Reality TV Goliath takes up Bible miniseries challenge, hopes for better outcome
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey on the set of "The Bible," the 10-hour miniseries Burnett produced and directed.
March 2nd, 2013
11:00 PM ET

Reality TV Goliath takes up Bible miniseries challenge, hopes for better outcome

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

(CNN) - Mark Burnett is the king of reality television. His shows and spinoffs command hours of prime-time television real estate. The seal of his production company One Three Media appears at the end of “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “The Apprentice,” “Shark Tank,” “The Job” and “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”

He will tell you each show was No. 1 in the time slot. He will tell you he will take on all comers in his bare-knuckle, ratings-driven world and beat them. He will tell you on any given day he has 150 video-editing systems churning through edits on his dossier, which spans the three major broadcast networks.

But if you suggest he may not have the chops to take on a massive scripted dramatic presentation of the Bible as a 10-hour miniseries, his eyes will tell you he wants to throttle you.

My bad.

Burnett and wife, Roma Downey, have been barnstorming the country like roving preachers on horseback trying to evangelize the West. Their gospel is spreading the news of “The Bible” - their ambitious project that aims to tell the story of the Bible in 10 installments. It begins its weeklong premiere on the History Channel Sunday night.

We met in the lobby of the Washington Hilton the night before last month’s National Prayer Breakfast. They were in town to speak to Washington journalists and show clips from their project.

Burnett and Downey’s project tackles the narrative of the Bible, a story woven through 66 books of the Old Testament and New Testament. It’s a story revered by billions as divine revelation – and one they’ve compressed into 10 hours of television. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot.

Many have taken aim at dramatizing the stories of the Bible. Few of those productions stood the test of time. They knew all that going in 3 1/2 years ago when “the light bulb went off,” as Downey puts it.

“It’s been a great fun journey right, Roma?” Burnett said to his wife of nearly six years.

“And we’re still talking to each other,” Downey said, smiling.

Both Downey and Burnett were raised Catholic, Burnett in England and Downey in Ireland. They still regularly attend Mass in Los Angeles. Growing up, both watched the classic Biblical films that the Hollywood of yesteryear churned out, like “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

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“In Ireland, we used to sit up and wait for John Wayne to say, ‘Surely that man was the Son of God,’ at the end of 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' every Easter,” Downey said, with her thick Irish brogue dipping into a delightfully terrible John Wayne impersonation.

After showing their kids "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston, their three teenagers had one request for the Bible project. They told their parents, “Please don’t make it lame.”

Making it work

The project is personal for Burnett and Downey, coming from a deep spiritual desire for more people to see and experience the stories of their faith. As Europeans, now naturalized U.S. citizens, they are stunned the Bible is not taught in public schools.

“It was time for an updating. Adding fresh visual life to a sacred text,” Burnett said.

“People have great hearts and great knowledge but no experience of filmmaking and no budgets,” Burnett said of past telling of the stories on film and television.

“Or the resources,” Downey chimed in. “We wanted to create something that was gritty and authentic. We certainly didn’t want everyone to look like they stepped out of the dry cleaners.”


Burnett and Downey may not have been high on the list of many studios as producers and directors to put a massive scripted project like this together. "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice" starring Donald Trump and Gary Busey is not exactly" Ben-Hur," and Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green spinning in chairs on the singing competition "The Voice" isn’t often (or ever) compared to the "Ten Commandments."

When I asked Burnett about this, he seemed genuinely insulted.

“Based on viewership, maybe I should be giving a few lessons to the people who are doing stories. Because we have five nights of No. 1 wins on prime-time television,” he started. “As a family we’ve made over 2,000 hours of American television and 8,000 worldwide.”

As he cooled down, ticking off a list of reasons why he and his wife were best suited for the job, he delved into how this project was made.

The production, he insisted, was a lot more like the production that goes into "Survivor" than nearly any feature film or television show in production.

