History Channel's 'The Bible' Blew It, Says Bible Scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman

Mar 04, 2013, 12:11 ET from Dr. Joel M. Hoffman

NEW YORK, March 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The History Channel's miniseries "The Bible" distorts the Bible's original spirit, and does a disservice both to history and to the Bible, according to Bible scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman. The problem, he says, is that only some Bible stories were originally intended as history, while others, including most of Genesis, were meant to be fiction. "The Bible," the first episode of which aired Sunday night, wrongly "paints the Bible with a single brush," Hoffman claims. Hoffman's analysis and review appear in a Huffington Post piece entitled "The Bible Isn't The History You Think It Is."

Hoffman's point isn't that only some of the Bible's stories happened (though he writes that that's "almost certainly true"), but rather that the Bible itself portrays the stories differently, "only presenting some of them as having happened." He compares the case to a newspaper, with its news, opinion, analysis, comics, etc. "The news can be accurate," he writes, "even if the comics are not. The same is true for the different parts of the Bible."

Hoffman argues that "The Bible" miniseries is like a combination of "a newspaper's news with its comics."

Expanding on material published in his 2010 book about Bible translation, And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning, Hoffman notes a three-fold division of the Old Testament into sections about the entire world (from Adam to Abraham's father Terah), the Israelites (from Abraham to Moses), and life in Jerusalem (from King David on).

According to Hoffman, the reasonable lifespans in the third section contrast with the multi-century lifespans in the first two. Those "wildly exaggerated ages ... suggest that the authors of the Old Testament intended only the third part as history" and that "some of the lifespans in the first two sections are [purposefully] so absurd as to defy literal interpretation."

"Sometimes 'believing the Bible,'" Hoffman summarizes, "means believing that a story in it didn't happen."

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, a speaker, author, and Bible scholar, has lectured at universities on four continents and held faculty appointments at Brandeis University and Hebrew Union College. He is best known for his research on the Bible. He also writes fiction under the pen-name "J.M. Hoffman."

SOURCE Dr. Joel M. Hoffman