Summaries and expanded discussions of Bible Secrets Revealed Episodes 1-4 available at Bible History Daily

Bible History Daily
I have provided episode summaries of History‘s documentary series “Bible Secrets Revealed” episodes 1-4 at the Bible History Daily website. I’ve also included expanded discussions of many specific issues, as well as answers to many questions posed by Biblical Archaeology Society readers.

The discussions range from the origin of Jesus’ title “Son of Man”, to the origin of the virgin conception of Jesus, to how translators of the Bible fixed the problem of who really killed Goliath.

"Bible Secrets Revealed" Title Image (Courtesy Prometheus Entertainment)

The summaries are here:

Episode 1: Lost in Translation

Episode 2: The Promised Land

Episode 3: Forbidden Scriptures

Episode 4: The Real Jesus

I shall be providing a summary for Episode 5: Mysterious Prophecies soon, and will do the same for Episode 6: Sex and the Scriptures once it airs.

I may also pull some excerpts from those discussions and repost them here on occasion in order to highlight certain points and promote discussion.

Enjoy!

Full Episode of History’s “Bible Secrets Revealed” Episode One: “Lost In Translation” Available Online

Bible Secrets Revealed on History

In case you missed it, you can watch the FULL EPISODE of History‘s Bible Secrets RevealedLost In Translation” online for free.

And don’t miss next week’s episode, “The Promised Land“, airing Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 10/9c.

Tweet your comments and feedback about the show with hashtag #BibleSecretsRevealed

Mitt Romney on the Israel-Palestine Peace Process (and my response)

There’s really not much to say. This election is over.

Here are two videos. The first is Republican Candidate Mitt Romney attempting to “delve into” the Israel-Palestine situation. He can’t even articulate the right-wing Israeli argument properly. But he is attempting to regurgitate what he’s been fed.

The second is my response.

It’s over Mr. Romney. Stop talking.

The ‘negative space’ argument: another reason why the U.S. should back Palestinian statehood (and why Hamas opposes it)

"Negative Space" left behind by proposed "1967 borders" of the 2011 UN Palestinian Statehood proposal would mandate an acknowledgment of a state of Israel.

"Negative Space" left behind by proposed "1967 borders" of the 2011 UN Palestinian Statehood proposal would mandate an acknowledgment of a state of Israel.

A University of Iowa colleague of mine, Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, and I were discussing the planned Palestinian proposal for statehood to the United Nations this week. Dr. Souaiaia mentioned that Hamas, the militant Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip and actually engaged in a Palestinian civil war with the larger Palestinian political party, Fatah, was one of the only Arab organizations actually opposed the proposed Palestinian bid for statehood (a little-reported fact I later confirmed in a number of articles that U.S. media outlets apparently don’t want you to see).

In fact, despite the fact that the 22 nation-members of the Arab League have endorsed the Palestinian bid for statehood, Hamas does not. This is because the negative space left behind by the proposed pre-1967 borders of the Palestinian state to be proposed at the United Nations would, by default, define a state of Israel. That is, the area that is not claimed within the borders proposed by Palestine (encompassing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), and, that is not claimed by adjacent nations must belong to someone, and that someone is Israel.

This is precisely why Hamas does not support the bid: it has less to do with political representation of Palestine by Fatah (which Hamas opposes), and more to do with a simple acknowledgment of the reality of the state of Israel.

Hamas would rather not have a Palestinian state than acknowledge an Israeli one.

And that is precisely why Hamas should be ignored, and why Fatah should move forward with the bid on behalf of Palestine. It is why the 22-member Arab League has endorsed the bid, why Israel should concede (if they cannot politically support the plan), and why the United States should not veto the bid.

Palestinian statehood through recognition at the United Nations is the two-state solution. Israel and Palestine should set aside old arguments over olive trees (hat tip: Thomas Friedman) and allow the bid for Palestinian statehood to move forward. It’s the win-win for Israel and Palestine that everyone has been seeking for decades. It allows for something that has never existed: an internationally recognized Palestinian state! It allows Israel to save face by allowing them to oppose a unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood, and yet concede that the United Nations is the same organization that set the foundation for an Israeli state in 1947. It allows the United States to support its own policy of a two-state solution. (President Obama just needs to articulate the fact that a vote in favor of the Palestinian statehood bid forces Arab League states to recognize Israel.) And, it thumbs an international nose at Hamas, the terrorist organization that has stood in the way of peace (or at least has been the Israeli excuse for avoiding it) for decades.

And if Hamas so much as fires a single shot in an attempt to sabotage the process, the newly formed coalition of neighbors – Palestine, Israel, the Arab League, the US, the UN, and anyone else who wants to join in – should once and for all end Hamas’ reign of terror and oppression of its own Palestinian people. We can remind those in Gaza that Hamas would rather forfeit a Palestinian state than make peace with Israel (and Fatah). We can remind them what life has been like under Hamas leadership. And, we can point out the imminent reality of their centuries-long dream of an internationally recognized Palestinian state is near.

All that needs to happen is for President Obama and the United States not to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood. Until this, we wait, and we hope that 2012 electoral college math doesn’t influence Mr. Obama’s judgment on the matter at hand.

Robert R. Cargill

a ted talk by julia bacha on palestinian non-violent peacemaking

If you’ve ever asked the question, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? Why aren’t Palestinians using non-violent means to achieve peace in Israel/Palestine?,” here is your answer:

They are. The media simply aren’t covering it, and neither the Israeli or Palestinian (nor the US) governments want to recognize it because they are too busy ramping up their military theater actors to look good for the thirsty media, play to their fundamentalist bases, and attempt to force a settlement.

Fortunately, there are people participating in nonviolent protests on both sides (Palestine and Israel) and together, and there are journalists in the media like Julia Bacha, a documentary filmmaker, who are attempting to change this. Her recent TED talk highlights Palestinian nonviolent peacemaking. You should watch it and ask: is the situation on the ground accurately reflected on TV and what we’re hearing from politicians?

of course hamas condemns the killing of bin laden

Ismail Haniyeh

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip

Of course Hamas condemns the killing of Bin Laden: birds of a feather.

According to Reuters:

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, called bin Laden a martyr.

“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” Haniyeh told reporters. “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

I shake my head.

happy 62nd anniversary (kinda) dead sea scrolls

Qumran Inkwell Party Hat

A Qumran inkwell celebrates the 62nd anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (I chose the inkwell because, you know, inkwells were discovered at Qumran ;-).

Ferrell Jenkins has an excellent summary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls over at his Travel Blog. The “discoveries” were made beginning 62 years ago this week, and scholars have been fighting ever since. Of course, Qumran had a long history of visitors well before the discovery of the scrolls, but it was the scrolls that have been all the rage ever since.

I’ve been doing my part to honor the scrolls over the past couple of years. I gave the site of Qumran a makeover a few years back, wrote a book about them, and hosted a documentary on the writing of the scrolls last year, which you can watch here.

So happy anniversary to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. You have brought me nothing but pain suffering headaches Charles Gadda court appearances trials tribulations joy ever since I’ve known you. :)

Winter 2011 Jerusalem Class with Dr. Robert Cargill starts today at UCLA

The Winter 2011 offering of ANNEA 10W: Jerusalem, the Holy City with Dr. Robert R. Cargill begins today at 12:30pm in Haines A2.

This course surveys the religious, political, and cultural history of Jerusalem over three millennia as a symbolic focus of three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The course content will focus on the transformation of sacred space as reflected by literary and archaeological evidence by examining the testimony of artifacts, architecture, and iconography in relation to the written word. We will study the creation of mythic Jerusalem through event and experience. Course requirements will focus on developing advanced writing skills.

via Jerusalem: The Holy City

Lawrence Schiffman, Robert Cargill Interviewed Live on Israel National Radio’s LandMinds Program

Arutz Sheva's Israel National RadioI was interviewed live this morning on Arutz Sheva’s Israel National Radio on the LandMinds program with Barnea (Selavan) and David (Willner). Jim Long sat in for Barnea, who was away. NYU’s Dr. Lawrence Schiffman was interviewed in the first hour (mp3: part 1, part 2), and I was interviewed in the second hour (mp3: part 1, part 2).