"Survivor" typically includes a cast and crew of 400 people in a remote location with multiple helicopters and boats.

To film the Bible series, they set off for the southern tip of Morocco in Africa with a similar-size crew and hundreds of extras. Not to mention the chariots and horses.

“It was epic,” Downey said.

“Our experience with large-scale productions was very, very important,” Burnett said.

To help further bring the story to life, they brought in Lola, an Oscar-winning CGI team from London who created similar scenes for the film "Gladiator."

They went with an international ensemble for the cast because they didn’t want to distract the audience with recognizable celebrities.

Jesus was played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado. Many other actors came from the Theatre District in London.

An actor portrays an Egyptian slave driver in 'The Bible' miniseries

Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus in 'The Bible' miniseries

The most recognizable face to most in North America will be Downey herself, who stepped into the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary is portrayed in the series as a young woman at the Nativity, then later in life.

“It was a privilege to play it,” Downey said. For nine seasons, Downey starred in the CBS show “Touched by an Angel,” then went on to star in a number of TV movies.

“The scripts at one point just said Young Mary, and then as the scripts progressed it said Old Mary. I said, ‘OK, we have to change that right now.’ The last thing I need to see is ‘Old Mary’ played by Roma Downey,” she said with a laugh. “So we changed it to Mother Mary.”

The budget for the 10 hours was under $22 million, Burnett said, a small price tag for a production on such a grand scale. (NBC paid $4 million per episode for the show “Smash” this season, according to an estimate by the New York Times)

“It’s not easy, even for us, to sell and get placed on prime time television, 10 hours – Genesis to Revelation,” Burnett said. “Do we wish we had 25 or 100 [hours], yes but we got 10. We got a great budget. It looks like it’s a $200 million movie. Of course it’s not. It’s just our combined experiences, our hearts and efforts that make it look like that.”

Getting it right

As they considered which parts of the Bible to shoot, they had to pare down hundreds of stories.

“The first decision was, it’s one story,” Burnett said. “It’s not a series of unconnected stories, it’s one grand narrative.”

“You could call it the meta narrative.”

The series encompasses five hours of the Old Testament and five hours of the New Testament.

They took many artistic liberties to compress the story lines while hoping to remain true to the story.

A public relations manager for the project described the liberties to me as “extra-biblical but not contra-biblical.”

For instance, in the series opener, the Book of Genesis stories of Adam and Eve and Noah unfold together. Noah and his family are already on the ark while the flood waters batter their boat. To calm his family, Noah tells them the story of creation: “In the beginning! ... ” Noah bellows as he runs around plugging leaks and comforting his family and the animals.

An actor portrays an Egyptian slave driver in 'The Bible' miniseries

An actor portrays an Egyptian slave driver in 'The Bible' miniseries

Similarly, in the story of David and Goliath, when David heads out to face the giant Philistine foe, he clutches his sling and quietly begins to recite the 23rd Psalm, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” David is considered the author of the psalm, but nowhere in the text of the David and Goliath story does it address what he said as he walked out to battle and slay Goliath.

The dialogue in much of the story is similarly constructed along the lines of the bare-bones text. When Jesus calls Peter to be his disciple, Peter asks, “What are we going to do?” Jesus answers, “We’re going to change the world.” Those lines never appear in the Gospel accounts, but Burnett and Downey insist it is consistent with the text.

“Every step of the way we’ve had scholars and theologians working with us,” Downey said.

Burnett and Downey consulted a wide range of pastors and academics, including a major evangelical leader and a Catholic cardinal.

Their advisory panel consisted of many people from varied backgrounds familiar with sharing the stories of the Bible rather than of a "who’s who" of Biblical academics.

Joel Osteen, a popular television preacher and pastor of the 30,000-member Lakewood church in Houston, was among those consulted. Osteen and Burnett are friends and were developing a television series together that went on the back burner during the production of this series. Osteen even took his family to Morocco during some of the filming.

“[Burnett] would send scripts our way and ask doctrinal or Bible questions about it, but a lot of it was a friendship and an advisory role,” Osteen said.

CNN Belief: Five things we learned from Joel Osteen's visit

Osteen said much of his work was confirming if the extrabiblical material stayed true to the Bible.

His encouragement to Burnett was to “use your creativity to fill in between the lines.”

Another consultant was Rabbi Joshua Garroway, an assistant professor at the Hebrew Union College and an expert on early Christianity and the Second Jewish commonwealth (circa 530 B.C. to 70 A.D.) Judaism. He was a paid consultant on the project.

“One of the issues that came up frequently in the comments was the goal of the production was to remain faithful, or at least as faithful as possible, to the narrative and text of the Bible, as opposed to a historical critical approach,” he said.

“The series is not meant to be a historical feature but as a representation of the biblical narrative which is at times historical and at times not,” Garroway said.

One reason Garroway thought he was brought in was because in parts of the New Testament, “there are less than generous depictions of Jews, Jewish leaders and Jewish traditions.”

One of several Jewish scholars involved, his role as a New Testament scholar was to help the production stay faithful to the text but also “diminish as much as possible scenes or statements that could be construed as overly negative toward Jews and Jewish judgment.”

While he thinks the project has an overall Christian orientation, “I think they did well.”

“I don’t think it will run into the same problems that Mel Gibson’s movie ("The Passion of the Christ") did because the producers have been somewhat conscientious about forestalling some of the things that could produce that effect in the Jewish community,” he said, referring to perceptions of anti-Semitism from the 2004 film.

Osteen thinks the project will have a lasting impact in churches. He plans to use pieces of the project in his services to help illustrate points he’ll make in his sermons.

“I know I’m biased because I’m their friend, but I think it’ll be something that will live on for generations because it’s done with excellence, not knocking anything else, it’s just this is production 50 years past where some of the other films were made,” he said.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Burnett and Downey also think this project will be their most lasting and most viewed.

Burnett said the couple have deferred all their fees for the project. They probably don’t need the money anyway. Forbes lists Burnett as among its 100 highest-earning celebrities with an estimated income of $55 million in 2012.

While the History Channel owns the exclusive North American rights to the project, Burnett and Downey own the rights to global distribution and theatrical airings, which are in the works. There is also a book tie-in, games and apps attached to the project.

For the couple, the project was not about turning a profit, though they likely will. Instead, it was about bringing new life to the stories of their faith for a new audience.

“Will it be screened in movie theaters? Yes, for sure. "Already been approached. Arenas, churches, every way you can imagine,” Burnett said.

Burnett ticked through the shows he and Downey have put together over the years. “Over the next 25 years," he said, "more people will see this than all the others combined.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Catholic Church • Christianity • Entertainment • TV

soundoff (2,068 Responses)
  1. Leanora Bers

    Cable television is a system of distributing television programs to subscribers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables or light pulses through fiber-optic cables. This contrasts with traditional broadcast television (terrestrial television) in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television. FM radio programming, high-speed Internet, telephone service, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables.,

    Have a look at the most up-to-date posting at our very own homepage

    April 27, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  2. my review here

    Keep up the excellent piece of work, I read few articles on this internet site and I conceive that your web blog is really interesting and has bands of wonderful information.

    April 17, 2013 at 1:12 am |
  3. History Channel's "The Bible" Parts 3 & 4 - In Under 11 Minutes!


    March 24, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  4. Shelley M

    The Christians are always complaining that there is too much violence on TV. I have been watching, "The Bible," on History, and I have to say that I've NEVER seen so much violence on TV as what this miniseries has to offer . The violence on this show is extreme, explicit and frightening. Even the worst horror flicks I've watched don't cross the line by murdering innocent children on screen, as I just witnessed Nebacanezzer doing. What say you Christians, now? Something tells me that you find this horror acceptable simply because it is based on a book of "stories" that you subscribe to. Ahhh, if nothing else can be said about right-wing Christianity, hypocrisy is it's foundation. Violence is violence, regardless the text in which it is presented.

