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The Bible's Buried Secrets

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Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou | 12:42 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

I was approached by the BBC's Religion and Ethics department back in 2009. They explained they were looking to work with a specialist on Bible's Buried Secrets, a documentary series about the Bible and archaeology, and that I'd been recommended to them.

Now, I know I'm a bit of a geek, but I'm always amazed at how many of my students say at the end of a lecture they had no idea the Bible was so cool and exciting.

But it really is. And I was so pleased that the BBC thought so too.

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I was also delighted at the prospect of joining the BBC's team of religion presenters.

Over the next few months, we discussed possible topics for each episode.

One of the things we all agreed on was the importance of showing that biblical scholarship often asks very different questions of the Bible than people might expect.

It's not motivated by confessional concerns, but it deals with the Bible as a collection of ancient writings from ancient cultures - much like the Odyssey or the Iliad.

So scholars approach the Bible in ways similar to those they'd use in dealing with any ancient literature: who wrote this and why?

Is it a reliable source of history? If not, why not? How can archaeology be used to piece together a more reliable view of the past?

This is what's so exciting about studying the Bible, and this was one of the things I was keen to show with the topics we selected: David's empire, God's wife, and the Garden of Eden.

I've published work on all three topics, and I regularly lecture on them, so it was then a question of figuring out how to make the scholarship accessible, exciting and visually engaging.

I was brought up in a secular household and I'm not a believer, but I've always been fascinated by ancient religion.

My passion for the Bible springs directly from the fact that it's such a fantastic and diverse collection of texts that can tell us something about the beliefs, concerns and cultures of the people who wrote them.

But that doesn't mean that these people's views are representative of an entire society.

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou in Tel Es Safi, Israel

In fact, many scholars agree that the Bible was written by small groups of elites, whose views were likely to be very different from the other people in their own societies.

It's this diversity that I enjoy exploring in my research, and this is what I wanted to focus on in the series.

The other thing I wanted each programme to do was highlight the cultural richness of the worlds from which the biblical literature came.

The Bible itself contains many different versions of the past it seeks to describe, and some of these are often the stories that are more commonly overlooked.

So the legitimate nature of the worship of the goddess Asherah was an obvious story to tell in the documentary series, as was the alternative view of the Garden of Eden presented in biblical books beyond Genesis.

Obviously, I know that not everyone will like the series. Some people might find it challenging to their faith or their own understanding of the Bible's cultural legacy.

But I hope that the series will be of interest, especially to those people who might think the Bible is boring or irrelevant. I hope they will watch the series and be intrigued.

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou is a senior lecturer in the Hebrew Bible and the presenter of Bible's Buried Secrets.

Bible's Buried Secrets is on BBC Two and BBC HD on Tuesdays at 9pm. The series is available in iPlayer until Tuesday, 5 April.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

For reasons of sensitivity, comments on this blog post will be pre-moderated. What's pre-moderation?

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Hello everyone - just to say that while there's been a tech upgrade behind the scenes, commenting on the blog was unavailable for a couple of hours this afternoon. The maintenance work is now finished so please go ahead with posting your comments.
    Thanks

  • Comment number 2.

    I think Francesca's series on the "Bible's Buried Secrets" is truly excellent. Reasoned, beautifully-presented and thought-provoking - what a good introduction to scientific and historical method! Only one "gripe" - When, Francesca, will you do a similar series on the New Testament, such as examining the quest for the historical Jesus? Now that would be riveting material for television ....! bring it on, please

  • Comment number 3.

    I am sure that this is studied well but I think that if you look at the History of the area and study in deepth you will find that Scripture never tried to hide the fact that many of the Jews brought forgien god's into Jeruselm from place where they where held captive such as Egypt and Babylon so it it natural that there would be other gods and godesses in the city limits, many many times the prophets begged the jews to leave thier gods and follow the true and living God.
    If indeed this is meant to be a scrientific and historical quest to find the truth, then the truth should be sought with out predjuice and baise but by using hard facts and presented by none biblical writters as well.

  • Comment number 4.

    Congratulations on this series, simply on the evidence of the first episode. Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou and the BBC should sign her up immediately for more programmes. There has been a marked improvement in the quality of science documentaries on the BBC in the past year two, mostly due to great presenters like Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili. Hopefully this series suggests a similar improvement in History broadcasting. Please keep it up.

  • Comment number 5.

    where does it say in the bible that david had an empire?it does not.
    why would jewish archaeologists have a bible in their hand-they only accept the first 5 books.
    why would you be able to find any significant evidence of the 10th c bce by sending loads of students wandering round picking up debris on the surface ?nothing could be deduced from that at all.
    if you are going to make a serious attempt at this ,please lets have sound data and not assumptions.
    as soon as the lady proudly announced she was an "academic" my heart sank

  • Comment number 6.

    You said "The Bible is an unreliable source". Not a problem. BUT can you say that of the Koran?

  • Comment number 7.

    I was looking forward to this series but, sadly, I have been very disappointed. The presenter makes controversial statements to which no one is given the right of reply.

  • Comment number 8.

    Really interesting show. There's a lot of documentaries on 'the real bible' stories these days but the first episode (watched on iplayer) was different and enlightening. Glad to hear the mention King Arthurian figure - the point being that it is the mythology which surrounds these figures which is captivating for people, not the empirical truth.

    Will Francesca do for archaeology what Nigella did for cooking? I await the series, follow-up book and associated merchandise with interest...

  • Comment number 9.

    I find this programme very disturbing and she would not rip the Koran to pieces as she pissibly is a Muslim and if she is not then she is very afraid to do so , because of our ethnic laws. I regard this BBC programme as incitement to racial hatred and the BBC in Contempt. Consider this the British Tax Payer has paid for the making of this.

  • Comment number 10.

    The statement that :-"I was brought up in a secular household and I'm not a believer, but I've always been fascinated by ancient religion." is perhaps the point that makes the series so compelling. For years we have had bible study by committed Christians, or Jews, with the expected lack of real depth of enquiry. Dr Stavrakopoulou can put herself one step away from the material to, where appropriate, dispute long held beliefs.
    Such evidence is much the stronger, wherever it leads.

  • Comment number 11.

    Talk about presuppositions this woman has the lot. She criticizes believers for having their presuppositions based on their understanding of God. Then she is so bold as to say "but I say" constantly without evidence to back up what she says. This is a deliberate attempt to undermine the Bible and its teaching. I had hoped that following last week`s programme we might have got more sense this week. Alas it is more of the same. Shame on you BBC for such dodgy theology. Please can we have another "scholar" to refute her arguments. There are many of them out there. They come from a conservative evangelical background but then perhaps you would not like their presuppositions?

  • Comment number 12.

    Well you have insulted the uk as a christian nation (You may not be ) obviously ? But be sure if you made a programme about Islam - well you would not - you have no guts to do so. I am not a practicing christian , but all I see is the BBC rubbishing the Christians, what about rubbishing Islam. Obviously the CEO is making alot of money out of our sweat. Oligarchy.

  • Comment number 13.

    I am amazed this has been allowed to air, truly I am. This program compares two seperate religions and expects them to coincide and to expects them to compliment each other when contrasted. In fact, the Did God Have a Wife? episode is based solely on the fact that God in the bible refers to himself at one point as El (which is clearly pointed out by the presenter that El can be a generic term for God) and then examining an entirely different religion. The presenter quotes the bible saying "Who is like Yahweh among the gods?" and not only misinterprets the quote but presents it as fact. Another point the program makes is that all Isrealites were monotheistic, which is clearly not true because the Bible clearly shows Israelites turning away from God to polytheism.
    Throughout this program i have heard, "Scholars suspect," and, "Recent evidence suggests.." but I am still waiting to hear these scholars or see this evidence. A poor attempt to slur the Bible and its message, at best.

  • Comment number 14.

    I too believe that God/Jesus protected women and were more important than what many have percieved including the Vatican. Importance of women and you should maybe put your findings to the Roman Catholic Church. Its is also not to say that God does not have priests and priestess's but they are only to be admired and not worshiped. You do not worship Jesus you respect him for example as the son of God as you do respect the Holy Spirit. But God amongst all religions is the creator.

    However with regards to Monotheism and the belief of one God this is prevalent in all religions, that is not to say that people did not believe in idol Gods which would still be frowned upon as evil today.

    All religions are trying to make what they can to interpret what they think is good or bad from the Bible, but not one religion has it right completely and everyone makes their own interpretation.

    However it is apparent that man and woman are important as the creation of God being prevalent but I think what you are missing is that no human actually knows or has the right to presume they have all the answers, it is all possible. It's not I, me, you or us or about evidence. Basic facts, women and men exist and we live on a planet in space.

  • Comment number 15.

    Just watching the programme on BBC2... Hmm funny isn't it how people choose research topics and try to prove what they think by referencing what's available rather than presenting actual proof.

