Live Blogging ‘Bible Secrets Revealed’, The Final Episode

Today’s episode- Sex and the Scriptures – 12- 1 PM ET. Previous episodes were liveblogged herehereherehere, and here.  Stay tuned.  The liveblogging super bonanza will begin at the first commercial break and the post will be updated each commercial break thereafter.

Segment 1 – Sex is a part of the Bible because it is a part of life.  ‘There’s a lot of sex in the Bible, but there’s a lot more than you think’ says our dear Candida Moss.  Moses’ followers relied on the Torah for their rules…  (Mr Doom tells us).  Of course that’s a bit anachronistic.  Leviticus is brought to bear for its description of priestly rules.  These rules concerning sex are quite strict, as one might expect from Priests.  The law of the levirate marriage is also highlighted, as is the story of Ruth.  The ‘uncovering of the feet of Boaz’ is also discussed, and is of course, quite rightly shown to be a reference to sexual behavior.  For the ancient Israelites having children was critically important.  This is why Abraham is given Hagar by his wife Sarah.  This is also why multiple wives were also acceptable.  Are these sexual mores still applicable or are they irrelevant?

Segment 2– Sepphoris is the locale for the opening of the segment.  Reza Aslan shows up telling us about the place and Jodi Magness has a few lines about the town as well.  Oddly now we hear about the weeping woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair (implying that Sepphoris was the location of the foot washing by the questionable woman).  Does this imply Jesus had an ‘open attitude’ to all women?  Chris Keith shows up and has smart things to say about Jesus’ welcoming of the marginalized (making the same point as Cargill has too).  So what was Jesus’ attitude towards marriage?   He certainly didn’t seem to value the institution as highly as his contemporaries (according to Pagels).  ‘Traditional marriage’ is taking a beating- polygamy is tolerated and openness to various marital situations is widespread among the earlier followers of Jesus.  Now Paul is being singled out as a prime force behind the attitude toward sex in later Christianity.  Celibacy arises in the Church as a mark of spirituality.  When did sex become ‘shameful’?  That’s next.

Segment 3–  We’re back to the OT and the story of David.  And Jonathan.  They have ‘very tender moments with each other’.  David’s lament ‘triggered centuries of debate’ about the relationship between the two of them.  It’s possibly platonic but it can also imply, we’re told, a sexual relationship.  The language and imagery are sexual.  ‘Homosexuality was not condemned’ says Mr Doom who, apparently, has never read Leviticus.  It’s interesting, as an aside, that Jonathan and David are discussed at length in this segment but no mention has been made of Leviticus.  A skewed presentation?  Perhaps.  David is, the assertion is made, at least bisexual- thanks to his relationship with Bathsheba.  The command to procreate supersedes all other questions of morality.  Solomon is the proof of this- as he was born from an originally adulterous relationship.  Then we have a discussion of the Song of Solomon, a story of ‘hooking up’ according to one of the talking heads (which is- of course- utterly absurd and thoroughly anachronistic).  The New Testament presents a strict sexual morality- confined to marriage.  Homosexuality and adultery are tacitly accepted in the pages of the Old Testament- particularly in Genesis.

Segment 4–  Sodom and Gomorrah.  I’m guessing the issue will be hospitality and inhospitality rather than the homosexuality and the attempted rape of the angels by the men of the city.   Indeed- they want to rape them because they are foreigners and thus demonstrate power over them.  And yup, Candida makes the hospitality point and the other folk also add evidence to the point.  Of course for many years we’ve known that the issue at Sodom was much more than the usual supposition.  Lot’s wife becomes a pillar of salt and Lot’s daughters think it’s the end of the world so they sleep with their father and have children from this incestuous relationship.  Emphasizing, once more, the priority of childbearing over all other moral considerations.  Candida makes the wry point that this act is not the model for anyone else’s behavior.  Incest, adultery, and homosexuality were ‘tolerated’ in the OT period, says Mr Doom.  When did they become ‘sinful’?  (again ignoring Leviticus).

Segment 5– Adam and Eve and the origin of sex as sin.  After eating the fruit they become aware of their nakedness and feel ashamed.  The notion of Original Sin is connected to the story of Adam and Eve (among Christians).  What they learned was their own sexuality and their fraility and mortality.  Augustine as source of the Christian notion of Original Sin and its connection to sex is traced back to him.  He himself being something of a playboy.  The Bible is – according to our talking heads – more open to sexuality than many readers would suspect.


It was, for the most part, an ok episode.  Aside from the rather one sided reading of the Jonathan and David story and the refusal to so much as mention Leviticus’ prohibition of male and male sexual activity, the presenters did a good job of explaining the issues.

On the whole the series itself was, given its aims, well enough done.  It wasn’t the worst ‘bible-documentary’ I’ve ever seen.  High praise, indeed, in spite of the fact that it doesn’t sound like it.

Live Blogging Bible Secrets Revealed, Part Five

The new episode commences momentarily.  I’m looking forward to liking it.  I want to like it.  Let’s see if the History Channel makes that impossible or possible.  But it’s not looking positive as the promo which JUST aired at 9:53 once more mentioned UFO’s in connection with Ezekiel…

Segment One– Biblical prophecies- are they warnings or secret messages meant only for the believers?   Bart Ehrman rightly defines Prophet and so does Rabbi Klass and Jodi Magness.  Prophets proclaim, they don’t predict.

What the heck is Aslan doing back?  Now he’s an Old Testament scholar too then…  Candida does a nice job in discussing the expectation of the Messiah, and the movement which followed him early on.  Tabor too makes a sensible argument for Jesus seeing himself as Messiah.  Mr Voice of Doom even gets right the expectation of the first century Jews that the Messiah would be a military conquerer.  And Goodacre and Ehrman get right that the early Church looked for a suffering Messiah in the Hebrew Bible.

In all, a perfectly satisfying segment which did verily please me greatly.  Except for the appearance of Aslan, who belongs here as much as Driscoll belongs on a panel on Christian Ethics.

Segment Two- Life After Death in Prophecy?  Daniel is the central book – but it’s not quite proper to call him a ‘Prophet’.  Daniel is Apocalyptic.  A thoroughly different sort of literature.  Daniel isn’t in the prophetic section of the Canon, but is found among the Writings.   Furthermore, the notion of an ‘afterlife’ in the Christian sense is not anywhere present even in Daniel though the presenters appear to imagine Dan 12 asserts it.

They miss too the meaning of ‘son of man’ in Daniel which is clearly not as developed there as it is in the Gospels.  Daniel in no way ‘predicts’ Jesus nor does it predict events as described in Revelation.  Daniel is resistance literature, just as Revelation is, not predictive literature.  This point was thoroughly overlooked.

Segment Two, then, did a fair enough job but missed the larger themes necessary in any investigation of Daniel in favor of a not completely accurate exposition of the concept of son of man.

Segment Three–  The Book of Revelation is the center of the segment.  Pagels calls it a strange book and the narrator remarks that it is the best known, least understood of them all.   Bart Ehrman gets right the purpose of Revelation in urging Christians to remain steadfast (and Cargill supports this reading).

They surely should have had Moss on the early Christian martrys, instead of the other talking heads.  This would have enriched the presentation which was, in all fairness, as good as the first.  Indeed, again, a very satisfying segment and accurately and rightly done.

Segment Four–  Ezekiel.  Please, no UFO’s.    Oh no- he said it.  UFO.  Ghastly.  Suggesting that ‘modern scholars’ have described his vision along the lines of UFO’s is a mistake.  No reputable scholar believes that.   Fortunately this misprision is swiftly bypassed and a good discussion of the curious nature of Ezekiel’s visions follows.

Kabbalah comes into focus and of course Ezekiel’s mystical visions serve as the springboard.  The mysticism of kabbalah isn’t really up my alley so I’ll leave to others critique of its presentation.