    March 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Dashing babies' heads against the rocks and preserving every virgin from the enemy camp for a little war r-a.ping later on is not violence if god commands it.

      March 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Markh

      I too found the violence in this series appalling. I am sure it existed, but I can't understand what purpose there is to making it so graphic for television. It seemed like there was some sort of horrific killing every 15 minutes or less through the first three double episodes. (I am committed to watching the show, but I am taping it and fast forwarding it through the more graphic scenes.) It just tells me that this show was about ratings (read: profit) or it would have been more palatable so that young viewers could watch. It's a shame the production had to be marred by ninja angels and disgusting graphic bloodshed. Just like video games, it is all pushing to desensitize people from such horror. I don't believe in censorship, and I know there is a warning at the beginning if the show, but if it was more about the message than the money, the show would have been a little more educating and a much less bloody.

      March 18, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • J.R.

      I do not think that you are a Christian, or have even READ the bible, if this type of violence offends you. Ya kno, you are quick to point out the purging of certian peoples and it sickens you. You blame it on Christians, of which those actions were not done by. You are also quick to point out the religions hypocracy, but you fail to realize your own. I remember not so long ago white people killed hung, murdred, beat to death, castrated, and did horrible other things to blacks. FOR NO REASON other than skin color and a feeling of superiority. Dont be so niave.

      March 21, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Shelley M

      Por J.R.!
      If only you were capable of comprehending what you read...I was merely making the point that the Christian majority in this country is hypocritical: They want to blame violence in the world on violent video gaming and media. Yet they are willing to condone the violence that is witnessed on this miniseries, all in the name of, "God." J.R., read the other comments and you will see that many other people agree with me...this show is terrorifyingly graphic and brutal. I guess the content is acceptable as long as it is rakes in the, "Almighty" dollar and spreads the Christian rhetoric. As far as your comment of the atrocities committed on Blacks...If YOU'VE ever read the Bible you will see that the Romans committed these same crimes on Christians, the Egyptians committed these crimes on Jews. They are all unforgivable sins. I do NOT condone of violence against any man (regardless of race and/or religion). I, and many others, were merely making the point that the Right-Wing Religious Hypocrits will look the other way...as long as it benefis them.

      April 11, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  5. Michael

    For reviews of the Bible Miniseries, and the arguments and concerns surrounding it, check out the following website. Hopefully it will give some insight! 🙂 http://christianlitreview.com

    March 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  6. jtectt

    Either you believe in a higher power or you don't. One thing everyone has in common is death from this world. If there is a God,a higher power, and belief in him will allow the privilege of my being to go on existing in a better realm of the spirit then let me believe and if your unbelief causes your existence no further thought then so be it. Do & say what you must in order to feel good now but what if God really exists then you & all who forsake him now will be foolish, but for now let all believers be fools. I would rather be a fool for Christ than just a fool without meaning & purpose. Also, why do people think that we came into existence without being created by God? Look around and really open your eyes & your mind but until then you can't believe in God if you're trying to discredit what is true & I don't / didn't need the bible to tell me this. Deep down we all know but we've been given a free will to believe. Just try him and see for your self.

    March 15, 2013 at 2:38 am |
    • TANK!!!!

      "belief in him will allow the privilege of my being to go on existing in a better realm of the spirit "

      Oh rly? Is that all he requires? The christians tell me I have to accept a fellow named jebus as my lord and personal whatever, and the islamists tell me I must accept the teaching of muhammad. The deists tell me either of the choices you have presented will have the same consequences. These are only 3 of THOUSANDS of perspectives of god(s) out there, and, indeed, you "belief-only" option is an entirely new one that must also go on the ever-growing pile of religions. So it is a not a dilemma. It is a kilolemma. (LOL)

      HINT: If you're going to present Pascal's Wager, then PRESENT PASCAL'S WAGER, not some lazy, truncated version of it. Apply a little reason here and stop being the self-described fo-ol that you are.

