[7] The documentary claims the failure of Canaanite-city states left many oppressed people to go on their own, creating a distinctive character. Corresponding to this picture, the villages several archeologists identify as “Israelite” are nobody other than brand-new Canaanite villages. There is a lot of trouble balancing this position with the data.

If the immigrants are just Canaanites, why did they need to make a different social uniqueness? The Bible can answer this. God instructed the Israelites to keep the distinction among themselves and other nations, as well as persons populating the territory of Canaan. They were not to have foreign spouses, embrace other spiritual traditions, or bring about agreements with the indigenous people (Exodus 23:31-33; 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:3-6). This mindset is shown in one crucial bit of data: there seems to be a ban in the brand-new Israelite villages in opposition to pork. No pig bones are discovered in these Judean towns, even when near villages raised pigs. Kenneth Kitchen reports:

“As food, pigs were popular in the Philistine-dominated area in southwest Canaan, were acceptable in the Transjordan…but were seemingly taboo in highland Canaan in the particular region that…is the habitat of earliest Israel in the narratives of Joshua/Judges. The practices observed there…do indeed correspond to the limits set by the dietary laws of Lev. 11.”[8]

This limit on pork is one of the very prominent limits in the Bible (also in Deuteronomy 14:3-20), although it as well supplies an essential difference among the populace of Israelite villages and the nearby Canaanite society. As the documentary contends, the Israelites were first indigenous Canaanites who set up a distinctive cultural personality for a long time, yet the absence of pig bones in the archeological history is a clear difference with the nearby society. One should clarify why these assumed Canaanites ended consuming pork quickly across a very wide physical region.

Avraham Faust of Bar-Ilan University described in a conversation: “The Israelites did not like the Canaanite system, and they defined themselves in contrast to that system.”[9] Only this statement runs past the archeological history and ascribes intentions that cannot be situated archaeologically and is just one potential explanation of the data. Faust asserts the Israelites had a philosophy of minimalism, although this reflection still does not supply an adequate reason for why a band of exiled Canaanites built an individuality different from their fellow citizens, or why only pork was eliminated for the sake of minimalism and nothing else.

Again, the Bible has an answer that is beyond acceptable. The identical data applied to encourage a revolt of the afflicted Canaanites can be used similarly to a wandering set of twelve culturally and religiously different tribes. Counter to other cultural bands, Israelite villages had no shrines, fortresses, privileged houses, historic buildings, and extraordinarily little artwork. This is all in harmony with the picture of a wandering community, who would not have the time for such activities, which fits the narrative of Israel in the Pentateuch and early historical books of the Bible.

David and Solomon

In the documentary, William Dever of the University of Arizona gives what the modern approach amounts to about David when he said:

“Now, some scholars today have argued that there was no such thing as a united monarchy. It’s a later biblical construct, and, particularly, a construct of modern scholarship. In short, there was no David. As one of the biblical revisionists has said, ‘David is no more historical than King Arthur.’”[10]

Though Dever does not individually support this point, if David and his kingdom were no further historical than the mythical English king and his court at Camelot, one would think there would be no proof of his life. However, in the words of the narrator, “But then in 1993, an amazing discovery literally shed new light on what the Bible calls ancient Israel’s greatest king.”[11]

Gila Cook of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Jerusalem found a stone piece with text on it whilst at work at the city of Tel Dan, whose archaeological site was led by the late Israeli archeologist Avraham Biran. The Bible’s Buried Secrets sensationalizes the finding of the now-famous Tel Dan Stele, although no documentary can effectively seize the enormous significance of the discovery. As the narrator puts it:

Cook had found a fragment of a victory stele, written in Aramaic, an ancient language very similar to Hebrew. Dedicated by the king of Damascus or one of his generals, it celebrates the conquest of Israel, boasting, “I slew mighty kings who harnessed thousands of chariots and thousands of horsemen. I killed the king of the House of David.” Those words, “the House of David,” make this a critical discovery. They are strong evidence that David really lived.

Though the film considers the Tel Dan Stele in detail, it does not mention a further finding saying the name of the renowned Israelite king. The Mesha Stele, additionally known as the Moabite Stone, cites the “house of David” (it likewise cites the “house of Yahweh”). Discovered in 1868 in Dhiban, Jordan, this memorial celebrates the effective conquest of the Israelite force in Moab in the supremacy of Mesha (2 Kings 3:4-9). In the stele, Mesha states that for 40 years Israel had ruled Moab, starting in the rule of the Israelite king Omri, and keeping across the rule of Ahab. Moab earned its freedom from the Northern Kingdom in combat, in which Mesha ritually sacrificed his own son in complete sight of the Israelite military.[12]


[1] NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets (2008), [On-line], URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bible/.

[2] Apologetics Press: The Bible’s Buried Secrets (Published August 1, 2009), [On-line], URL: https://apologeticspress.org/the-bibles-buried-secrets-2753/

[3] NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets (2008), [On-line], URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bible/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Larry Bruce “The Merneptah Stele and the Biblical Origins of Israel,” JETS 62.3 (2019), 465-466.

[7] Ann Kilebrew, “Early Israel-A Mixed Multitude,” in ‘Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity’ (SBL Press, 2005), 156.

[8] Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 230.

[9] NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets (2008), [On-line], URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bible/.

[10] NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets (2008), [On-line], URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bible/.

[11] Ibid.

[12] André Lemaire, “House of David Restored in Moabite Inscription,” BAR 20.3 (1994), 30-36.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: