by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The taxpayer funded Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is planning to air a program this fall that claims the Old Testament is nothing but a collection of made-up stories.
“…It’s designed for intelligent people who are willing to change their mind,” said Paula Apsel, producer of the Nova film, The Bible’s Buried Secrets, which is scheduled to air on November 18.
“It will give intelligent people who want to read the Bible in a modern way a chance,” Apsel said. “If we insist on reading the Bible literally, in 25 years, nobody will read it any longer.”
Among the films many claims are:
• The Old Testament was written in the sixth century BC and hundreds of authors contributed.
• Abraham, Sarah and their offspring didn’t exist.
• There is no archaeological evidence of the Exodus.
• Monotheism was a process that took hundreds of years.
• The Israelites were actually Canaanites.
• The Israelites believed that God had a wife.
Apsel has been telling the media the most “extremely shocking” revelation she found in the documentary was learning that monotheism was a process that took hundreds of years.
”I was brought up to believe that the minute Abraham and the patriarchs came on the scene, the Israelites accepted one God and there was just always one God and that was it,” Apsell says. “I think people are going to really be stunned by that.”
Internationally known Bible scholar, Mitch Pacwa, S.J., and popular host on the Eternal Word Television Network, found this remark amusing. “What is so shocking about that? I think she’s the one who is stunned and is projecting that onto her audience,” he said.
“Throughout the Bible, we see frequent mention of how difficult it was for the Israelites to come to the point of accepting God,” he explained. “How many times were they punished because they would not believe God? And this was all recorded by the Old Testament writers. They’re not trying to hide anything. They tell us how many times they went back and forth regarding monotheism.”
As for claiming the Old Testament was written during the 6th century, Father Pacwa knows of no new evidence that might substantiate such a claim. “We don’t have any particular time when we say it was written and so we don’t speculate on that. To say the Bible was written in the 6th century B.C. is saying more than the evidence permits.”
That there is no archeological evidence of the exodus is another non-shocker, he says. “What are they looking for?” Father Pacwa asks. “What do they allow to constitute as evidence?”
The claim that the Israelites believed God was married is another example of how the film may be stretching the evidence.
“The evidence is this,” Father Pacwa said. “There is one jug found in the Sinai which apparently describes the Lord as having a consort. This may mean the owner of the jug believed it, or the man who made the jug believed it, but it doesn’t mean all Israel believed it. To say that all the Israelites believed God was married doesn’t fit the evidence.”
Saying the Israelites were actually Canaanites is another theory he did not find surprising.
Father Pacwa read about this theory in graduate school, he said. It is being advanced by Hebrew Bible scholar Norman Gottwald in the book, The Tribes of Yahweh, in which he claims the Israelites were really part of a revolt.
“In fact, it’s basically a Marxist revolt against Canaanite overlords,” Father Pacwa said. “Ultimately, and it sounds absurd even to say it, what he’s saying is that the Israelites were proto-Marxists.”
Although we don’t yet know the evidence for the claims being made in the film, “Knowing some of the people in this field, I suspect these will be the facts they’re basing it on,” Father Pacwa said.
A backlash against the film is already underway. The American Family Association (AFA) has responded to the documentary by launching a nationwide campaign to petition Congress to stop supporting the liberal PBS with tax dollars.
“Let the PBS operate like every other non-commercial network, raising its own money from its viewers instead of using tax money,” says its on-line petition.
“The Bible’s Buried Secrets is simply one more reason Congress should stop supporting the PBS with our tax dollars.”
As for Apsel’s claim that people must change the way they read the Bible or ultimately stop reading it, Father Pacwa says: “If we did accept the Bible on their terms, that would mean that the Bible’s ratings would be as low as that of PBS.”
To sign the on-line petition, visit www.afa.net
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