The Bible’s Buried Secrets is a 2008 BBC documentary put together by Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who has a doctorate in theology from Oxford University.
10 out of 10 stars. This is an exceptionally well done series on archaeological evidence that refutes parts of the bible while endorsing other parts.
This series is divided into three episodes. Episode 1 is about the story of David and Goliath and the empire that David and his son Solomon built in Israel which actually never existed. Episode 2 is about the monotheistic presentation of the Jewish and Christian religion which actually began as polytheistic religions. Episode 3 is about the story of Adam and Eve which has been warped throughout the years. It’s also about God’s wife Ashirah. Each episode was well researched and laid a foundation for factual evidence of elements of the bible we know.
Episode 1: The Story of David
In the bible we are told that David united Israel and Judah together to form one tribe. We’re also told that his empire flourished through the 10th century BCE. David’s empire lasted through two generations and then split only to be reunited again in the 20th century (1948). The bible also states that before David’s era the Philistines came from the west to Israel and set up settlements around David’s kingdom. Fearing expansion, the Israelites elected a king, Saul. Shortly thereafter the Philistines’ greatest warrior Goliath was defeated by David in combat. David went on to become king and so did his son Solomon.
What the archaeological evidence says is quite different from what the story of David in the bible says. There is evidence that the Philistines were well-organized and had a large number of people, including a large army. Some of this evidence is apparent from the archaeological dig at Gath, which was Goliath’s hometown. There is no evidence, however, that David or Solomon had an empire. In the 1950s Israel started looking for the City of David that supposedly existed according to Biblical stories in 10th century BCE. Eager to prove that they had an ancient right to the land of Israel, they declared three archaeological sites the cities of Migiddo, Hazor, and Gezer built by David’s son Solomon. This idea was propagated by the former Defense Minister of Israel, Yigael Yadin, who for obvious reasons had ulterior motives to find those three cities. However, another archaeologist named Finkelstein carbon dated those sites and the carbon dating, which is accurate to within 20 years, put the sites at 9th century BCE, more than 100 years AFTER David and Solomon. In fact, with all of the archaeological digging done in Israel no one has found evidence of David’s or Solomon’s huge empire. David would’ve needed thousands of soldiers to fight the Philistines, but throughout Judah, where David reigned, there are only the scattered remnants of 20 or so villages that at most held 200 people. These people were shepherds, not soldiers. Although Solomon supposedly embarked on numerous large scale building projects there is no archaeological evidence to support this.
In 2007, archaeologists found Khirbet Qeiyafa west of Jerusalem. Khirbet Qeiyafa is a fortified city that existed about the time of David. It has large city gates but the artifacts unearthed there do not appear to be Israelite. Could this possibly have been the home of David?
According to the Bible the Philistines attacked David in his city and he “went down” under the city to his fortress. In Jerusalem a fortress was unearthed under almost ten levels of other civilizations, but the carbon dating was not easily defined as the pieces were from mixed cultures and mixed time periods. The artifacts that were carbon dated closest to David’s time were from the 9th century BCE, too late for David and Solomon.
In 1993 a stele was unearthed with a Tel Dan inscription from the early 8th century BCE. This stele listed a Damascus king’s conquests and included the conquest of the kingdom of David, but it was written 150 years AFTER David of the bible.
The meshe stele was found in 19th century Jordan and the ancient city of Moab. There was a king of Israel named Omri in the 9th century BCE. Omri’s son rebuilt several cities. This is the closest archaeological evidence we have to support a king and his son similar to David and Solomon from the bible. Samaria was the capitol where Omri lived and was located on the West Bank. It was an elaborate city. Even after several cities built on top of it Omri’s city is still visible. There are more than 500 ivory fragments found here showing the culture of Omri’s time.
Episode 2: One God
In the bible Abraham makes a pact with God to worship only him (one God). He makes this pact in Canaan. Isaac and Jacob, Abraham’s descendants, honored this pact. Joseph took this idea of monotheism with him to Egypt and Moses brought it out of Egypt. Joshua led the descendants of Abraham into a war to conquer Canaan. But the bible also says that Ba’al was a Canaanite god (Book of Kings), that Elijah was God’s prophet and fought 450 prophets of Ba’al, and that in this battle it was Elijah’s god who lit the sacrificial fire. Clearly there was more than one god revered by the Canaanites.
Ugarit, Syria is a Canaanite city that flourished between 1500 and 1200 BCE. It was discovered in 1929. This discovery included evidence that their main god’s name was El. He was the father of all the other gods. But if you look at the Hebrew version of the bible the IsraeliteGod’s name was El. So they worshiped the same god above all other gods. They were polytheistic. In the bible god reveals his secret name as Yahweh but also reveals that before he was called El. Jacob calls the God of Israel El and his city Beth’el, City of El. El is also the god of the ancient Israelites who followed Moses in Exodus. El is Moses’ god. (Exodus 6:2-3) In fact, Isra’el also has the name of El. Ba’al was the god of weather under El who was worshiped by ancient Israelites and Canaanites. Psalm 62:1 and Exodus 15:11 both refer to multiple gods.