    In the programme Dr. Stavrakapoulou's uses the terms "i think", " It would suggest" , " It would appear" quite a lot. This suggests that there is no clear evidence and she is just presenting an ideology rather than any scientific research.

    As a researcher in science with a doctorate. The constant use of " I think", "It seems" , "someone else's research says."... in the programme does not convince me that she actually has anything new to say. Sure available evidence can always prove what you want it to!

    Statements like the "Bible is not telling us the truth" etc with many inferences lacks the depth required in research.

    I would take all of this with a pinch of salt. All we need is someone that can infer the opposite from the same arctifacts Dr. Stavrakapoulou's has used!

  • Comment number 16.

    I have devoted sometime to study the bible and its claims and that has led me to do some more studies in school. The main problem I have with your program is that you have titled is "secrets" meanwhile the bible have never tried to cover up the fact that the Israelites were polytheistic and the ambition of Moses and the priests that followed were to promote Monotheism. Quite clearly they failed and that is given as the reason why the monotheistic God who lay claim over them sent them into slavery out of anger. This will therefore mean that the Jews would have imported various doctrines from their polytheistic neighbours including the idea of a God who has a wife and supra God with demi gods under him. In other words it does not take extensive travels and research to establish the "facts" of your work.

    THE BIBLE HAVE NEVER COVERED UP ON THE POLYTHEISTIC TENDENCIES OF THE JEWS.

  • Comment number 17.

    I also agree with Anton.

  • Comment number 18.

    Watching this programme today, what's really disappointing is not the content so much as the presentation. None of the so-called secrets presented are the earth-shattering revelation that they are presented to be. On a number of occasions, Stavrakopoulou talks about these discoveries 'shaking the basis of monotheism to its core'. This is bizarre. No intelligent religious believer understands their faith as having simply appeared out of the ether, complete and uninformed by other systems of belief. Of course, the scripture is obscure, and there are certainly suggestions of the struggle to bring tradition round to a monotheistic theology. Faith is a process, a journey, and it follows a winding and often circuitous root. This no more undermines the concept of monotheistic religion than saying that considered investigation undermines evolutionary theory because earlier academics understood something different.

    The real sadness is that this IS presented as revelation, and not only that but, of course, as cover-up. It's a cheap attack on religious belief without appealing to anything that actually undermines that. I would have been more than happy to see every aspect of this programme's research presented as intelligent, evidential archeology. Instead, it is presented as 'myth-busting' revelation and conspiracy theory. What a shame.

    She just said it again!! No, it doesn't undermine modern monotheism to its core! Get a grip.

  • Comment number 19.

    There has always been Good and Evil how people of different beliefs perceive this is dependant on different religions but no one knows the actual truth. Still remains that both men and women should have the same rights.

  • Comment number 20.

    I have watched this programme for the first time tonight. I have checked out some of the translation using an easily accessible interlinear bible website. I find the translations relating to El to be faulty as depicted by the presenter. I also find Asherah to be clearly translated as "a grove". God refers to "us" when referring to Himself, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. John 1 explains this (Jesus is "the Word"). We are also told in the Bible that we shall not be given in marriage when we are in heaven so why would God need to be married? I find this programme to be a very sad attempt to once again undermine the fact that this is still a Christian country, our laws being constructed from Christian truth, our Queen being Defender of the Faith (Christian) and the Church of England being Christian. I feel compelled to stand against the untruths, purported to be truth, contained in this programme.

  • Comment number 21.

    Is very surprised to find this programme , I thought in a world were Christians are constanstly attacked for there beliefs, as the son of God ,Jesus said they would. This program created miss information, the Doctor claimed that yahweh (Jehovah) let the israelites be taken into capivicity, there was no mention that God had used his prophets to warn the nation, which is in the bible. Psalm 82 talks about are strong pleas to Jehovah to execute his judgments against his enemies and the enemies of his people, which in again incorrect what the Doctor was claiming.



  • Comment number 22.

    I am not here to defend any particular religious textbook or religious belief, nor to refute any particular belief system. In addition, I would like to stress that over many years I truly enjoyed many series produced by BBC. While I respect the attempts made by this particular series, I think it seriously falls short of the true understanding of God in historical context in monotheistic or Abrahamic cultures. The conclusions would depend on which groups of people within each society the focus is regarding the true understanding of God. Such as across mystical schools, orthodox theology, rational schools, or median understanding in each society. Among the true friends of God and people in the real circle, the differences between the Essence of God, God's Names, and God's Attributes were all understood very well throughout history. The series on the other does not make any serious distinction between culture versus true religion. This is such a delicate and important topic, yet the research behind (in my personal opinion and expertise), is very poor. Among all names, the most beautiful name of God, in all monotheistic religions is "The Self-Subsisting, All-Sustaining, Eternally", which circumvents self-reference (i.e. Godelian) problems. God's Essence on the other can not be contemplated but only felt within the capacity of each soul. Hence, the famous quote "to know your Lord, know yourself". The issues related to multiple gods etc. need to be looked in this context.

  • Comment number 23.

    The second episode is surprisingly muddled for the work of a biblical scholar. Allow me briefly to highlight two confusions. The repeated assertions that the (by now conventional) understanding of Ugaritic polytheism as backdrop to Judaism is some sort of threat to monotheistic belief completely misunderstands monotheism as an ongoing process of theological reflection, a breakthrough 'discovery' entirely comprehensible within polytheistic history. Secondly, there is a real anthropological howler at the end. Whatever the nature of the Asherah, one thing we know for certain is that cultures marked by devotion to powerful female deities in no sense relate to the exercise of female agency or equality. Indeed the reverse is true: goddesses of home and fertility alongside gods of sovereignty and wisdom mark a separation of the gender spheres routinely leaving women subordinate and disempowered.

  • Comment number 24.

    Well....at least I now remember why I pay for Sky....because the BBC produces such absolute trash! Nothing but sensational, incredibly dubious claims based upon irresponsible and deliberate misrepresentation of biblical texts. Shame on you BBC. Why on earth could you not get someone like David Rohl to produce such a series? He at least would agree that the characters he was talking about (such as David in last weeks program) actually existed!

  • Comment number 25.

    I can not wait for BBC's head of religious programming, Aaqil Ahmed to bring us Dr francesca stavrakopoulou Koran's Buried Secrets I'd like to see the BBC put that program on?

  • Comment number 26.

    All that wasn't just about feminism, I honestly consider it a deliberate attempt by the BBC to undermine Christianity in this country.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm confused by this program. We were presented with evidence that Israelites worshipped Asherah that she was adopted as Yahweh's wife by some Israelites (maybe). Some very interesting archaeology etc. What I fail to see is how this tells us anything about the monotheistic origins of the faith of Judaism. The Bible frequently tells us that the Israelites worshipped everything that moved, ignored the religion of Yahweh and confused him and mixed him with foreign god concepts, take the golden calf.

    I was also disappointed to see that of the several scholarly views on the relationship of Israelite and canaanite religion only one was presented and any other views were presented as closed minded religious prejudice which finds what it wants in the biblical text. Personally I couldn't help but detect an aggressively feminist undercurrent which knew she was going to find a female god (presuppositions?!).

  • Comment number 28.

    How on earth has this woman got on the BBC?
    It just shows how anti Christian, and now anti semitic (both Jewish and Moslem) the BBC has become. this is a blatant attack on the bible and quite frankly a load of lies, misinterpretation and distortions.
    This is a re-hash of the USA's public broadcaster NOVA's "The Bible's buried secrets" from 2008 nothing new the same old rot with a different presenter.
    The trouble is it's given credence by being presented as a so called "factual programme" on BBC2 it belongs more on CBEEBIES it has about as much truth and objectivity as Waybuloo what a complete load of tripe and shame on the BBC for entertaining it.
    Get it off air please.
    As someone commented, the following program says it all "Have I got some old news for you"

  • Comment number 29.

    Well, I'm astonished and speechless. Having just watched the second episode I'm left reeling, it seems to me that most of what has been presented is Francesca's speculation and opinions. I spent the last 20 mins convinced that she was just making it up as she went along.
    BBC - I'm very disapointed, no buried secrets here, this ladt doesn't have clue what she talking about.

  • Comment number 30.

    I would not routinely be drawn to a programme on the Bible, I have never felt moved enough to comment on a prgramme before but I have found this series facinating. I note that a few comments in this blog show some people have been unsettled by the claims that Dr Stavrakopolou has made. In the context of a thought provoking programme looking to open minds around alternative theories challenging widely held beliefs I thought that this delivery was perfect. We all have a right of reply and rejoinder- as this blog has shown. I have found it has kindled an interest in this subject for that I otherwise would not have discovered.

    I fully accept that the Rabbi being interviewed with the sun in his eyes and his back to a two storey drop may have felt more uncomfortable than he looked... but the whole style and delivery was I thought very gentle. bringing her personal opinions and thought process out along the way. I look forward to the next installment.

  • Comment number 31.

  • Comment number 32.

    Absolutley loved it!! Brought up Roman Catholic, I've questioned profoundly in the last few years the doctrine of monotheism. It somehow just hasn't sat well with me - particulalry to the exclusion of the Goddess. Dr Francesca put everything I've been feeling into credible theological reality. Thank you. It's a huge confirmation for me and like Dr Francesca I feel that humanity has suffered by its subjugation of the importance of the divine feminine within religion. Absolutley fantastic - thank you Dr Francesca!! Can't wait for next week..................

  • Comment number 33.

    Its a shame that the BBC once again makes a programme that is completely biased and inaccurate. For those who are either Jews or Christians and scholars of the Biblical text there was nothing new or hidden that has now been exposed just another rehash of the same arguments. This was a very disappointing programme that twisted historical evidence and showed no understanding of the text. I thought it was more like a work of fiction like the Da Vinci code than a factual account. Come on BBC what do we pay a license fee for?

  • Comment number 34.

    I find it incredible that she both used certain phrases in the Bible to back up the assumptions she was making while at the same time claiming that The Bible was a wholly unreliable source

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm Anglican but think that all religions are trying to find the truth, does not alter the fact there is discrimination against women when no one man or woman can say what really is or what is not. (Socraties) The Vatican for example and the Pope do not even have the right to say that women should not be ordained. I think what the programme did wrong was give a biased view rather an an unbiased view. As every religion is trying to find out what they think is right or wrong.

    There has always been evil- idol Gods, worship and True God of creation. Man and woman exist however and should have equal rights as neither are God. Everything is possible as for example there is no, 1 Religion, and there is no 1 Country or no 1 set of laws. Theologist's and Philosopher's and Government's and the UN should come together on this and an ensure rights for both men and women and appreciate that nobody understands completely and can only try to understand that they are all not far apart from what they really believe. Laws in what is right or wrong, justice and fairness which is what all religion is about. Interpretations are individual to beliefs.

  • Comment number 36.

    Christianity is bigger and deep rooted than you think BBC. The enemy of Christianity are now more confused than ever.. Now gradually shifting their argument from the Non existence of God to this. lol

  • Comment number 37.

    With all due respect how can an atheist comment on faith matters? Polytheism is contradictory to Judeo-Christianity-the first commandment" THou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and have no strange gods before me" It's a fundamental of Christianity the belief in ONE TRUE GOD.The God's of the caananites were false along with countless examples in the old testament.As for Judeo-Christianity being a male dominated religion well that's just false as well.We are all God's children created by Him and equal in his eyes. God has a body " If you've seen me you've seen the father" God is a man "Man was created in his image and likeness" And out of man created he woman. These are the fundamentals of Judeo-Christianity how can you argue against them??

  • Comment number 38.

    I always knew there must be a Mrs God, thanks for the riveting clarity, looking forward to next show

  • Comment number 39.

    EDL here i come. Now have a reason to believe in your course.

  • Comment number 40.

    Congratulations on a great series.

    Couple of interesting observations regarding the Monotheistic influences the Israelites were exposed to during their Babylonian exile.

    We must remember that the "Zoroastrians" already were practicing monotheists. And the Israelites being delivered from their enslavement and sent back to Israel to rebuild the temple by Cyrus the great and the Persians. Would have had a deep impact on them (just read the story in the books of Ezra and Daniel).

    Further more, ideas such as the struggle and the final triumph of good over evil. As well the day of judgment, were also deeply held Zoroastrian traditions and their adoption into the Abrahamic faiths could be traced to this event.

    And whilst you have got your copy of the bible open. Have read of the story of the Magi paying homage to the newly born Jesus, for an excellent example of using the "ancient religion" being used to support the legitimacy of the new prophet.

    Altogether, congratulations on an excellent series.

  • Comment number 41.

    Can we be clear (see my post above) that the presence of the so-called divine feminine in a culture or belief system in no way relates to female empowerment in that culture? We have lots of examples of high-status goddesses presiding over cultures that are fully patriarchal and traditionally misogynistic. Women are excluded in such cultures as commonly as they are in 'monotheistic' or male-centred ones. I have no quarrel whatever with the presenter's scholarship, it is her judgements that are open to question. The tired old canard about the Virgin Mary inheriting attributes of 'the goddess' is another example of going for the 'looks like/sounds like' conclusion, a practice of which all serious scholars are taught to be wary. Critically, of course, for no Christian is the Virgin Mary 'divine'.

  • Comment number 42.

    I have just watched this evenings episode, putting the subject of beliefs to one side for a moment, I find the notion that science (alluded to in other postings here as well as on screen) had anything to do with what I have watched very disturbing, this concerns me for two reasons:
    1. It trivialises science - i.e. evidence,
    2. The sweeping conclusions derived were clearly based on personal orgeneralised assumption or opinion offering at best dubious 'evidence'.

    If you were to remove comments such as: 'in my opinion' and 'i think' or even more dramatised statements such as 'clearly rocks to the core a whole belief system' then in my opinion the only allusion to science in the whole programme was through the 'quantum' leaps between the assumptions based on fragmented bits of pottery, a presenters intention to prompt disucussion regardless of outcome and the BBC's intent on finding new ways to present old subjects. Clearly, the old adage of not mixing science and religion still stands - this being testament to it. Surely you can do better than this BBC? It only stands to insult the intelligence of both scientists and religious people alike.

    As an aside, was the whole thing filmed in one day or was green the wardrobe standard for the entire episode? Bit disappointed in the BBC here...

  • Comment number 43.

    This programme is so disturbing to the Christian faith,it is undermining the very God that created us including francessa.As God asked Job in the old testament where were you when he was spreading the heavens ? where were you francessa in 10bc or even in victorian times? God's word (the bible) is truth every ounce of it.Its historical its prophetic and its current.It has also made reference to your programme 2 peter 2 vs 1 quote but there were false prophets also among the people ,even as there shall be false teachers among you,who privily shall bring in damnable heresies,even denying the LORD that bought them,and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

  • Comment number 44.

    Ahem. Has the BBC merged its religion and comedy departments? Or has Dan Brown taken it over and put one of his more sensuous disciples up to front this entertaining show? PUHLEEEASE! To use blogspeak: ROFL!

    Is this the best the BBC can do? It's not serious, surely? The airwaves were loud with the rustle of straw men being stuffed and then knocked down, to the accompaniment of melodramatic music and provocative shots of the presenter's womanliness, only concealed by the fact that she was at least wearing clothes. One can only assume that she identifies herself with the goddess Asherah.

    Anyone with a decent knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures knows that what she was trumpeting as "amazing new discoveries" is not "hidden in the text" by "patriarchal editors" but has been there for anyone to see.

    My dear madam, we knew that polytheism was rife in ancient Israel. We knew that many Israelites tried to combine Ba'al and Asherah worship with Yahwism, we knew that God is sometimes called 'El and sometimes Yahweh, we knew that Israel only really took monotheism seriously after their return from exile and even then it took centuries to be really embedded in the public Israelite psyche. That is the background to the whole story from Abraham onwards.

    This was a farrago of blatant feminist/atheist propaganda loosely dressed up as serious academic endeavour presented for a popular audience. You can play on people's ignorance and make a favourable impression on those who are already prejudiced against a reasonable understanding of the Hebrew texts, but not many who know much about it will be convinced.

  • Comment number 45.

    A very interesting a enlightening programme.

    Is this work going to be published as a book please?

  • Comment number 46.

    At first I was excited to hear the buried secrets revealed but I must say I was left disappointed with some of the erroneous conclusions drawn. While I agree the Bible does talk about Baal, Asherath aka Queen of Heaven in the Book of Jeremiah, El and others, and mentions that most (not all) Israelites joined in worship of these gods apart from JEHOVAH, this does not imply that it was right to worship any other god. The very mention of such gods and their being worshipped by Israelites is to highlight that this was sin before JEHOVAH and there were consequences to all such as chose to reject JEHOVAH. Abram before he came to be known as Abraham was called out of Ur to go to Canaan but logged at Haran where his father died then got called again from Haran to consumate his earlier call: he was called away from polytheism to monotheism as evidenced from the covenantal promises between JEHOVAH and him and so to suggest that monotheism started after Babylonian captivity is not true. The Bible declares GOD to be spirit and so cannot be understood in the context of male or female which by this very fact throws out the idea that JEHOVAH could ever have a wife. You may exhaust a parallel story of Nimrod, Semiramis, and Tammuz in order to understand better the context of god as father, mother and child combination which later featured Asherath. We know the context of the tree of life comes from the first and last books of the Bible and so it's featuring on Asherath can only be a misrepresentation. There is one fundamental element: the first time GOD introduced his name to Moses he said IAM WHO IAM, IAM. While we understand that the concept meant the self-existing One and the One who speaks (WORD), what is fascinating is that JEHOVAH introduced himself in a way that could not be reproduced: you can't make an image of the WORD. This is crucial because all these other gods were in image form, the very thing that JEHOVAH forbid. Much as it will be interesting to hear about the garden of Eden in next series, am sorry to say that this first presentation took the disobedience of the large majority of Israelites for a truth, yet it is very clear that not all Israelites abandoned monotheism as seen in Elijah at Mount Carmel, and the 70,000 faithfuls in Elijah's time. I wish I could talk more but others need raise their views too so will stop here for now. Thanks.

  • Comment number 47.

    Please remember that this country is founded on CHRISTIANITY and to discredit the fundamental foundations of the UK is very ignorant, as you are now destroying the core of this country. I also cannot understand why the BBC has allowed such a programme. This shows in which way this country has been heading for a very long time, which is in the WRONG direction. I found the programme offensive to my faith and blasphemous and as previous comments stated WHEN WILL THE BRITISH MEDIA DARE DISCREDIT ISLAM OR OTHER FAITHS??? Due to the backlash the would receive they would not, but this just encourages my relationship with GOD, Jesus Christ of the bible even further as the TRUTH WILL ALWAYS HAVE ATTEMPTS TO TEAR It DOWN. islamic believers say they are being attacked, this is for what their faith teaches and the actions caused by those teachings. We as CHRISTIANS ARE ATTACKED BY ATTACKING OUR GOD not just the teachings of the Bible, deeper to the HEART to our GOD!!!!! The findings are based on an ACADEMIC VIEW, ALL OF WHICH JUST IS MADE TO AID THE SECULAR VIEW OF THE BIBLE, like the presenter said beelzebub "He is still around today"!

  • Comment number 48.

    Like some other comments, I found that Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou kept making very controversial statements and then paused as if we were going to get some evidence to judge for ourselves. But invariably the pause was followed by either very tenuous or dubious evidence or a restatement of her conjecture.

    Its a pity that a very interesting subject and controversial beliefs have not been backed up by hard evidence.....perhaps its too difficult to find or is lost.

    Still, I enjoy the stories and interpretations and would like to repeat these to friends and colleagues but without any hard evidence I would be spreading conjecture upon conjecture.

    Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou could you please make a list of your evidence and scholary references in peer reviewed journals....Or is it that in Archeology and Theology opinions and intersting narratives are more important than facts?

    As an Atheist I really enjoy all this religion bashing....but the figurines and stories were beautiful, inspiring and a way of rationalising the world as the pre-Darwinians found it!

  • Comment number 49.

    Her wiki entry is as follows ;-
    Her PhD from the University of Oxford,[3] which examined the creation of an imagined past within the Hebrew Bible, was subsequently published with the title King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities.[4][5] She was a junior research fellow at Worcester College, Oxford, before moving to Exeter.[3]

    Perhaps it would better read as;-
    Her PhD from the University of Oxford,[3] which constructed the creation of an imagined past within the Hebrew Bible, was subsequently published with the title King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: My Distortions of Historical Realities.[4][5] She was a junior research fellow at Worcester College, Oxford, before moving to Exeter.[3]

    Perh

  • Comment number 50.

    Please BBC, this was not one of your highest moments in your broadcasting history! the real secret may lie in how this one got through.....

  • Comment number 51.

    Wow...!

    This is what a documentary programme should be - uncompromising in the attention to detail and fact, following a continuous thread from beginning to end, even an audit trail in the clear referencing of contributions and opinions from experts. It is per-se a clear thesis that stands alone and at the same time can be challenged - because there is a transparent basis for what is stated. Excellent use of the medium to get a verifiable hypothesis across.

    What was missing - and for my part not missed - was the amateur dramatics which has become a pervasive component of the celebrity documentary. The "gosh!" factors of pregnant pauses and an artificial excitement bleeding from the forced smiles. Slow panoramic views - sometimes over a scene which is either not introduced or has no contextual relationship the the present point in the story! Frequent restarts and summaries (persumably to allow for US ad breaks)

    Yes - the presenter dotted all about Europe, yes - there were lingering shots and profiles; but the programme never lost pace as a consequence, and each time there was a change of location there was some introduction so the viewer knew where we were and could see the link to the story. Even the attention to continuity detail of green dress and black leggings througout so that the thread of word and image seemed continuous (even if that continuity was actually all a later editorial construction).

    Plus... for me above all - a perfect balance between assumed knowledge and presented new information. So that I neither got lost in a blizzard of taken-for-granted assumptions, not was patronised by repetitions statements of the blatantly obvious (over the last decade the dumbing down of documentaries has meant it has almost always been the latter)

    I'm so cheesed off with celebrity presenters who get some or all of the above wrong that there are some programmes I just will not watch (despite a sincere interest)... I will not watch because of the presenter.

    This series should be compulsory viewing in the training programmes for documentary producers and editors. This is how to get it right!

    Was the story right? Was it wrong? ....Sh** who cares? It stood alone, it grabbed my attention, it forced me to evaluate presuppositions and assumptions. It added to the sum total of our knowledge. It informed me, it made me think, it left me eager for more.

    Brilliant!

  • Comment number 52.

    The British Isles has Pagan roots going back many millennia, the Christian cult is a comparatively recent invention

  • Comment number 53.

    My dear fellow-bloggers, don't respond to this programme with pained expressions of outrage, rewarding its clumsy smugness with the revelation that you have been hurt by it. Give it the disrespect it deserves and have a good laugh at its hype and melodrama, its facile clutching at anything that fits a predisposed view and then building fanciful castles on cloud-vapour foundations.

    We just have to recognise that a desperately poor case may make good TV, especially when you have an audience of the willingly-sceptical having their prejudices massaged by a presenter who went out of her way to be provocative in more ways than one. Such a shame they can't see how they are being manipulated.

  • Comment number 54.

    So, watched 'did god have a wife' - badly presented, worse reasearch and no strong counter argument allowed... I expect better from the BBC to be honest.
    For starters a Biblical scolar would know that Yahweh isn't God's 'given' name - it translates (roughtly) as 'I am who I am', it's an evasive statement of existance...
    As for the ancient Israelites being polytheisitc, I'm sorry, is this actually ment to be news??? The Bible doesn't cover it up at all, I'd suggest Dr Franchesca Stavrakopoulou reads 'A History of God' and 'The Case for God' by Karen Armstrong - not only will she then find out that her 'ideas' are nothing new on this subject, she'll also learn how a real piece of reasearch is presented.
    And the link between El and the Israelite God is a very weak one and pretty easy to shoot down as the religion of the Israelites has it's origins in ancient sumeria, not the cannanite lands.
    The demonisation and angelication of Pagan gods etc is well known and doesn't actualy strengthen her argument as that was done by Christians...
    It was really poor, don't think I'll bother with next weeks 'revelation' of where Eden is located - that's another one that's been done before (with reasearch and allowed counter arguments) by real scolars who don't just present their (largely unsubstansiated) opinions as fact.

  • Comment number 55.

    James, very funny..

  • Comment number 56.

    If you really want to see a good religious program that does explain almost everything, including the meaning of life and the hereafter....check out prof. Brian Cox's 'Wonders of the Universe', after which the significance of the bible stories/secrets and all other religions and faiths can be properly contextualised/categorised......as rather human imaginings, mostly of a beautiful nature but with some angry/disturbing rants to pepper the so called 'truth'.

  • Comment number 57.

    Yet again we see a non-Christian invited by the BBC to make absurd statements about the bible as if they were facts. How many more times does the BBC intend to insult Christians and blaspheme our God this year? Shame on you BBC.

  • Comment number 58.

