Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Who Wrote the Bible?

It is good to see the media picking up a bit on the forthcoming Channel 4 documentary Who Wrote the Bible? even if the way The Observer spins the story (below) is a little unfortunate (I doubt the word "lies" is used in the film). The picture left is of Robert Beckford who presents the programme which will be broadcast in Christmas day at 8.30 pm on Channel 4 in the UK. I was involved with this programme myself and did some filming with Robert in Rome for the section on the Gospels. Channel 4's own on-line feature on the programme is here, with an excerpt below:

Who Wrote the Bible?
Take the Five Books of Moses, which open the Bible and include the world-famous stories of the creation, the Garden of Eden and Noah's flood. Known in Hebrew, the language they were written in, as the Torah, these books contain the foundations of Judaism and Christianity. It turns out that the Books of Moses weren't written by Moses at all, but by four anonymous writers, each with his own particular view to promote. These writings were only brought together when an Israelite king found them useful to promote his political agenda, many centuries after the time of Moses. Says Beckford: 'King Hezekiah turned the Bible into a party political manifesto for monotheism. He definitely knew something about spin.'

The same goes for the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beckford dives down into the ancient catacombs beneath a church in Rome to discover why Mark, the first Gospel writer, started to write about Jesus in the first place – as an encouragement to the first generation of Christians, who were facing persecution. He discovers that although the Gospel writers seem to be giving us direct reportage from the life of Jesus, each of them actually had his own spin on the story. While Matthew was keen to show how Jewish Jesus was, for the Jewish wing of the early church, Luke pushed the Roman angle. He packaged the teaching and miracles of Jesus to show that even civilised Roman citizens could believe in him.
I like the idea of "diving down into the ancient catacombs"; it was actually more of an early Sunday morning stooping stroll. I kept a Travel Diary when out in Rome (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).

There is already some media comment, including this piece from The Observer

Bible is 'lies and spin,' says C4
'Sensationalist' film sparks anger among church groups
Jamie Doward, religious affairs correspondent
Sunday December 19, 2004
Evangelical groups are angry that Who Wrote the Bible?, which will go out at 8.30pm, paints a negative picture of Christian organisations and suggests links between them and the troubles in the Middle East . . . .

. . . . 'Channel 4 has a record of going for the more controversial take on religion,' said David Hilborn, head of theology at the Evangelical Alliance. 'They want to go down the more sensational route to grab people's attention.'

Beckford defended the provocative timing of the documentary. 'To have faith in the world is to ask dangerous questions. Why not make the question at Christmas when we hear about this son of God who was born in dubious circumstances in a place which was the armpit of the world?' . . .

. . . . He produces archaeological evidence to suggest the Bible's claims that the kingdoms of David and Solomon dominated the 10th century BC were wrong, an error that raises profound claims about the genesis of Christianity.

He declares the New Testament a 'masterwork of spin written by people who were nowhere near the events they describe, all gathered by powerful editors who kept out ideas they did not like'. . . . .
Jim West blogs a link to an Ekklesia piece:

Evangelicals criticise channel 4 documentary about the Bible

This has much of the same content. I doubt the evangelicals concerned have actually seen the documentary. I have not been able to get hold of a preview tape myself, though I've tried, but the participants are hardly representatives of a sensationalist view of things; indeed the directors even secured a late interview with Tom Wright in order to add a touch of purple to proceedings.


Anonymous said...

I praise mr Beckford for trying to present a fact based approach to the documentary rather than having an agenda. It would be nice to see more impartial approach to many other topics. I also thank channel four for broadcasting this program.


Anonymous said...

Excellent programme about who it was that wrote the bible. I prefer to see the whole of religion as the results of "the boys" maintaining power structure of the priesthood.For the "word of god" read "word of the priesthood" It was the priests that done it!
The Mosaic laws are a scream. The levites really had it sewn up. We don't fight,we get the best meat and oh yes, no women in the ceremonies. So there!
Personally I'd rather watch "life of Brian" It takes religion seriously.