      "Also, why do people think that we came into existence without being created by God?"

      Why, indeed? Have you bothered to find out? Or are you too busy being a fo-ol?

      March 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • End Religion

      What's that I hear? The sound of yet another freshly ripped butthole, courtesy of TANK!! Poor nutter never had a chance...

      March 17, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  7. Haime52

    The prgrams should be interesting. I do hope they did get it right.
    As for all the negativity I am seeing. I have a few questions.
    1. Why do evolutionists posit evolutionary changes in terms that require thought processes? As if plants and the simplest life forms discussed or took thought on what they needed to do to evolve in better ways.
    2. Physical laws require space and matter to act upon, yet Hawkings says that the laws are such that they could bring about space, matter and time with nothing to act upon. So nothing acted on nothing to create everthing. Really? And you claim to have no faith?
    3. Why would God reveal Himself on a regular basis so you could prod and poke at Him to try to understand His power so you could attemp to usurp that power for your own use? You think He's stupid? ( I'm sure you do.) But you also know that I speak true. If He did reveal Himself, that is exactly what science would do.

    March 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Wow, I think your post would actually qualify for fractal wrongness.

      March 8, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Haime52

      So enlighten!

      March 9, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Haime52

      They do speak in those terms and Hawkings did say that. What is factualy wrong?

      March 9, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • End Religion

      Haime52, he said "fractal" and probably meant it. In this case it would likely mean your post is wrong on every level; no matter how we dissect it, it will consist of the same wrongness in every part. You basically don't understand what you're talking about and then have formed dumb questions around something you don't understand. Your questions are swamps of stupidity.

      March 9, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Haime52

      Thank you for pointing out my error of reading. And thanks for that reminder of what fractals are. However, I find no enlightenment in that, only reminder.
      I believe the question was not answered and since no question is stupid, how about that enlightenment.
      I like precision in explaining processes and perhaps they use the terms they do to over simplify, however they do use terms that infer thought process or do you not listen to them?
      Physical laws, require physical...something to act upon. They may or may not be universally constant in a possible multiverse, where all bets could be off. We just don't know. So, the conclusion only comes up as, no time, no matter, no space, no laws, since all came about in the "big bang". Again, nothing cannot act on nothing and create something. 0+0=0, 0X0=0, mathematical fact. Cause and effect, nothing to cause plus nothing to effect equals nothing, another fact.

      Besides all this, one comment, ignorance is not stupidity. Just sayin'. I will not stoop to name calling, how about you?

      March 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      The human mind cannot conceive of infinity, whether it be infinite regress (such as would be the case with god's god and god's gods' god and god's god's god's god and so on) or whether it be infinite existence (such as an eternal universe). Neither "answer" is obvious or nonproblematic. There's no proof of a creator, and logic does not demand one of either type.

      March 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • End Religion

      I think it's clear I'll stoop. If you believe in any god you are wallowing in willful ignorance.

      March 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's true we have faith of a kind even if not in some ill-defined God. We have faith that our models of reality will hold up and allow us to go on believing that we are living in an ordered world and progressing smoothly through time with changes occurring only as those models predict. But that faith may be as unfounded as faith in God. We may need to constantly adjust those models, even reject some entirely and take up new ones if we want to get closer to reality – probably futile.

      March 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Doobs

      Why would God reveal Himself on a regular basis so you could prod and poke at Him to try to understand His power so you could attemp to usurp that power for your own use? You think He's stupid? ( I'm sure you do.) But you also know that I speak true. If He did reveal Himself, that is exactly what science would do.

      This is the stupidest excuse I've ever heard. What you're saying is that god is afraid we'd treat him like King Kong?

      March 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Science

      Tag your turn Haime52

      Hey bethany/chad cause is non casual agent religious BS

      Hey Bobie and As-stin Chad/rachel l4h fred Robert Brown loony bethany etc etc All creationists !!!