    Much of the criticism of Dr Stavrakapoulou posted here is undeserved but the mere presence of such criticisms shows just how much she has her finger on the pulse of how modern thinking is re-shaping our view of the development of monotheism and Biblical religion generally and the extent to which those of 'faith' feel uncomortable and threatened by such developments. Thank goodness we have stopped burning people as witches and heretics - and abandoned the Christian theological justifications for doing so - or I fear black-haired Dr Stavrakapoulou would be a likely victim. Its very difficult to present your full case in a TV programme, indeed, as Michael Wood once pointed out, you would be surprised just how little you can actually say even in an hour long documentary. In this respect, books have TV beat hands down ! Its is incumbent upon the histrorian to present his or her findings enouched in terms such as "In my opinion", "the evidence suggests", etc, as, unlike those of unquestioning blind faith, historians generally do not pretend to have all the answers. Historians, however iconoclastic, are quite happy to be honest and own up to the fact that there are often gaps in the evidence. It is staggering to read comments that contain such rhetoric as "God's Essence on the other can not be contemplated but only felt within the capacity of each soul" when criticising Dr Stavrakapoulou, what proof is there to suppor such a sweeping statement beyond faith itself ? The truthful answer to that question is "none whatsoever". The simple fact is that faith is not proof. Even worse is the blind faith of the bigot that will deny error even in the face of overwhelming evidence and, as history has shown us time and time again, this kind of 'faith' is something potentially very dangerous indeed. What Dr Stavrakapoulou is demonstrating, among other things, is that for centuries the Bible has been seen as "the truth" but the real truth is that the Bible as we have it today is the result of the work of all too human male monotheistic priests and scribes who, among other agendas, sought to deny women the role they had played when many gods had been worshipped, including women deities. There was going to be one God and he was going to be a bloke ! Look what these men did to Lilith, a close parallel I would agrue to the treatment dished out to Asherah. They couldn't have a woman created equal to man in the same way as they couldn't have their God married. The same male dominance can be seen in the writing of the New Testament and was to find favour in Ancient Rome. Later the Catholic Church did the same to the likes of Mary Magdalen, Feckler and similar women, who had played a leading role in the formation of the early Christian Church. They kept Mary, mother of Jesus, but, of course, she had to be a virtuous Virgin. I do find it quietly amusing to listen to those who oppose women priests in the Church today, its the same mentality that has shaped those religions that have arisen from the root of the Old Testament.

    Dr Stavrakapoulou is simply demonstrating that those who were responisble for producing the Hebrew Bible - on which later Greek and Latin (and English) versions are based - had contemporary political and social agendas, not just theologial ones, and the bias inherent in this means that the story presented by them in the Bible should not be taken as "the truth", it should be treated with caution and subjected to the same rigorous analysis as any other historical record.

    If committed Christians feel threatened and uncomfortable with what Dr Stavrakapoulou is bringing to a wider audeince via TV they should ask themselves why they do so. It is true that some of what she says is not wholly new though much is based on recent scholarship and archaeolicial findings, but until very recent times such knowledge has tended to be supressed and the preserve of the few. To argue that the BBC is involved in some kind of grand conspiracy to undermine the Chrisitianity of this country or part of some feminist plot is quite laughable but indicative of the kind of mind set that imposed this male dominated theology upon us in the first place. Indeed, in my view, not to air such thought-provoking work would be to become part of that very 'conspiracy' that has for so long sought to prevent open discussion of such matters.

    And, for the record, I am not female and, yes, I am an atheist !

  • Comment number 59.

    Two very interesting programmes so far, but I am concerned about the number of places where Dr. Stavrakopoulou says "I believe that ... ". I am even more concerned by some of her statements which strike me as equally controversial and are presented without the qualification that they are her personal view. There are more views on the subjects and issues included in the programmes than those which have been put forward by Dr. Stavrakopoulou's interviewees. I accept that limitations of time mean that not all views can be presented, or that to present a more complete range of views on fewer issues would have made for a less watchable programmes. However I would argue that the selection of views that have been included is not balanced overall, and that this lowers the quality of an otherwise excellent presentation of the sort of Biblical scholarship that is not usually available to the wider audience represented by those who watch BBC2.

    I would love to see Dr. Stavrakopoulou debate some of the issues with a small group of other Biblical scholars who have different views to hers, and who are as equally competent as her in this academic field. I suspect that this, however, is a format more suited to Radio 4. Perhaps this is something that could be considered for "In Our Time"?

  • Comment number 60.

    Like in Hinduism the creator, Brahma has a wife/consort -Saraswati.
    I,m sure the Christ-Judaic god would have one also; as a one aspect creator seems to me an unbalanced principle - surely this, the universal order is filled with duality.

  • Comment number 61.

    Yes Francesca is quite convincing. She could have mentioned the prophets denouncing the women of Jerusalem worshipng the Queen of Heaven, and the people at the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians who said that things had been much better when they had worshiped that godess properly.
    Actually before being promoted to chief god of the universe,Yaweh had only been one of the sons of El rather than another name of El himself. There's another bit of the bible where it describes El dividing the nations betwen the Gods and Israel becoming Yahweh's portion. Though obviosly originally it was El who was chief God of Israel (meaning something like the fighters for El).
    The names of most biblical characters contain Baal as often as Jeho, and sometimes interchange these elements. While one of the tribes of Israel was actually named Asher.
    The story teller of the bible loves to play with ambiguities whenever there is an epithany of God: is it God himself who comes, Yahweh as a messenger of El, or an angel of Yaweh? He purposely never resolves it.
    Actually there was more than one reason why the Judaic version of Israelite/Canaanite religion was forced to put on a monotheistic front, and it was about the needs of Empire as well as the opposition to Empire.

  • Comment number 62.

    Brilliantly put Feckler! Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou has made an excellent program and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It challenges and informs and lets a scholar fill in the gaps with her very believable conjectures....made me think! Its a great travelogue too that opens the window on how people three thousand years ago lived and thought.....sweet dreams for me tonight.

  • Comment number 63.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 64.

    Go Feckler….Go Feckler…

  • Comment number 65.

    I take Old Testament with a pinch of salt. I wouldn't be surprised to find out text had been altered here and there to suit. I saw a program listing which labelled the program as examining the evidence for and against David. I looked forward to some enlightening debate. Reality was different. It became obvious with in the first 15 minutes that the programs purpose was to dismiss rather than discuss.

    This program should have reinforced my own opinions of the bible but I found myself hanging my head in despair. Ideas based on broad assumptions / hypothesis and presenting it as fact made Time Team look impressive. Making statements that the bible has hidden secrets, proving the modern interpretation of the Jewish/Christian faith to be inconsistent or wrong and then to dismiss the bible as unreliable evidence is a form of logic I have yet to master.

    I used to have great faith in the quality of the BBCs programs. I'm starting to think the BBC are loosing their integrity.

  • Comment number 66.

    A poster here made a comment that Dr Stavrakopoulou has not questioned the Koran as she may possibly be a Muslim. I am not sure if Stavrakopoulou is her family name but this is as Greek as it comes and so would not be Christian.

    I myself have researched the historical evidence surrounding Jesus. Jesus is recorded outside the New Testament. I think this would make an extremely interesting series or single episode.

  • Comment number 67.

    To argue on the basis of this programme that the BBC is also engaged in an anti-Jewish/Israeli conspiracy is just as daft as the suggestions that poor old Auntie Beeb is out to get Christianity or engaged in some kind of pro-feminist campaign. Plain silly. The global and historical impact of the Bible makes these matters of interest and importance far beyond the borders of Israel. I guess if for centuries you have enjoyed the comfort of arguing you occupy land because God gave it to you and then someone comes along and questions the very existance of that God you might get a bit worried. The fact is that, like it or not, at present the archaeolgical record doesn't support the Biblical portrayal of King David and it may well be that the role of David in Hebrew history as presented in the Bible was 'spun' by the Biblical compilers for politcal reasons. I recall many years ago a TV programme which investigated the historical/archaeological evidence lay behind the legend of that most British of characters, King Arthur. The programme concluded that the Arthur portrayed in the historical record (Anglo-Saxon Chronical, et al) was not supported by the archaeological record and that the King Arthur of legend probably never existed. At best, at the root of the legend of Arthur may have been a rather nasty warlord based in what is now the Carlisle region of north-west England. The King Arthur of legend never really existed: Lancelot, Guinevere, Camelot, the Round Table, half the battles Arthur was supposed to have fought in, etc, were the creations of the myth-makers, the 'spin doctors' of the day. What I don't recall are complaints that the presenter and the TV company were undermining the entire fabric of Britain and British society by denying the existance of an historical King Arthur. I fail to see why a similar situation to that of King Arthur may not apply to the legend of King David and, for now, and with a lack of substantive written evidence beyond that provided by the Biblical scribes, the archaeological record is leaning that way. As for Christianity being the foundation of this country, what about the hundreds, thousands, of years that some religion or other was practised in these islands long before St Augustine or any of his predecessor Christians arrived here, indeed before the birth of Christ himself ? Oh, of course, I forgot, their religions don't count, they weren't Christians ! And, one might need to consider that the majority of people in this country today are not Christians at all.
    Up until a little over 140 years ago, historians believed that the events described in Homer's Illiad were pure myth. Then, with the birth of archaeology, the site of ancient Troy was identified and (very badly) excavated, the site of Mycenae, already known, was also excavated. Hittite records referring to Troy were later discovered. Here then was proof that at least some of what Homer had written down was true. Most scholars of the Illiad would today agree that Homer's text (written 100s of years after the events it describes) contains elements of truth and myth. Even within those elements that can be supported by the historical/archaeological record, many of the events Homer included in the alleged nine years the Greeks were at the gates of Troy in fact took place over a much longer period of time, the pre-Homeric oral tradition having merged them into a short period as was to be later written down by Homer. Illiad or Bible, these ancient texts were written down according to the exegencies of the time.