Segment Five– The Rapture.  No, say it isn’t so.  Dispensational pre-millenialism?  A rapture?  The New Testament knows neither.  No, Mr Voice of Doom, there is no ‘Rapture’.  Moss gets Paul’s expectation correct.  Ehrman gets the distinction between Paul’s eschatology correct and Revelation’s anticipation of an apocalyptic end correct.  But none really mention the problem with any notion of ‘a rapture’ and that is unfortunate.

Goodacre’s remark that the Bible draws people to itself over and over because it contains mysteries is, I think, quite right.  People are intrigued by it.  That’s why they deserve to hear accurate information about it.

Summary– All in all a very good episode with three small problems: lack of clarity concerning Daniel’s genre; mention of UFO’s in connection with Ezekiel’s vision; and discussion of the ‘rapture’ without debunking it inauthentic nature vis-a-vis an accurate reading of 1 Thessalonians.  Otherwise, well done all.

Earlier episodes were liveblogged hereherehere, and here. Stay tuned next week for the next installment’s live blogging.

Bible Secrets Revealed: Live Blogging the Next Segment on Wednesday, Dec 18

The title of this week’s segment is – Mysterious Prophecies airing December 18, 2013 – 10:00-11:02PM ET.

Biblical prophecies are said to be messages and warnings sent from God, but what do they really foretell? Can they be decoded and used to predict mankind’s future?

The use of the word ‘decoded’ leaves me a tad cold. Especially given the hint that they’ll also be referencing UFO’s.

Anyway, I’ll be live blogging it. Earlier episodes were liveblogged here, here, here, and here. Stay tuned.

Live Blogging ‘Bible Secrets Revealed: Forbidden Scriptures’

Starting soon- and again, as each segment concludes I’ll post updates during the commercial breaks.  Once again I’m looking for balanced presentation, scholarship (i.e., actual scholars and not just guys who have written books completely outside their field- yes, I’m looking at you Aslan), and intelligible delivery.  We shall see if they are all included in just a few minutes.

Segment One–  ‘Are there chapters in the Bible that are missing’?  That statement, which opens the segment, makes no sense.  If they were in the bible they wouldn’t be missing.  And the question of forbidden books and canon is not the question of the canon at all but the question of orthodoxy v. heterodoxy.  Mr. Doom is once more narrating and the tone is conspiratorial.

The Protestant Bible compared with the Catholic and the Orthodox Ethiopian raises the question of which canon is correct.  Fair enough.  Books were included and excluded on the basis of their use in communities (and so in a sense on the basis of their backers or non backers).   Unfortunately the best study on the issue, ‘Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity’ by Bauer is not so much as mentioned.  The Book of Enoch, however, is.  And the popularity of Enoch in Judaism and early Christianity is rightly discussed.

Kathleen McGowan appears, but I don’t know what purpose her appearing serves except to be the female equivalent of Aslan.  She is the sensationalizer.

Francesca S. finally appears- and does well.  Aslan appears again and can’t even pronounce the word ‘nephilim’ correctly…  Bart Ehrman should have given him diction lessons, because Bart gets it right.

Segment Two– Nag Hammadi.  So it’s on to the gnostic texts.  No surprise there at all.  Any discussion of the ‘hidden’ books of the Bible has to discuss the gnostic texts.  McGowan’s lack of historical insight is appalling.  ‘Jesus is the one who teaches us that we don’t need priests, we don’t need churches’.  Complete nonsense.

Goodacre appears and so does, unsurprisingly, the modern gnostic/mystic, Elaine Pagels.  Cargill continues to do a good job of summarizing the main points of various issues.

Athanasius’ letter of legitimization is brought up and the condemnation of the gnostic texts is described.  What’s so dangerous, Mr Doom, asks, about the gnostic texts.  What do they tell us about Jesus’ ‘lost’ years?   Were the gnostic gospels ‘subversive’.  No, Mr Doom, they’re just silly.  They weren’t adopted by the church and they aren’t treasured as scripture even know they’ve been known for a very long time because they’re just ridiculous.

It’s a shame that the predicted balance which the narrator implied at the beginning of the episode, and every episode, hasn’t manifested itself.  There is no orthodox Christian voice on the gnostic texts.