      Was the bible around back then ?

      Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

      Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.


      No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

      Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.


      March 10, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Haime52

      Tom, Tom has presented what I think is the best reply. Truth today is not of necessity the truth of tomoorow, as accepted by the world at large. I believe there is absolute truth, it is our understanding of that truth that is unclear and changable.

      Doob, the poking and pordding was a figurative reference, not a literal one. If a being of apparent god like power did reveal itself, any scientist worth his or her salt, would be compelled to examine the phenomenon and try to acertain those powers exhibited. The thought being that if those powers exist then there must be a way to repicate them for mankind's use.

      Willful ignorance is a two edged sword, as it cuts both ways. Belief is not a choice made out of ingorance but one of educated choice. I have seen nothing in atheism that uplifts mankind or exorts to a higher existence. It degrades mankind to little more than animal status. It leads many to embrace non-survival traits as natural and, as such, right. Many see an upward path by the downward spiral we find our world in. I have found no one who is a better person for being an atheist, and I found believers who are worse off, not because of their belief but because of their lack of true belief, while thinking that they do.
      There is nothing that I can write here to convince anyone of anything, I know this. I will say this. "Spiritual things are spiritually discerned." You refuse to seek, yet rale that you do not find. You decline to believe what you cannot touch, see or test, yet no test can be made of something you will not believe. It is as circular as it can get. To quote a movie, "Seeing is not believing, believing is seeing."
      The one thing that you cannot comprehend, may be the one thing you need to. Remember that two edger sword.

      March 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "Why would God reveal Himself on a regular basis so you could prod and poke at Him to try to understand His power so you could attemp to usurp that power for your own use?"

      So the wisest being in the universe is afraid of scrutiny? Socrates would chew up your god, spit him out, and use him as garden compost.

      "so you could attempt to usurp that power for your own use?"

      Wow. Claiming knowledge of our purposes now, are you? Did you scrutiny-phobic god grant you mind-reading powers?

      March 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  8. Joseph 23

    I suggest reading the book, "Vision of New Jerusalem: Now" by author Marty Angelo. It refutes the Christian futurist's hopes and teachings of a 2nd physical coming of Jesus Christ. Found it on Amazon.com

    March 8, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  9. Nietodarwin

    The guy's wife (and mother of a couple of kids) plays "'the virgin" Mary. That's as funny as anyone believing there is a "virgin Mary" or an ever loving "god" that lives in the sky. Too bad she has her sunglasses on in the photo, she' looks like a MILF.
    There is no difference between the crazy beliefs of christians, (heaven, gays are bad, slavery is OK) than the beliefs of the 9/11 high-jackers that they will get 70 virgins in "heaven' after they kill a few thousand infidels. Too bad so many ignorant christians will be watching this with their kids, brainwashing them with the idea of a god.

    March 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  10. Anon

    They could have gone the Game of Thrones way to make it more interesting.
    If Christians really think that the bible is all candy and lollipops then they're in denial.

    March 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Anon

      Or better yet comparative religion to show how the bible stories evolved from earlier myths.

      March 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  11. Reality

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

    The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."


    March 6, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  12. One one

    Daddy, we have the stones, wood, and knife, where's the lamb ?

    March 6, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      "Son, you're now about to find out why I call you "My little lamb of god""
      Murder of children, it's not just in one place in the bible.
      I'm sure the Newtown Masacre killer got some of his ideas from religion The bible even says to be HAPPY about the murder of children.
      "O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." (Psalm 137:8-9)

      March 6, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  13. Honey Badger Dont Care

    I hope that they tell the true stories from the bible and not sugar coat it like the stories told in churches.

    March 5, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • End Religion

      Too late! They jumped through Genesis in what seemed 30 seconds, and before you know it Lot was departing Sodom without having offered his daughters to the mob of people to r@pe. Angels were Black and a karate-wielding Asian. It was comically low brow and poorly acted, in other words, just up a Christian's alley..