Professor Schiffman answered questions about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls for the first hour and provided some wonderful insights and background to the study of the scrolls. In the first part of the second hour, I answered questions about Qumran and offered my opinions about the establishment of the site, its residents, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the role of virtual reality modeling in archaeology. In the second half hour, I answered questions about the history of archaeology, the role of scholars in public education, technology’s role in archaeological education, the importance of debunking pseudoscience and sensationalist claims, how to teach critical biblical studies without abandoning the faith and/or alienating people of faith, issues of biblical historicity and mythology, and finally answered the story about how I came to be Nicole Kidman’s private tutor.

Many thanx to David Willner and Jim Long for a wonderful interview. Don’t forget to add the LandMinds Facebook page.

LandMinds broadcasts live at www.israelnationalradio.com every Wednesday from 5-7pm Israel time, 3-5pm in the UK, and 10-12am EST. Shows are rebroadcast, and archived on the A7 and Foundation Stone websites for your convenience. Podcasts are also available on iTunes.

Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls Airs on National Geographic Channel: Some Reflections

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelNational Geographic Channel aired the documentary Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls this evening, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. It was accompanied by a UCLA Today story by Meg Sullivan and an article entitled, “Dead Sea Scrolls Mystery Solved?” by Ker Than on National Geographic News.

I wrote about the making of this documentary in a blog shortly after returning from filming it in January 2010. I’ll let others critique the show (you’re also welcome to praise it, but such is usually not the nature of Qumran studies ;-). I shall offer here just a quick summary of what the producers were trying to do with the show.

What This Documentary Explores

The point of the documentary was to highlight the most recent scholarship on Qumran and to get the different, often warring sides talking to one another. As a relatively young scholar in this field, I was asked to investigate the new claims to see what they have to offer.

No one theory answers all of the questions about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and no one Qumran scholar owns the whole truth. The traditional Qumran-Essene Hypothesis – where Essenes built Qumran and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls there – has slowly been losing support over the past decades. Other theories have been offered in its place, but many of these theories take extreme positions claiming, often rancorously, that the scrolls have nothing to do with Qumran and that the scrolls are the products of anyone but the Essenes. These alternative theories have just as many problems, if not more so. This documentary hopes to show that the answer lies somewhere in between, and that only when all sides work together as professionals and actually talk to one another in a professional dialogue can we begin to reach a viable solution to the question of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is a tremendous congruency of ideology within the sectarian manuscripts, which make up a significant portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a congruent, yet unique messianic expectation (or expectations), interpretation of scripture, halakhic interpretation, and a unique, but consistent calendar present within the sectarian manuscripts recovered from the Qumran caves. It is difficult to explain this congruence – the use of a solar calendar, references to the Teacher of Righteousness, Community Rules for life together in the desert, and especially the very low view of the Jerusalem Temple priesthood – within these sectarian documents if one argues they came from disparate libraries in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Origin Theory (defined as: the Dead Sea Scrolls were in no way a product of anyone living at Qumran and came, rather, from various Jewish libraries throughout Jerusalem) creates more problems than it solves and has been dismissed time and time again. It fails to explain the congruency of ideology in the sectarian manuscripts. Likewise, the Jerusalem Temple Library theory (which argues that the scrolls are the product of the official library of the Jerusalem Temple) has also been discounted as it fails to explain why the Jerusalem Temple priests would preserve and copy literature that so negatively portrays their activities and emphasizes their illegitimacy.

At the same time, it is difficult to explain some of the ideological diversity present within some of the scrolls if one argues that all of the scrolls were composed by a single sectarian group at Qumran. For example, why are the scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek if they are the product of a single sectarian community? Likewise, the Copper Scroll from Cave 3 is from a later date than the rest of the scrolls, is written on a different medium, and in a different dialect (some say language) of Mishnaic Hebrew. We simply cannot consider the Copper Scroll the product of a community of Jewish sectarians living at Qumran.