    Modern historical and archaeological research is leading us to finally question and challenge many things that have been for too long taken as 'gospel' or deemed matters not to be questioned. Humanity is finally coming to think outside the box, as it were, and programmes such as Dr Stavrakopoulou's are to be applauded for helping others to question what are in fact very fundamantal issues to us all. The BBC should also be commended for encouraging debate and helping to bring humanity out of the dark ages.

  • Comment number 68.

    The issues raised are fascinating, but bear in mind how you define "the Bible". The two oldest surviving Christian Bibles contain books not in the modern text. You've also got to consider differences in the texts of the Coptic Christians, the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, the Catholic and Protestants, the Mandaeans (as they are technically the oldest branch of Christianity surviving), not to mention the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha and gnostic works such as the Gospel of Judas.

    That's a lot of source material to consider and in order to weigh each piece of evidence correctly, you'd need to establish complex groupings (as few will be written by a single author at a single point in time).

    Other elements should also be considered. What weight should be placed on Canaanite texts (a few are known)? Do you translate "Chaldees" as "mystic" (meaning Ur would be Ur III) or as the empire of the Chaldees (meaning a completely different location)? This, in turn, decides which vast library of texts you then need to decide whether to include.

    This is all important, because =given that= the Bible was likely written by one group operating amongst many, the Bible has no meaning at all if it has no context. The problem is that there's a deluge of possible context. Some will be contemporary with the Biblical texts of interest. Others will be written with the pretense of being much earlier - early historical fiction.

    This is a million piece jigsaw puzzle with the pieces turned over. It's going to take more than a mini-series to give it the respect it deserves.

  • Comment number 69.

    There have been a few TV documentaries investigating Jesus. All conclude he was most likely to have been a real person. Interestingly, one of the latest has him as the son of a stone mason rather than of a carpenter and argues he probably worked in Caesarea during the formative years when the Gospels are silent about him. It is suggested it was here he became 'radicalised'. The real issues are a) was he the son of God ? and b) did he rise from the dead ? Personally, I hold that the answer to both of these questions is 'no' but, then again, this would be taking us into a whole new ball game !

  • Comment number 70.

    What a facinating insight into the bible without religious dogma.

    Can I suggest that the angels 'ascending the ladder to heaven'...they were not. They we decending. There were 50 fallen angels. Actually 50 real living beings who came down to earth. The evidence is all out there if you look.

  • Comment number 71.

    I find some of the comments on this programme almost as interesting as the programme itself. There are several which claim that Dr S makes comments 'In my opinion...', that she claims ideas but gives no right to reply, and mistranslates words from the Bible, and so on. Totally predictably she is deemed to be attacking Christianity and the roots of UK society.
    The programme is a TV programme, made and edited in isolation from the audience, the right to reply is embodied in THIS Column, something that was not even possible 20 years ago. Of course she uses the phrase 'In my opinion' it is her programme not yours. I notice that she spoke to several other scholars during the programme, I expect that being an academic she will have a full record of ALL references and I expect that they will be in the book that will undoubtably follow the series. AS for meaning of words she claims to have gone back to original sources, and not to have relied on 'King James'.
    Attacking the BBC for allowing controversial programmes is attacking freedom of speech, IF the Bible is TRUE, and the God really exists, I very much doubt that he will be damaged by one TV series. Those who attack people for not accepting the Bible as the word of God miss out on the concept that God apparently gave us freewill to sin, (my understanding but I may be wrong) .
    If there is a criticism of the programme , and it is personal, I would condemn the lingering shots of Dr S in profile, walking down a street , and other time fillers used to pad out the subject matter to time. BUt that is Television. making a 30 minute subject fit into 50 minute show.

  • Comment number 72.

    I find it deeply troubling as a committed Christian to be subjected to this intellectual secular humanist defamation of the Bible. We face on the BBC a persistent rejection of a model of Creation by God in favour of evolution. Here in this series we have an Oxford intellectual subjecting ordinary Christian and Jewish people to emphatic denials to the truthfulness of their sacred text with weak argument. Yours from a concerned Christian. Kevin Bidwell

  • Comment number 73.

    I found the first programme interesting but I have to say that the 2nd programme seemed to be very bad scholarship. Connections on text that is said to be ambiguous is used to strengthen her own claims and views. If it is ambiguous as stated how can it be used to underline her own claims? Finding evidence of people worshipping more than one God and saying that the Bible hid this fact is just bad logic. It stands to reason that not all people found it easy to let their traditions and influence of the cultures around them make them adopt this monotheistic idea. Connections were made too easily and if this is an example of good reasoning by a scholar, it is a great shame.

  • Comment number 74.

    last night's programme on the female aspect of God was very interesting. I think the " Tree of Life", and female consorts have been parts of Indian, and near east religions, Hinduism in particular for thousands of years. There was also a Tree of Life in Nordic religion. I note that all the detractors of Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou in this blog are of course erudite and learned in Ancient Hebrew and are therefore able to comment academically on her work. The Bible of course has been translated into English from Arameic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin..and if one can read the original Hebrew texts on which the montheistic claims of Judaism are based. and find the anomalies, along with corroborating archaeology, it would seem that the Hebrew Bible has been, and is being used to prove and justify Jewish claims to land and Statehood. Dr Stavrakopoulou seems to be challenging that claim of right to land and empire.

  • Comment number 75.

    Great program, great presentation, just one problem - she does not seem to have read the Bible. Firstly, the Philistines are not presented as barbarians in the Bible: Samson dies in what is clearly a grand temple not a mud hut. Secondly, while the children of Abraham worship El (or A'el) they learn to worship El as Yahweh, the only God, as is clear from the Psalms. What her discoveries show is that the text is far earlier than many scholars suggest, and far more reliable. It would be good to here a balancing view, rather than just the most critical, eevn if it does sell the program.
    While we're on the subject of errors, I trust the archaeologists are aware that carbon datings are routinely posted 3% too young (due to the factor used when they were first 'invented'), which would put the ruins at 10th century. I assume they are, but it would be rather ironic if they are not.

  • Comment number 76.

    This is a strange series indeed. It appears to focus more on the unchallenged presuppositions of the presenter rather than rigorous scholarship. Putting the clear political bias to one side, there are simply too many statements such as "in fact, I think" or "in fact, I have written" to take her theories seriously. That she has thoughts is a fact. Thay they are true is a matter of opinion. This loose language would may gain respect in her own academic circle, but not in any self-respecting Theology department. Her twinkle-eyed, iconoclastic attempts to debunk that which does not need debunking depend upon eisegesis and non-sequiturs rather than authentic research. I don't mind her conclusions at all, but they do not follow from any coherent intellectual argument. This was lazy, third-class programming.

  • Comment number 77.

    I thought the show gave readers of the bible a new opportunity to read more deeply into its mysteries, it gave me a new admiration for the sophistication and complexity of the ancient mind, but I accept for those who want their faith to come pre-packaged as an unquestionable indisputable truth, then I understand why ideas that question this certainty, may at first appear to be threatening to the foundations of their faith.

    The good news for Christians is that the Bible despite it having been edited to fit the agenda of its compilers, can truly claim it to be a compelling meaningful read, with many intriguing layers and depths of understanding, I can’t wait to get my hands on a new copy, Dan Brown’s got nothing on Dr Fran, well done Aunty Beeb

  • Comment number 78.

    I find it interesting that a number of commentators say that all this is well known and mainstream. The rabbi interviewed was clearly aware of this research, though tried to downplay it to maintain his monotheistic beliefs. However, the way he spoke to his class about Abraham, promoting the monotheism all the way line, was a telling example of how believers are not given information that may undermine their faiths. I read about how Judaism developed from Canaanite religion about 10 years ago, and found it fascinating, though have never met a Christian who knew about it. Programmes such as this are thus sorely needed.

  • Comment number 79.

    I thought this program was brilliant. I was doing research on this subject about the origins of the 3 abrahamic religions, jewdiasm, christiantiy and islam, about 4 months ago on the internet, and I came to the same conclusion, that jewdaism was just another caanoite sect, and had roughly the same culture and same gods. It was difficult for me to accept that 4 months ago, but now with this program, which I guess has been cross checked by religious scholars, it must be reasonably correct.

    I have written a book, I won't give the name, since it would break the terms and conditions, but I am making a documentary with similiar earth shattering revelations about religion and what it really means. I hope the bbc notes this and maybe gives me a chance to present my proposal.

    I have a section in my book, 'logical anomoly', about the mount sinai event, when the people of moses 'revert' to a religion of idol worship, and many gods, as soon as moses is not around. So the people of moses could NOT have believed in one god.

    My book and documentary, would give confidence to belivers.

  • Comment number 80.

