"Mysteries of the Old Testament"
Leonard J. Gleeson | Bayswater, Victoria Australia | 09/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
This BBC/ Discovery Channel show is in 3 parts (Joseph; Joshua; David), and all are very well
produced, with good re-enactments, computer simulations, location shots and the advice of the
most relevant experts worldwide.
"Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors" is the weakest of the 3 parts, despite its very good
production quality, because the existing knowledge of Joseph is poor, being totally without
agreement amongst the experts, and with no hard evidence. Hence this Joseph part goes off
in many well-produced tangents without coming up with any acceptable outcome. It seems
to adopt assumptions, such as the date when Joseph actually lived, which is certainly not
well agreed upon; and other ambiguous notions are put forward. The final flaw is that the
"new-age" author David Rohl is put in amongst expert guests; his credibility is mainly based
on his book, which is of rather doubtful historical accuracy or academic value.
"Joshua and the Walls of Jerico" is next, and is a much more coherent work, which culminates
in a firm, reliable conclusion. But be warned: this is not a children's retelling or a documentary
for fundamentalists, since this ruthlessly critical view of the Biblical account strips away the
traditions to reveal a rather bare, even miserable historical basis. But then the metaphorical,
figurative meaning of the Joshua story becomes clear, and is finally seen to be much more
important than the rather unhistorical tale itself.
"David and Goliath" is the final show, and it too has a modern, totally frank look at the career
of King David. After some informative studies of slings (against Goliath) and lyres (played for
King Saul) the conclusions are, again, not for children's bedtime stories or fundamentalists. It
shows David to have been a ruthless monarch, quite prepared to kill, or have killed, anyone who
stood in his way, such as Saul, or his own son Absolom; but then, as the commentary states,
this was the norm in the ancient world, with many "great" leaders, such as Constantine and
Cleopatra, being equally ruthless.
Joseph's story is Good, Joshua's is poor.
The Tenor | 01/06/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"While the analysis of Joseph's story is quite good and commendable, BBC did a poor job in gathering information about the reality of Joshua's conquests. It's biased and arrives at a farfetched conclusion that the story of Jericho is a myth. The archaeologists chosen are not authoritative and seem biased against the Bible record which weakens the conclusion. At the end they seem to infer that we have to accept the story of Joshua as mere hope and faith that the promised land was all people's desires towards liberation and freedom. Why can't we accept the Bible by faith rather than try to explain everything scientifically. Archaeology cannot provide all the answers, especially when the archaelogists are biased."
Facts and Faith
James F. McGrath | Indianapolis, Indiana, USA | 04/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a religion professor specializing in the Bible, I cannot recommend this documentary highly enough. I will limit my comments to the episode on Joshua and Jericho, excerpts of which I show in my class each semester. Although this documentary is rather more disconcerting for conservative believers than another that I also show, Mysteries of the Bible: Joshua at the Walls of Jericho, it is in many ways more useful. It includes not only the classic evidence from Kenyon's archaeological work at Jericho, but also considerations from fields as diverse as acoustics and genetics. It includes the most recent scholarship, including the studies of the highland settlements by Israel Finkelstein, the work on the continuity of pottery styles by William Dever and others, as well as extremely recent (and thus still ongoing) research on the relations between Israelites and Canaanites from a genetic standpoint.
The most recent evidence confirms what historians had suspected for some time, namely that the majority of the Israelites did not come from elsewhere, but from the land of Canaan itself.
The message of the documentary, however, is not only fair but extremely powerful, in showing that the story, while not historical, continues to be meaningful, in terms of its abiding message about freedom. Avery Brooks does a wonderful job of both guiding the viewer through the issues and evidence, and in expressing the emotional power of the story.
The presentation may seem to some to be one-sided, but while there is significant disagreement on various details among historians and Biblical archaeologists, there is nearly universal agreement on two points, which are accurately conveyed by the documentary. First, when there are both kinds of evidence, archaeological evidence takes priority, since it gives us direct access to the time in question, whereas any texts that may have been written will have been written later (in some cases much later). Second, there is simply no way to take the archaeological evidence seriously and to believe that the Biblical account in Joshua is a straightforward factual account. It may contain historical details that are accurate, and may reflect actual battles fought over a longer period of time, but that is to say that it may have some genuine historical information in it, which many historians agree. But there is a big gap between this historical approach and its conclusions, and the conservative viewpoint that the story provides factual details and does so inerrantly. To believe the latter, one has to ignore the evidence from so many other fields of inquiry that it is all but impossible for any honest thinking individual to do so.
I discuss these matters further on my blog at [...]"