Next up, speaking of ridiculous, the whole ‘Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ thing…

Segment Three–  The ‘Gospel of Mary Magdalene’ is front and center.   McGowan’s ‘2000 years of church history is overturned by the Gospel of Mary’ is beyond ridiculous.  Were the ‘lost gospels’ kept out because the early church had a pro male and anti female agenda?  No- don’t be absurd.  Paul says that in Christ, there is neither male nor female, bond nor free, Jew or gentile.  The suggestion that the church was anti-woman is historically senseless.

A special on the Bible which is doing its best to avoid the biblical text is problematic.  Why haven’t any of the presenters mentioned Paul’s remarks?  Why haven’t texts from the Bible which speak to these issues been discussed?  Is there an agenda in the program itself and its producers which seeks to portray Christianity a certain way whilst Christianity has raised its voice on these issues and is being silenced by the program?

Maybe the real conspiracy here isn’t by the Church, it’s by the History Channel.

Segment Four– ‘The Life of Adam and Eve’.    Why isn’t it in the Bible?  Because it’s silly.  McGowan’s ‘it intimidated the Church’ is once more just absurd.   From there we jump to Kuntillet Ajrud and the ‘Yahweh and his Asherah’ material.  Francesca and Bob do nice work with the ‘Yahweh may have been viewed as having a wife’ bit.  This should surprise no one, since popular religion and the religion of the elite there is often a very wide gap.

And so we return to the gnostics, who have a mother-father god.  So was the Bible edited to suppress the female aspects of God?  Next up, the gnostic Peter stuff.

Segment Five–  The ‘apocalypse’ as genre is discussed.   The majority of books of that genre were left out of the New Testament.  Most interesting is that of Peter, who describes the torments of hell.  Now, friends, there’s a fun book for you!

Summary–  Cargill and Goodacre and Ehrman and Stravakapolou do very well and the rest simply should have been left out.  Especially McGowan who belongs as little to a scholarly discussion of the Bible as does Aslan.  Indeed, she must have been included just to highlight the ineptitude of various authors.  Just because someone has a book on an aspect of religion doesn’t qualify them to appear as a talking head on a special on the Bible.  That is the message of McGowan’s inclusion.

Here’s the bottom line- books not included in the Bible aren’t ignored because they are subversive: they’re excluded because they are just, at the end of the day, deemed unimportant or simply wrong.  There are, all should be willing to honestly admit, books written that are garbage.  The Church deemed the books it left aside unworthy of spiritual use.

Deal with it, but don’t make accusations of conspiracy just because some obscure book referenced by some weird ‘scholar’ tells you that such and such a book has secrets to reveal that will change history.  That, at this point, is the greatest absurdity of all.

‘Bible Secrets Revealed’ : Live Blogging Episode Two- The Promised Land

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).

Live Blog: Bible Secrets Revealed

I’m very interested in how the presentation will proceed and looking forward to seeing various friends ply their skills and inform the wider public about issues of critical importance.  It is, in my view, exceedingly important for scholars to engage the public.  Exceptionally important- so as to debunk the deluge of misinformation planted in the minds of many by bible specials on tv, pseudo-archaeologists posing as biblical scholars, and popular books.

But I do have a viewing caveat which I think is important:  my first query and the thing I will be observing is whether or not anyone from the Evangelical Theological Society served as a consultant or ‘talking head’ on #BibleSecretsRevealed.    I already know that the Society of Biblical Literature is represented because I know a number of the persons slated to appear are members but based on the list of scholars floating around the interweb none from ETS.  Why is that?

If a program is to present balance it needs to present multiple perspectives.  If it doesn’t, it’s skewed and that’s not how scholarship works best.  ETS is a conservative association of Biblical scholars whilst SBL embraces persons of the widest points of view including atheists and agnostics (several of whom, it seems, will appear tonight).  If the program’s producers disregard different widely held viewpoints what does that suggest?

To put it another way- how would people in SBL feel if a program purporting to be a look into biblical scholarship as presently practiced interviewed and only had contributors from ETS?  Bias in either direction is unfortunate because half the story and little more.

That said, the show is about to start.  See you at the next commercial break.