      March 6, 2013 at 5:34 am |
  14. 66 Books


    March 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Fantastic song!

      Love this song!

      March 10, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • james

      Jesus said satan is the god of this world and the ruler of this system of things so if you do not put a name to your god as Jesus did (see John chapter 17) then you are just giving you worship to a god that does not care and will not help when the end comes.

      March 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  15. Nietodarwin

    Mommy and Daddy, I'm failing Biology because of the bible. The teacher says that Darwin's theory of evolution is THE FOUNDATION of modern biology. The other kids mock me and call me "that STUPID creationist kid."

    “We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a ‘higher answer’– but none exists”
    _ Stephen Jay Gould

    March 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • lol??

      A&A's are bully Socialists bent on suicide.

      March 6, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • Tim

      We're not the ones who get wet dreams thinking about Jesus coming back to kill 2/3 of humanity. Atheists love life because we understand that there's probably nothing coming after it.

      March 6, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  16. End Religion

    It's only a Theory!


    March 5, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Saraswati

      Good summary. I generally try to avoid conversations with anyone who doesn't know what a theory is – not much point in wasting your time on folks who didn't pay attention in high school science classes. This group does seem to be overrepresented though in the young earth creationist camp, which I guess explains a lot.

      March 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Jay Athey

      So what? people used to have a theory the world was flat...Until it was proven...No one could ever Prove there is no God...You can prove all the evolution you want...Could there be both God and evolution...wait thats a whole new theory ....There has been millions of people devoting their wholes lives to proving there was no God...So be it...seems like they wasted their whole life, since they were unable to prove it, don't you think...Now we spend billions to see if there is life on other planets ...Yet found nothing...What about aliens, we are trying to prove that right? God is smarter than we could ever be...do you honestly think he would have made the Game of life Easy...No way, then everyone would make it to Heaven...By Cheating, You truly have to believe in something bigger than yourself, that Humbles you, A man who is not Humble tries to run the world...think about it...What is he superhuman...Jesus was an example of Forgiveness, being Humble, and loving thy Neighbor...If you cannot believe in something you cannot see, at least Understand the meaning of the Bible...Spread Love not Hate...there is only one king, and he is not of this earth...yet everyone want to be king...it's impossible, you have to Control people to be a ruler...can any man do that? if so what would give him that Power? MONEY...see no you can see the downfall of society...they worship Money, not values, and morals...People sell their souls for money...Steal Money, Kill for money, lie and cheat for money...Jesus is LOVE, not money...Spreading Love, everyone is welcome in Church, you don't need any money to attend church, you go there for Love...So lets get rid of all the churches, and stop all the good they do, and see what kind of society we create , when Money becomes GOD...or has it already, Hence the downfall of society....Selflessness replaced with Selfishness ...Look around it's everywhere ...Again it's no longer a Theory...it's a fact, Proven method, a way of life...Look and prove me wrong...After all you know all right? or was that just a theory of yours, based on hypotheticals...

      March 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Jay, learn to write a sentence.

      March 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • End Religion

      Jay, the video tries to help people exactly like you who don't understand the difference in these terms as science lingo versus everyday lingo. It's the difference between God and god; theory and Theory. They're different. Listen and learn.

      March 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Jay Athey,

      I love people like you. Seriously. You have a lot to say and a lot of defense. Ironically this makes you more susceptible to truth by way of evidence because you open yourself up to it. The more you say, the easier it is for atheists to expose the glaring holes in your logic. It's the quiet believers that are the scary ones... so keep up the great work and keep the dialogue going. Truth is available to you to. It's closer than you think. When you take off the sunglasses or faith and mysticism, the whole world will be revealed to you.

      March 5, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      Safe to say Jay didn't actually WATCH the video.

