Here’s the live blog of episode one. The second episode begins momentarily. I’ll update during commercial breaks.
Segment One– The narrator informs us at the very beginning that the program presents a variety of positions and opinions. It didn’t last week so I hope it does this week. The premise of this week’s show is the idea of a promised land and whether or not God gave it to a certain people.
Jerusalem, says our overly dramatic narrator (The Voice of Doom again) ‘is the place where David became King’. Well, not exactly… But the gist is the centrality of Jerusalem and that is appropriate.
James Hoffmeir and Candida Moss take part (briefly), Bart Ehrman too (a bit more). And a Jewish chaplain for the New York police department, (?) as well as someone named Jonathan Kirsch (?) and Peter Lanfer (who does a very good job). But why is Bart Ehrman the specialist consulted on an Old Testament theme when he is a New Testament scholar and WHY is Aslan on AGAIN!? [Come on. It’s clear that he is involved only because he’s been in the news so much of late for his dreadful book. That’s unfortunate.]
The first segment continues with the retelling of the story of the Exodus, and the tales of Numbers. But did the exodus ever happen at all? That question brings segment one to an end.
Segment Two– The narrator describes as ‘a little known fact’ that Moses is not allowed to enter the land. Hardly. Everyone who knows the OT knows that Moses was forbidden to enter the land. So, at any rate, what light can archaeology shed on the subject? There is no physical evidence of the exodus. Cargill appears and points out that fact. James Hoffmeir and Jodi Magness aren’t convinced that physical remains could or would be found anyway. (Very nice to see Jodi!).
But is there evidence of the exodus in the famed ‘ark of the covenant’? If it’s found could it prove the story of the exodus? Aslan discusses the Ark of the Covenant (and I say things in my head that I can’t type on a post). Others ask what happened to it and biblical texts mentioning it are very briefly discussed.
‘Perhaps the Ark is deliberately hidden from those who might wish to exploit its power…’ And other artifacts are as well, since they evoke claims to the land by others besides Jews, including Christians and Muslims. So ends segment two.
Segment Three– The segment opens with a telling of the discovery in 2012 of a piece of wood which some think part of the ‘true cross’. This leads to a wider discussion of relics. Jodi asserts that none of these relics can ever be shown to have any connection with Jesus. ‘We may have a cup Jesus drank out of but we would never know it’ she rightly says. Gary Burge talks briefly about the importance of Jerusalem and then Aslan has to put his two cents worth in [because not being a scholar of the Bible he has every reason in the world to be involved here].
Other locales around Jerusalem which have a connection to the life of Jesus are then discussed, like the Mount of Olives. [Let me insert here that there is a wider distribution of scholarly perspectives in this episode than the last. And that I appreciate].
From talk of the sites connected to Jesus we leap forward centuries to a discussion of the Crusades and the attempts to reclaim for Christianity the Holy Land from Islam. Why is the land important to Islam? That is the question which concludes segment three.
Segment Four– Whilst discussing Jerusalem and the Temple Mount the program describes the importance of the place for Muslims (and of course Aslan chimes in). The Qur’an includes many of the same tales as the Bible and the unifying figure for Islam and Judaism and Christianity is Abraham.
Candida reappears to tell us why Hagar is important and naturally this leads to further discussions of Ishmael and Hagar and their descendants and their connection to Muhammed. Accordingly, Jerusalem is held in esteem by all three religions which harken back to Abraham. The segment ends with a question- can the land actually become a promised land of peace?
Segment Five– Various wars and political upheavals are the focus and the ‘final war’ which precedes the coming of peace to the land the main thrust (with Megiddo front and center and Israel Finkelstein making an appearance). Candida explains, at the end, why competition for the Holy Land is ironic. Others too try to illuminate the spiritual and emotional meaning of a holy land.
Assessment– In all this episode was an improvement over the last (save for the appearance of Reza Aslan and he simply has no business being involved at all. Joe the Plumber would do equally well and possesses the same qualifications). Jodi was superb (as one would expect), Cargill was Cargill (and that means exceptional) and Moss was well spoken (unsurprisingly). Israel Finkelstein’s very brief (one sentence) appearance was very much appreciated as it lends credibility to the archaeological discussion. The story told cohered much more closely than last weeks and there were fewer segue oddities (disjointed transitions abounded last week). In short- well enough done, though it remains to be seen why Ehrman and Aslan took part- given that Ehrman is not an Old Testament scholar and Aslan isn’t a biblical scholar at all.
Next week Mary Magdalene takes center stage. I may have to skip it for my own sanity’s sake (though I will probably watch anyway).