Segment One–  The Dead Sea Scrolls and the text of the Bible, with Bart Ehrman, Robert Cargill, Reza Aslan (why?), Robert Mullins, Wolpe (who is on every bible program on Discovery and History), Candida Moss, and Elaine Pagels (who like Wolpe, is on all of these shows), and Francesca S.

Cargill did a good job summarizing the scholarly perspective.  A very good job.  Cogently stating the facts as known by scholars for generations. As did, unsurprisingly, Bart Ehrman.   Too little of Moss and Francesca to say anything about their participation other than that they participated.

Constantine isn’t believed, however, to have authored the Bible, by any academic.  Or anyone.  Even though our narrator seems to imply as much as the segment drew to a close.

Segment Two–  Jesus’ Birth, featuring discussion by  Dale Martin, Jeff Geoghan,  Reza Aslan (why??), Francesca (who did the work on Isaiah 7:14 with Pagels and Ehrman) and which leads to discussions by Ehrman and Cargill on Aramaic and Francesca on translation issues from Greek and Hebrew.

Astonishingly, the narrator says that Christians wrote their documents on the Codex!  That’s absurd.  The codex wasn’t invented until well after the second century.  How could the Gospels have been written at the beginning on codices???  Goodacre and Keith appear and are made to appear to say that the Gospel of Mark was composed on a codex and the last page fell out so that the longer ending of Mark comes about because that missing page needed to be replaced…

Segment two is very much a disappointment.  I cannot believe that Chris Keith (along, the program intimated, with Goodacre) thinks that Mark was composed on a Codex and a page fell off so it had to be replaced.

Segment Three– Wycliff with Mr Voice of Doom narrator telling us of him and Ferrell adding the details.  Mullins is back as well.  Peter Lanfer joins the fun and all of them talking about the translation of the Bible into languages other than Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Cargill gets right the fact that the Reformation had a political aspect.  Bradley Hale adds to the discussion of Henry VIII.   The Bibles produced in English from thence take center stage (and nary a mention of the better and more famous translations of Luther or Zwingli) as though only England experienced biblical translations.

Candida Moss finely discussed the problem of texts absent from the oldest Greek manuscripts which nonetheless showed up in English versions.

Segment three was far better than two, although Mr Voice of Doom Narrator is overselling the conspiracy theory stuff.

Segment Four–   The Influence of the Language of the Bible on English.  Ferrell is back.  More than that, the rise of denominations is attributed to the availability of a bible in the language of the people.  Similarly, the founding of America can be connected to the Bible and the Bible of Jefferson is highlighted.  From Jefferson to Joseph Smith?  A rewriting of the Bible?  That’s an odd leap, Mr Voice of Doom and Scary Guy.  The Book of Mormon takes the stage too.

From those we turn to slavery and the Bible’s use in justifying that injustice.  Bart Ehrman describes the ‘application’ of Genesis 9 to justify slavery.  So then we come to the Civil War.  The Bible was used by both sides for their own political purposes.  Francesca calls that a ‘pick and mix’ use of the text and points out the danger of prooftexting.

A fairly enough presented segment though I have to say the historical leaps of hundreds of years at a time is a bit jarring.

Conclusion– The Bible was a collection of stories which were tampered with by editors and tradents, says Mr Doom.  The biggest secret of the Bible is that its impact is larger than its authors could ever have imagined- says Chris Keith.  The Dead Sea Scrolls and mysterious texts and fragments which cast new light on the Bible or even call into question what the Bible says may yet be found. But the real question- Why is Reza Aslan on this series?  He is among the last of the talking heads.  And that’s a shame.  Cargill’s remarks conclude the episode (except for final words by Mr Doom).

Assessment–  The program was fast paced and engaging throughout.  Bits and pieces were tragically wrong (such as the suggestion that Constantine wrote the Bible and that the Gospels were written on Codex leaves (that’s so absurd)) but Candida and Francesca and Chris Keith and Robert Cargill and Bart Ehrman and even Mark Goodacre (though he barely appeared) all did a good job in describing the scholarly perspective.

I’ll be watching the entire series.