      March 6, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • Aydin

      I admit it's a bit mean to laugh at ignorant people, but shi_t, Jay's answer was hysterical. It's something Penny's dumb boyfriend on Big Bang might say right after Sheldon explained what a theory was.

      March 6, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • Jag

      In this day and age, the Biblical deception continues along with the exploitation of the brainwashing that began in the Sunday schools and resulting faith. The major biblical lie in the serial is at the beginning: THOSE LEAVING AFRICA FOR THE PROMISED LAND HAD ONLY ONE BLACK, AND THE REST WERE BLONDES AND OR WHITES.

      That is when I flipped the channel to National Geographic.

      March 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Jag

      In this day and age, the Biblical deception continues along with the exploitation of the brainwashing that began in the Sunday schools and resulting faith. The major biblical lie in the serial is at the beginning: THOSE LEAVING AFRICA FOR THE PROMISED LAND HAD ONLY ONE TOKEN BLACK, AND THE REST WERE BLONDES AND OR WHITES.

      That is when I flipped the channel to National Geographic.

      March 6, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  17. CommonSenseSam

    Does anyone else find it ironic that this show is on the HISTORY channel? Though, to be honest, the HISTORY channel stopped being about history a long time ago. Now the channel is mostly crappy reality shows. Kind of like how SYFY channel has those asinine ghost shows. They need to make a FICTION channel where this Bible show and those ghost hunter shows can have a proper channel-appropriate home.

    March 5, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • NClaw441

      The show does/will depict historical events, admittedly with a religious perspective. But don't all historians interject their biases? The Bible itself has a history, so telling about its contents seems to be a legitimate exercise for the History Channel.

      Your larger point about the many reality shows (which I enjoy) is well taken. It is not too much different from ESPN's Outside the Lines shows, which relate to sports, but are not sports presentations.

      March 5, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Fr. Hasbin

      You mean The Hitler Channel?

      March 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Jay Athey

      History is full of lies, stories and truth...Someone wrote each history book, what inspired that writing, or those ideas...What inspires Lyrics in songs, do you know? If the Bible has Zero purpose it would have be cast aside for something else...Instead it is a story that will never die...Strange don't you think...if it had no value to society it would not be the best selling Book of all time...You don't have to believe the story is true, all you have to do is get the message to become a better human being, with morals, and values that include family and Hard work...Or you can do as some people did in the Bible and try and go against Gods wishes...Again the Bible explains what happens when you do that...So since you have free will, you get the learn the Bible thru the Pages, the Movie, or trying to do life by trial and error ...Either way the result is the same...Wisdom will show you that...Good luck on your journey to the Truth, and meaning of life...there is a hard way and easy way...remember it's always been your choice....

      March 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • .

      What inspires Lyrics in songs, do you know?

      Yeah. Imagination.

      March 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      The bible HAD purpose in past societies. It was used to create power, control people, and to make money.

      March 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Tim

      The Bible is as much a "history" of Israel's origins as the Aeneid is a history of Roman origins. That's what ancient people did. They weren't interested in the naked truth; they wanted a romantic, heroic story of their origins.

      March 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  18. CommonSenseSam

    Congratulations Mark Burnett! You figured out how to convert American religious zealotry into massive Hollywood liberal profits. Kudos!

    March 5, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  19. AliceP

    Mark Burnett made his career off of shows where greed and getting ahead at all costs are celebrated, and he has the nerve to say that TV needs a little religion?

    March 5, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • End Religion

      He's a carnival barker. He's just trying to get you in the tent so he can have your $1.

      March 5, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • NClaw441

      Burnett is making a product that appears to have a pretty good market. Those who don't care for the product are free not to watch.

      March 5, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Tim

      There's a market for child p0rnography too, but that shouldn't mean that people don't have a right to criticize it, right?

      March 7, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  20. Science

    To simple for creationist to figure out......

    Earth's timeline works better than the bible's....

    Time for fairy in the sky to get the hell out of the way.


    March 5, 2013 at 5:43 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.