    I sat in shock through out this programme supposedly about God's wife. My shock was not because the presenter was so ignorant about the subject matter, but the fact that a respectable TV channel like BBC 2 finds the need to air these programmes even though the views are so biaised. Quite simply, the programme is an assault on a faith group and the aim, as repeatedly said in the programme, is to depict the Bible as deceiptful. I believe the bible has secrets but the presenter, in a bid to do a job that she is not qualified to do, insists that the secrets of the bible are infact what the bible reveals already. There were three points that the presenter concluded in last nights programme: the unique God of Abraham is not unique at all; Israel worshipped many gods, evidence about God's wife. What the presenter is confused here is that the fact that the Isrealites in their disobedience to follow and worship other gods (clearly shown in the bible time and time again and not hidden at all) including Canaanites gogs, made images of clay and stone or even believed in the idea of a female God, does not conclude anything about Abraham's God that is deceiptful. The uniqueness of the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua etc... the God of Isreal is that this God is a SPIRIT God. A God that no image can describe. That is the truth that rings through out the biblie from Genesis to Revelation. if a people group disobey and stray and leave trails of evidence about their lifestyle for generations to come, it still does not replace the truth of the God of the Bible. Without understanding this foundational fact, all the basis of the research done by the presenter is corrupt. The bible is primarily a faith inspired book and its main focus is about God.

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    Fabulous series, like you I’m not a believer, personally I think religion is centred on emotion thoughts consequently such judgments can have irrational outcomes. I defend people’s right to believe in whatever they so choose provided they do not seek to harm others emotional or physically. I’m delighted the programme deciphers the many ambiguities the bible presents by applying logical evidence based methodology. While I agree whole heartedly with your thesis I do think you could avoid making yourself a hostile target by not using the ‘I’ word quite so many times. You would be better off saying the evidence suggests this then leave your audience to determine what they make of your case for themselves. I do recognise you do emphasis the proof but emotionally charged individuals will be drawn to the ‘I’ part of your statement and totally ignore the conclusions you present to justify your judgement. It’s a magnificent series; you and the BBC are to be congratulated.

  • Comment number 83.

    Something stupid seemed to come to mind when watching the programe, it was word play, taking the fact that ahkenaten was the Pharoah who believed in monotheism the word Israel could be broken up into Is Ra El, meaning was the sun Ra also El, and Asherah into As He Rah taking the fact that Rah could be a female gender of Ra, and the phrase to mean (as He(Ra) = Rah) in other words Asherah is equal to El, and that is it broken up into modern English, funny how ancient names seem to be able to be broken up and still have some meaning.

  • Comment number 84.

    The notion of Yahweh being married shouldn't come as much of a shock. Originally, Yahweh was among numerous gods, and a minor one at that, worshipped by the people of southern Israel. Yahweh was a married god and he and his wife had children. Southern Israel was eventually taken over by northern Israel and one of the ways this take-over was made more palatable to the Israelites of the south was the adoption by their new northern Israelite rulers of some southern gods - rather like the Romans would later adopt existing gods throughout their empire and similar to the way early Christians in England were happy to adopt and in some cases even canonize exisiting pagan deities, often female ones which explains why so many now almost totally forgotten Saxon saints are female. In adopting the god Yahweh the northern Israelites had to some extent mould him to fit in with their own beliefs which included male dominance - exit the wife and kids !

  • Comment number 85.

    Interesting you mention Akenaton. There is compelling ebvidence that is was Hewbrews who built Akenaten's new capital at Armarna. The fact that the Biblical Psalm 104 is virtually identical to a poem carved in hieroglyphs in an ancient Egyptian tomb dating from the time of Akenaten demonstrates some degree of cross-fertilisation of ideas. It would be useful to know if the Hebrews took their ideas about monotheism from him or if these ideas were already prevelent among the Hebrews before they entered Egypt and Akenaten took the notion from them.

  • Comment number 86.

    Being Jewish I thought I should definitely watch this programme, even if just out of curiosity. However, as the programme went on I became annoyed, disappointed and angry. Annoyed because the presented kept repeating herself and talked as though she - and only she - knew the truth that she was about to reveal to the rest of the world; disappointed because "science" was reduced to a piece of pottery revealing G'ds name and that of His wife next to one another and concluding from that that "polytheism was widespread amongst ancient Israelites"; and angry because to me it became very apparent towards the end that the presenter had a hidden agenda of feminism. And it made me sad also, from a purely personal perspective, to hear my religion being talked about with so little respect.

  • Comment number 87.

    I could tell from Francesca's narration that she is a non believer. I think that as a presenter who is there to analyse the evidence it is important that she gives an unbiased view. I personally felt that her conclusions were not logical e.g. REF David's Kingdom how can the remains of any ancient building be accurately determined to within a 100 years time period.I happen to work in a victorian building which was constructed in the 19 th century, however if in the future they found organic debris, seeds or knives, forks from our canteen for example, then the building could very easily be dated 100 or so later than the day it had been con structed.

  • Comment number 88.

    As an earlier poster pointed out, we all have our presuppositions, and though we might not have confessional concerns, the objectives of the programme and what we bring to these texts, have an effect on the balance. She might have had a secular background, but as a theology graduate, she will have inevitably come into contact with conservative and orthodox believers and views. Having taken positions on these, whilst her 'liberal' standpoint is without question perfectly valid, it would have seemed more normative to have declared her interest early on. No doubt Exeter University needs to make a splash, and this will do their funding no harm, but this is sensationalist. She also presents her views as, in one sense, reflective of the most recent relevant scholarship, but she's been so selective, that she virtually completely ignores other camps. Old Testament scholarship has long been very divided and divisive and to do justice to the situation and to have had balance would have required voices from more institutions and representing a broader spectrum. We have a beautifully presented and filmed documentary that certain viewers may find convincing, but yet it is representative of only one position, and this is not made clear. If not disingenuous, this programme is certainly highly biased.

  • Comment number 89.

    Unfortunately for those who put all their 'faith' in to a single book/ideology there will be times (and it will happen more and more as scientific and historical research techniques are improving daily!) when the facts of science/history actually catches up with their out dated books and debunks their world. But I doubt they will accept this and it wont that will matter to the 'true believers'. So a serious question would be - what evidence would stop a believer in 'god' believing?

  • Comment number 90.

    This program was undoubtedly one of the worst i have ever seen on the bible. I would love to sit through the program with the lady involved and point out the long list of mistakes. First of all she says that the hebrews worshipped other gods as if it was a bible secret she had discovered. What nonsense. The vast majority of the kings of judah worshipped false gods. Look at the example of manasseh who worshipped baal and sacrificed his children. He was punished and taken into exile at which point he ask the one true god for forgiveness. The bible talks about this false worship by the jews so many times is it any wonder that they found images of false gods like ashera in the area they lived? (i really cant understand what point she was trying to make). She also talked about other gods serving with yahweh. Again has she not read the bible? In it we hear of angels like Gabriel are are in the heavens and are used by god and the bible says their are myriads and myriads of these angelic forces. Nowhere does it say that these angels are to be worshipped as she was suggesting. This is not some secret she has discoved but clear to anyone who reads the bible. Remember in the example of job satan (a fallen angel) goes in front of jahweh and all the faithful angels and questions jobs integrity. She also said the bible was biased. Interesting to note that David for example who clearly stayed away from worshipping any other gods and was confimed by god to have a heart that was complete toward him was recorded not only to have taken a census without permission that resulted in the death of many but also commited adultery with bathsheba. Do you think this would of been added if they wanted to potray a bias version of events? This is just a few of a long list of errors in the programme and such lazy jouralism should have been picked up on before this went to air. I would be interested in this susposed export would answer my questions. she was claiming that religious people were trying to hide the truth but it seems that a lazy journalist was trying to make sensational claims backed up with no facts to try and get people to watch her on the telly.

  • Comment number 91.

    Well this lady is right about the Israelites worshipping lots of Gods, but it is no secret - the whole old testament tells us that they were doing it. Gods intention however was for the Isrealites to be a different tribe from those around them and worship only him, however the people were weak and kept worshipping other gods. The whole thing about Gods wife was again what people created themselves, they created the idols themselves with God and Asherahs name as an act of disobedience to God, but this does not mean that God actually had a wife.

    The programme showed that this idol worship happened, which we already knew but it doesnt mean that this is what God wanted.

    God gave the Isrealites the land of Caanan, but told the Isrealites to drive ALL the Caananites out of the land first, but they did not. Many people from foreign tribes remained, were married in to the tribes or agreements were made for them to live safely within Israel. A lot of the foreign Gods were then adopted by the Israelites and were worshipped alongside God. Although this is NOT what God wanted and the people suffered as a result.