Therefore, it is possible that more than one group or groups hid documents in caves surrounding Qumran. Based upon the evidence, it is possible that a group of sectarian Jews took up residence in the former fortress that was Qumran, brought scrolls with them to the site, copied and penned other scrolls, and hid them all in the nearby caves during the suppression of the Jewish Revolt by the Romans. They may or may not have been Essenes (although the Essenes are still the best candidate for the sect at Qumran). The theory examined in this documentary (a Multiple-Cave, Multiple Author theory, or whatever you choose to call it) explains both the congruence and the diversity within the scrolls, and it explains the development of ideological and theological thought contained with the scrolls from one of strict halakhic interpretation to one that incorporates and develops apocalyptic and dual-messianic expectations, as well as rules for life together as a community. This is not to say that the Multiple Cave Theory is not without problems. The statistical analysis is still in need of serious review and critique, and a theory that argues that different caves “belong to” or “represent” different sectarian groups may be overly simplistic. However, it is a new attempt to explain the congruency and the diversity of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is worthy of examination.

Simply put, some of the scrolls could be the product of a sect within a movement (if I may so summarize John Collins) that resided at Qumran, and other scrolls may be the product of other groups that hid scrolls in many of the caves nearby Qumran. This explains the congruency of sectarian ideology and the diversity of the scrolls, as well as their presence in caves both in Qumran’s backyard (Caves 7-9, 4-5) and those some distance from Qumran, as well as explaining the nature of the archaeological expansions made to the site of Qurman, which appear to be in a communal, non-military fashion.

On this last topic (the archaeology of Qumran), I shall dispense with the equally difficult discussion about the origin and nature of the Qumran settlement. While some have argued that the Essenes built the settlement from the ground up at a date ranging anywhere between 150-50 BCE, I have argued that Qumran was initially built as a fort, was abandoned, and was reoccupied by a small community of Jewish sectarians who were ultimately responsible for collecting, copying, and even composing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (In fact, I can recommend an excellent book on the subject. ;-) You will notice, however, that I nowhere in the documentary touted my own theory. Rather, my job was to investigate other scholars’ claims and to assess all of the evidence fairly and without prejudice. The producers chose the interviewees and setup the interviews, and I had the opportunity to talk to this diverse assemblage of archaeologists and scientists and ask them about their research.

The Point of This Exercise

The point of the documentary and of the producers’ approach was to do less of this, and have more of the professional exchange of ideas and more of the kind of scholarly and public dialogue that a documentary like this can generate. It is possible to discuss Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls without resorting to aliases and anonymity, without abusing one’s position to suppress new ideas, and without doing drive-by hit jobs on the personal lives of graduate students and scholars with whom you disagree. This documentary is an example of how one can facilitate a discussion amongst a number of scholars – many of whom disagree strongly – and present the new information, responses to these new ideas, and allow the viewer (both scholar and non-specialist alike) to make an informed decision. It is hoped that this documentary can shed light on the new research surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, and can serve as an example of how scholarship can be done professionally and collaboratively in this new age of modern media and the Digital Humanities.

The Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are important because they are the oldest known copies biblical manuscripts we have. They are important because they demonstrate the length Jews were willing to go to protect what they considered Scripture. The scrolls are important because while they have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity (i.e., nothing to do with John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Jesus, or the early Christian community), they demonstrate that the Christians were not the only Jewish sect reinterpreting Hebrew scripture and applying it toward their leader (the “Teacher of Righteousness” as opposed to Jesus), awaiting a Messiah (actually, two Messiahs were expected at Qumran as opposed to only one (Jesus) in Christianity), engaging in ritual purification (cf. baptism in Christianity), holding property in common (cf. Acts 2:44-45), and awaiting a final, apocalyptic battle (cf. the War Scroll at Qumran and the New Testament book of Revelation). The Dead Sea Scrolls show us the importance of scripture and its interpretation to Second Temple Judaism.

Thank You

My thanks to Executive Producer Ray Bruce and CTVC for producing the show, choosing the scholars, and allowing much of their new research regarding Qumran to come alive. Thanks also to Producer, Director, Writer, and fearless leader John Fothergill for his excellent direction, script, vision, support, encouragement, and enthusiasm in making this project. Thanks also to associate producer Paula Nightingale, who made everything happen when it was supposed to, and to Director of Photography Lawrence Gardner, who shot a beautiful show, and to Sound Engineer David Keene for making the show sound so wonderful (as well as for the many great late evening laughs). Thanks also to Israeli producer Nava Mizrahi and to Antonia Packard for making everything in Israel pleasant and expedient. May we share many more adventures together.

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