The name Asherah is mentioned 40 times in the bible. In the Ugarit tablets that were excavated, El’s wife was named as Asherah, the goddess. Her symbol was the tree of life or a tree branch and she was depicted with thick hair with a middle part, large breasts, a large pelvic triangle, and a branch or tree symbol above the pelvic triangle. All of the ancient Israel archaeological sites dated between the 9th century and 6th century BCE consistently have figures of Asherah. In the Rammat Rachel site Asherah figures have the large breasts because she was also considered the Goddess of Lactation. In Tanakh, a pedestal was found with two Asherah figures on it and dated to 10th century BCE. In ancient Israeli texts Asherah was mentioned quite often. On Mount Nebo, Jordan where Moses and the Israelites first saw the land promised to them by God Moses wrote a poem to “Aystat” which when written is often confused with “Asherah”. This is referenced in Deuteronomy 33:3.
In the Sinai Peninsula in 1975 8th century BCE pottery was unearthed that contained ancient scripts with Asherah next to Yahweh’s name. Israel chose not to recognize this and gave the artifacts to Egypt who promptly “lost” them. But the photographs of the artifacts still exist and the inscription reads “blessings from Yahweh and his Asherah”.
There is archaeological evidence to show that Israelites were actually a subset of Canaanites and worshiped several gods. Following the 6th century BCE Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem, Israel determined that they were being punished by God because they were worshiping multiple gods and breaking Moses’ promise. So they re-wrote many biblical texts removing references to polytheism. Even so, there are multiple places within the bible that refer to multiple gods. This began centuries of misogyny and disempowerment of women.
Episode 3: Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden
Women have been disempowered for centuries based on the story of Adam and Eve and Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden, but what most people don’t know is that the story of Adam and Eve was originally a later book in the bible, NOT in the book of Genesis. When Israel decided to move the story of Adam and Eve to Genesis it suddenly became the story of the first man and the first woman although they were not the first man or the first woman. The story goes that God told Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit (it’s never referred to specifically as an apple) but that the serpent secretly seduces Eve into eating the apple. This begets original sin for all of mankind.
Most scholars refer to the story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor and don’t believe them to be real people. They don’t believe the Garden of Eden was a real place either. And yet there were gardens at the time the bible was written, gardens made by kings where they talked with God. These were considered God’s gardens and included elaborate carvings of flowers and plants and walls lined with cedar and other wood. The bible was written in the 1st century BCE. Assyrian reliefs show gardens were elaborate and included aqueducts that fed the gardens with water around the 1st century BCE. In fact, the beautiful Alhambra Garden in Spain is based on these ancient gardens (minus the aqueduct). Muslims believe that heaven is a garden on earth. Eden could’ve been a manmade garden built by their god.
Genesis says cherubim guard the entrance to the garden of Eden. Cherubs marked the dwelling places of God according to the bible. In an area of Syria near the border with Iraq there was a king who lived in the 18th century BCE. This king was named Mari and had elaborate and lush gardens with cherubim guarding the entrance. At this time kings were the head of both their religious and government leaders. According to the bible Adam was placed in the garden of Eden to tend to it like a king. Ezekiel 28 says that oracles near Tyre expelled a king from God’s garden for two offenses: (1) capitalism or greed and (2) violence. The book of Ezekiel is much older than the book of Genesis and locations mentioned in Ezekiel are easily found today.
Many religious leaders believe that the Euphrates River mentioned in Genesis leads to the Garden of Eden. The Euphrates leads to Iraq and the cradle of civilization. But Ginon is a spring mentioned in Genesis as the place of enthronement of kings. Ezekiel called it the Holy Mountain of God and it was commonly referred to as Mount Zion. The Ginon flows under the city of Jerusalem. Mount Zion is the Temple Mount where today the Muslim Dome of the Rock is positioned. The Garden of Eden was actually the ancient garden in the Jerusalem Temple before it was destroyed. Why is there no archaeological evidence to this? No excavation is allowed in this holy area that is revered by three major religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islaam).
In the temple at Ain Dara in Syria the measurements match exactly the measurements in the Bible for the Jerusalem Temple of 10th to 8th century BCE. When you see this temple there are giant footprints out front, said to be the footprints of the Goddess Ishtar, the military goddess. Cherubim guard every entrance here and in the Jerusalem temple (which is mentioned in the Bible). The Book of Kings describes the inside of the temple as a garden (cedar wood with carved flowers). This further supports the theory that the Garden of Eden was inside the Jerusalem Temple.
In the 6th century BCE at a site near the Temple Mount a building was completely destroyed by fire. In the 6th century BCE Jerusalem was part of Judah and under the control of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. The king of Jerusalem at that time refused to pay tribute repeatedly so Nebuchadnezzar burned the temple down and killed the king and his family. God blamed the king for the destruction of his garden and his descendants/people were forever expelled from Eden.
So where did the snake/serpent come from? At the time of Moses there was a prominent snake cult among the Israelites. In fact Moses’s staph turned into a serpent and there are serpents mentioned throughout the Bible. Seraphs are said to be serpents who fly around God telling him how great he is. Serpents were worshiped at the time of the Jerusalem temple, but when the temple fell and the serpent cult fell out of favor the serpent was suddenly added to the story of Adam and Eve as a warning against the snake cult.
10 out of 10 stars. I only wish this was made into a book with extensive footnotes citing the sources of all the archaeological evidence. The Wikipedia page for this series seems to be completely inaccurate.