    The programme made it out like this was a brand new revelation, for anyone who has read the bible will know that the history of Israel was full of them being close to God one minute and then drifting off back to other gods and to disobedience of God, something happening and the people look up and realise what they have done and repent to get close to God again and then it goes around again.

    This has not changed with us now, although Christians do not necessarily follow man made gods, we struggle with following money, power, sucess, fashion as our modern gods even though we know we should follow only God. It is exactly the same now as back then. We are human we all sin, which seperates us from God thankfully because of Jesus we are saved, not because of our own feeble attempts at living how God intended.

  • Comment number 92.

    This will be my last post in this particular blog. Its really galling to read posts that accuse Dr Stavrakopoulou of bias whilst the poster fails to acknowledge or even recognise the bias inherent in their own comments. To be accused of sensationalism by one who believes that a man crucified to death by the Romans miraculously came back from the dead three days later ? How sensationalist can you get ?? As she herself says, she is simply subjecting the ancient text of the Bible to the scrutiny of modern historical method. If this gives rise to serious theological questions she should not be maligned. We should not fear a day of Judgement but rather welcome an age of Liberation.

    I wonder if she will go on to suggest, as has already been done, that Moses was quite possibly a younger son of Ramses II who for reasons of his own held (almost certainly political) to the montheism of Akenaton and rebelled against his father with the support of the (i.e., montheistic) Hebrew leaders. The baby in a basket on the river is a much older conceit than the Bible. However, the suggestion that Moses was, in fact, an Egyptian does help to resolve a question that has puzzled me for many years: if Moses was found in a basket on the Nile and raised as her own by an Egyptian princess, why on earth would that princess give the baby a Hebrew name ?

    Questions like these demand answers that are based in fact, not faith, and Dr Stavrakopoulou's series is helping to bring these issues to wider audience.

  • Comment number 93.

    I really enjoyed last nights episode & I can't help thinking that perhaps Terry Pratchett got it right with his 'small gods'. As for the lady Doctor doing something similar to the Koran, it would be suicide, as some evil fundamentalist muslim would surely blow her up along with our magnificent Auntie Beeb

  • Comment number 94.

    Feckler would you like to respond to the mistakes i pointed out? Any chance that moses had an egyptian and hebrew name? What about shadrach mecshach and abednego in babylon? That was their babylonian name and they had a seperate jewish name.

  • Comment number 95.

    OK, I know I said before that my previous post would be my last but ..... the mention of Islamic fundamentalism leads me to offer this reflection on the current situation in the Arab world. We are seeing the spread of a movement among ordinary Arab people that is demanding greater political freedom. In some cases, this movment may be snuffed out and even result in even greater religious fundamentalism than exists in any particular place at the present time, especially where that fundamentalism is coupled with political power. However, in other cases it could easily result in freedoms beyond the political and it wouldn't surprise me if this in turn gives way to a more critical approach to 'sacred texts' than has been allowed thus far.

  • Comment number 96.

    Isn't it at once interesting and somewhat sadenning that so many people (me included) are still going on about this programme most of a day after airing? I've no doubt at all that this is why the BBC chose to air it in the first place - contention, in whatever form, will always bring in the punters.

    It's just such a shame that the BBC follows this line with such poorly conceived, and conceited material. I was amused by Stuart Bell's comments above. I can't help thinking he was watching something different to me. Apart from his assertion that this was such a wonderfully made documentary (honestly, if I saw Stavrokopoulou wandering, floatingly through some eastern stone-housed street trying to look like some kind of catalogue model one more time, I would have been ready to start throwing things at the TV), he seemed to have completely missed just how poorly supported her conclusions were, and how so much of this constituted pure opinion.

    In truth, of course, there is validity in aspects of what she presented. Yes, the Jewish faith, and by extension the roots of the Christian and Islamic systems of belief, grew up within a varied religious culture, influenced by many different traditions. And the struggle of those who asserted this new concept of one creator God to overcome these varied beliefs is absolutely openly detailed in the old testament scripture. That perhaps there are still areas of this that are open to interpretation is neither any great revelation, nor a body-blow to religious faith.

    What is genuinely unsupportable about the programme is that this 'revelation', and the opinions that Stavrokopoulou draws out of it, are presented pretty much as unchecked fact. There is evidence of some cultural worship of a female partner God in parts of Israel in the latter parts of the old testament period, ergo the bible writers conspired in a patristic cover-up to conceal this. This conclusion is nothing but a personal, rather sideways opinion, and certainly taking a massive intellectual leap from the simple, and limited evidence. From whom were the many, varied scripture writers hiding this apparently commonly known fact? Why? And if this godess worship was so universal as she evidently presumes it to have been (despite no particular evidence in that regard), why does she suppose that the people of Israel suddenly all changed their minds and went monotheistic? Did these overbearing, male social leaders have the ability to simply overturn the popular beliefs of the time? Of course not.

    Archeological study is a fine thing, done well. Biblical archeology is, of course, fraught with a weight of relevance to many people throughout the globe. In that respect, contentious theories or discoveries that enlighten us in ways that we perhaps did not expect about that time and culture, are complex and important in our understanding of how the whole modern world developed. It is therefore vital that these things are popularly presented in a clear, unbiased and meticulously evidential way, and certainly not then extrapolating all kinds of personal conclusions about the basis of monotheistic belief. This is what Stavrakopoulou did consistently throughout this programme. This is sub-Channel 5 stuff!

    Opinions and personal conclusions drawn from whatever evidence are fine and fair, and she is entitled to make her own conclusions, however intelligent or otherwise they may be. However, to present these to the nation, in a way that unquestionably will be given credence by those who are not so sure of their relevance to an understanding of religion, or of their academic merit, is deeply, deeply careless. The content of the programme could not possibly have any negative connotations for anyone who holds a reasoned and intelligent religious faith stemming from the Judaic monotheistic root, and indeed it has absolutely nothing to say to the concept of monotheistic belief. But it is presented AS THOUGH IT DOES, which is something by which some viewers will be convinced. This does nothing to further understanding of faith, of religious cultures, of the Bible and certainly not of the foundations of the world of faith as we experience it today. Just as evidence of this, I actually lost count of the number of times she asserted that "this rocks the foundations of modern monotheism to the core". These were her literal words, again and again and again throughout the programme. Her theories and evidence do nothing of the sort, being in no way shocking or undermining to monotheistic belief. The constant repetition of this ludicrous claim was evidence if it were needed of the agenda driving her presentation of the material. This is not something an intelligent, confident archeologist, presenting the facts for what they are would ever need to do. If something "rocks the foundations of modern monotheism to its very core", then it will do that without you having to tell us about it every three minutes.

    BBC - be as contentious as you want, and by all means give airtime to those who question faith or pursue academic interests that add to or question the story of modern belief. But, please, not if it's crap. This is one area of programming in which quality is not merely an issue of the perception of the BBC, but in which it can be a significant factor in furthering misunderstanding, misrepresentation and anger amongst those on both sides of a complex issue. I would appreciate if this comment could be passed on as a complaint, not because there was anything offensive about what was presented in the programme, but that it was offensive in presuming to tell viewers that it was something other than what it was. Extremely poor programming in an extremely delicate area which should be treated with far greater cultural responsibility and intelligence.

  • Comment number 97.

    I was looking forward to this programme, but sadly it seems Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou was biased in the extreme.
    Announcing what people believe, yet giving them no voice?
    Then went on to make crude assumptions that had no real foundation, at one point stating no one knows what a particular word means, yet the revelation she has is God had a wife?
    I assume Dr Francesca has read her Bible, yet has no understanding of what real Christians think or believe.

    Quoting scripture “Let us make man in our own image” yet not giving the Christian perspective that he was speaking to his son Jesus.

    I may not have a doctorate but let me help with two scriptures:

    1John 1 v 1
    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

    John1 V 1
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    From the bold statement that the Bible is unreliable and the complete bias she has shown I can only assume she is from another faith group with a hidden agenda.

  • Comment number 98.

    "Revelation 2:7 (New International Version, ©2011)

    7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God."

    I wonder if Asherah has become Jesus - I am the way the truth and the life. Sophia became the Holy Spirit, why not a wife become a son?

    I also note the Psalm quoted - Most High - the title of Ahura Mazda.

    Jung thought Mary as the mother of god made the trinity a quaternity.

    My gut feelings are that Jesus is a mythical figure - a classical chimera - fully god fully man, a wondrous mix of greek, eastern and judaic thinking.

    You might have started a complete rewrite of the histories of the gods...

  • Comment number 99.

    Feckler, I truly hope you are right.

  • Comment number 100.

    Some of the viewers above seem to have missed what was clearly stated. The point that polytheism probably did not end in Judaism until the Maccabees for example - well into the Greek period, and that the other gods and goddesses have been transformed into all the angels, saints, demons and djinns of today's allegedly monotheistic religions.

    I would love to see a programme on Jesus as a myth.

 

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