PBS: Paltry Biblical Scholarship

Today I had a lengthy trial, and was looking forward to an evening of relaxing after all of the stress of preparation and presentation. I made myself something nice to eat, and tried to settle down with an interesting television program. And of course, I made the mistake of tuning in to NOVA, on PBS, and their “documentary” on the historical accuracy of the Bible.

I gave it about 50 minutes.

As all Catholics know, the Bible is the inspired word of God: it is not a literal timeline or account book of everything that has occurred in faith history from the year naught. The first irony I found in this program was the desire of the presenters to show the audience that the Bible is not 100% historically accurate, when the Church itself does not claim that it is either. It is rather difficult to pick an argument with someone who agrees with you, but this did not seem to deter the investigators.

In the time wasted watching this program, I did not see a single interview with ANY Catholic or Orthodox priest – not to mention the lack of an interview with any Protestant minister, or any Rabbinic scholar. This is a bit like filming a documentary about the medical profession without interviewing a single physician. Many of the experts interviewed took the view that the Old Testament was a tissue of lies and myths, based on postmodernist claptrap like, e.g., the desire of competing cultures to create dialogue among disenfranchised peoples, and the like. Presumably they only had to put down their dog-eared copies of “I, Rigoberta Menchu” for a moment in order to distinguish for us what in fact were lies and myths.

St. Paul tells us – and remember, this is his year after all – in his second letter to the Thessalonians, that we are to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). We are a Church of both the written word and of sacred tradition: we do not compartmentalize and separate these two. Ultimately this is the greatest strength of orthodox Christianity, as practiced in the Latin and Eastern churches.

Unfortunately, as is usually the case when it attempts to tackle a Biblical subject, PBS is simply out of its depth. It does not understand the Faith, rather only a cardboard paper doll version of it, which PBS itself has constructed simply in order to knock it down. This gives us, however, a greater opportunity to be witnesses of hope to those who have come to unquestioningly believe the statements of the media in these matters. If your faith is challenged by what some professor you have never heard of has to say on NOVA, I’ve got news for you: you are not ready for the challenges of life itself. Fortunately, it is far easier to avoid PBS and its paltry Biblical scholarship.

7 thoughts on “PBS: Paltry Biblical Scholarship

  1. >I would like to hear your thoughts (if you have the time) on the tension between an inspired word and an incorrect word. “why would an inspired word be inaccurate?”– would be another way to phrase the question.I’m not really trying to be argumentative here, I just happen to fall more in the mold of “if the scriptures are not true, then our faith is in vain”. I have done some doctrinal studies which lead me to believe that there are reasonable explanations to portions of the Bible that appear to be incorrect… so perhaps you can simply point me in the direction of some further reading… that would be much appreciated.P.S. what are you doing wasting your time with PBS anyway??!! In other words, what did you expect! (grin)


  2. >In all fairness, PBS can’t by law produce it’s own programming. It is given a documentary or program once it is done and then says whether it gets to air. While we can question them broadcasting the film, the content is not their doing. PBS is not allowed to fund any film or television show.But before we get all bent out of shape over which films PBS chooses, remember, this same format allows for pro-Catholic and pro-faith documentaries/programs to be aired as well… if people have the courage to make them. To paraphrase what a priest told me this evening concerning original sin, it is through this original suffering that Christ has given us the possibility of salvation.


  3. >Joel, I am not an apologist, and I would direct you to the Scripture forums at Catholic Answers’ website, where you can learn a great deal more than I can tell you. Here is a good essay on the subject from their site:http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1994/9401clas.aspThe Bible contains history, but I think you will agree that it is not an historical textbook. Some things mentioned in the Bible – the Israelites living in Canaan by around 1200 BC, the life and death of Jesus in the First Century AD, etc. – are confirmed by historical documents outside of the Bible. Other events recounted in the Bible are not.


  4. >Alex, I understand what you are saying given your experience, and appreciate it. My point is only strengthened, however, by what you say. If NOVA decides to air this caca, it has made a choice – it has not been forced to make this documentary. It could have gone to the Pontifical Biblical Commission for guidance and chose not to. Instead, it trotted out the usual skeptics. So you’ll forgive me for questioning the agenda of the place in not, despite its ability to do so, giving equal time to our side of the issue.


  5. >Oh as you well know, I have no great love or respect for PBS. I’d just like to see two things:1. the production company who pitched and produced the segment get equal attention.2. also get some bureaucratic justice by using PBS’ own system against it’s rather biased policies.Then again this comes after having to spend every moment of the sunlight hours this week in an edit suite on a PBS documentary… did I mention how much I “love” PBS?


  6. >Again, you know better than I how they work. But I repeat what I said before: this was a free choice, both to make, and later to purchase and broadcast this trash. There are consequences to this, both temporal (in terms of people complaining and tuning out) and eternal (in terms of whether any people are led astray or whose faith starts to crumble because of this show.)PBS can do as it likes. I would prefer not to fund it, but there you are. Long-term however, if you’re going to dance with the Devil, don’t expect you’ll pull it off without a burn, no matter how thick your asphalt suit.


  7. >William,I’d love to see what you think of our show. One of the reasons why we decided to produce our own TV show was b/c we got so tired of watching all the bad “religious” (anti-Catholic) programs on PBS and Discovery. And while PBS can’t fund or produce shows, they do CHOOSE which shows they air. Anyway, email me if you want a DVD. I’d be happy to send you one. (to avoid putting my email here, just go to our contact page and shoot me an email from there.)


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